Dayton Ballet to present Halloween ‘Phantom Dances’ at historic theater

Dayton Ballet presents “Phantom Dances,” a concert featuring five works including two world premieres, Oct. 24-27 at the Victoria Theatre. CONTRIBUTED
Dayton Ballet presents “Phantom Dances,” a concert featuring five works including two world premieres, Oct. 24-27 at the Victoria Theatre. CONTRIBUTED

Five works choreographed by women including two world premieres provides the foundation for the Dayton Ballet’s Halloween-themed concert “Phantom Dances” Oct. 24-27 at the Victoria Theatre.

Opening the program will be “Día de Los Muertos,” a world premiere choreographed by Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke. Accented with Latin-inspired imagery such as sugar skeletons and marigold blooms, the athletic ballet is a celebration of life’s transition using six selections of music including Mariachi.

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“This is a character ballet,” Burke said. “It addresses what it means to lose someone but (also) looking forward to the day you can celebrate with them. There is some topography to the piec, as well. I wanted the dancers to find places in where they would connect with someone they were thinking of – festive or melancholy. We embrace the colors, theme and music to bring it all together.”

Burke is also responsible for “Masquerade,” an evocative world premiere set to the music of Aram Khachaturian’s “Masquerade Suite.” Described as a “classically danced ballet with a mysterious flare,” the work is performed in three sections.

“Think haunted castle, a ghoulish gala,” she said. “It’s a feeling of being at a masquerade ball at night on Halloween.”

In addition, choreographer Nicole Haskins returns to Dayton Ballet with her intimate pas de deux “La Linea Scura” (“the dark line”). Featuring music of the same name by Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, the work is unusual in its presentation and subtext. Haskins, hailing from Venice Beach, Calif., has danced professionally with such esteemed companies as Sacramento Ballet and Washington Ballet.

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“The dancers never really look at each other,” Burke said. “A partnership is something that’s very intuitive, but Nicole wanted to explore those people in our lives who support us but are not always in front of us literally. So, the dancers are constantly supporting each other but they never look at each other.”

Penny Saunders, resident choreographer with Grand Rapids Ballet, who has also worked with internationally acclaimed choreographer Septime Webre, provides the Dayton-premiere ballet of “Ghost Light,” a tribute to theatrical superstition.

“It is believed that ghost lights provide opportunities for ghosts to perform onstage, thus appeasing them and preventing them from cursing the theater or sabotaging the set or production,” Saunders said. “‘Ghost Light’ tells the story of what happens after the audience leaves the theater and the ‘ghosts’ of former performers are left to their own devices.”

“Penny has created a very demanding routine,” Burke added. “I think the audience will really enjoy it. It’s an extremely demanding routine. It’s not your ordinary ballet.”

Cincinnati native Amy Seiwert choreographs “Chasing Ghosts,” which had its world premiere in Dayton in October 2012.

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“New York composer Kevin Keller’s score creates a landscape of rich shadows,” Seiwert said. “The music is special; it pulls the listener towards reminiscence without being sentimental, a rare balance. The title comes from that feeling of chasing a memory, something you can’t put your finger on, a feeling that’s on the tip of your heart but that you can’t quite wrap your head around. My goal is to capture this abstract sensation.”

“The ballet features four couples exploring the relationships you may have left but they have not left you viscerally,” Burke added.

This summer Dayton Ballet was highlighted by Dance Magazine as one of the few companies across the country continually committed to presenting works by female choreographers. Looking ahead to the remainder of the organization’s 2019-2020 season, Burke is excited for what’s in store.

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“Our repertory is getting stronger in doing more works by females and we also have four new dancers,” she said. “The company is very strong artistically and athletically. So, this season we are showing the range of the dancers. Around Valentine’s Day, we are doing ‘Carmen and Butterfly Suite.’ The ‘Carmen’ is Septime Webre, so if audiences are familiar with ‘Peter Pan’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ they know they will expect a similar physical ballet. ‘The Butterfly Suite’ is a very emotional ballet, requiring a lot of artistry which will tell the story without words.

“We close with another repertory, five new pieces, that will really try to push the line, push the envelope, to see what we can get out of these talented dancers. We’re nearing our 83rd season in 2020, so are unbelievably blessed to be here and still be able to deliver strong performances.”


What: "Phantom Dances"

Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton

When: Oct. 24-27; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $15-$83

Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit

FYI: Karen Russo Burke will hold a pre-performance talk called "The First Step," providing an in-depth look at "Phantom Dances" and a behind-the-scenes peek at Dayton Ballet, 45 minutes prior to curtain time for each performance in the Burnell Roberts Room at 126 N. Main St., beside the Victoria Theatre. "Behind the Ballet," a Q&A with dancers that give audiences the opportunity to learn more about the life of a Dayton Ballet dancer, will follow each performance inside the Victoria Theatre. "The First Step" and "Behind the Ballet" are free of charge for ticketholders.