It’s the perfect time of year for spooky tales and Minnesota Ballet’s rendition of “Sleepy Hollow” is no exception. This ballet, inspired by the classic writing of author Washington Irving, was choreographed by director Karl von Rabenau. Rabenau breathed new life into this story with fresh, unique and fabulous choreography.
Thursday night’s dress rehearsal for “Sleepy Hollow” was a lot of fun to watch. As the story unfolds, the love triangle involving schoolteacher Ichabod Crane (Reinhard von Rabenau), local tough guy Brom “Bones” Van Brunt (Sean M. Sullivan), and charming Katrina Van Tassel (Ximena Azurmendi) is gaining intensity. The two male leads have also portrayed their characters well, as they battle for the affections of the girl they love.
Rabenau as Ichabod plays a ruthless teacher in his class but loses his mind to the charming Katrina. Rabenau’s solid technique is apparent during his solo variations which included high jumps and numerous turns. His partnered lifts were well executed but had some difficulty.
Sullivan, as “Bones”, plays a bit of a hoodlum who lets jealousy get the better of him. He has strong movements and expressive facial expressions that really embrace his character and make him believable. Unfortunately, Sullivan injured his shoulder during a lift to Hope he recovers quickly and can perform this weekend.
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Azurmendi as Katrina was magnificent. Her dancing was delicate, but clean and beautifully executed. The characterization of her role was sweet and charming. Although she seemed a better fit for Sullivan, due to her height, she showed excellent posing and a smooth transition while pairing with the two men.
The corps de ballet worked well together. I couldn’t take my eyes off the charming port de bras, carriage and facial expressions. These women and men demonstrated long, elegant lines with solid technique. It was wonderful to see Naomi Doty return to dancing after a long hiatus due to injury and Sarah White’s return from maternity leave. A handful of students from the School of the Minnesota Ballet also perform.
Sandra Ehle’s costumes were simple but flowed beautifully over the dancers. Lighting director Ethan Hollinger did a great job of setting the accent and mood just right. While the scenographer Jeff Brown brilliantly achieved, albeit bare, a decor just enough to transport the public to another place and another time. But wow! The Headless Horseman stole the show.
Overall, the dancing in this show was lively and energetic. I really enjoyed the variety of folk and classical genres. The choreography was impressive. The intricate patterns and spacing created a moving work of art. And the difficulty of the elevators was the highest I have ever seen in this company. However, I would have liked to see the men use their crease more to soften and ground their landings.
This exciting new production of Sleepy Hollow isn’t too scary and is suitable for all ages. What a great way to usher in Halloween.
Where: Marshall Performing Arts Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth
When: Friday, October 29 and Saturday, October 30, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 31, 2 p.m.
or at the door
Kelly Sue Coyle reviews dance performances for the Duluth Newsstand.