Washington Ballet stages world premiere of 'Sleepy Hollow'


Friday, 2/6/2015 5:09pm

That infamous equestrian, the Headless Horseman, is poised to leap onto the stage at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the Washington Ballet presents the world premiere of Sleepy Hollow, a full-length ballet inspired by Washington Irving’s classic American ghost story,The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

The production, which runs Feb. 18-22, is the third installation in “The American Experience’’ series of ballets inspired by iconic American literature. The initiative’s goal is to steer dance away from the traditional European perspective to one that is uniquely American. Washington Irving is in good company. Previous productions included pieces inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre says he was drawn to the “haunting, poetic, mysterious and supernatural’’ qualities in Irving’s tale, as well as to its setting in a sleepy, superstitious New York town just after the American Revolution.

“The story reflects a time where America was limitless,’’ says Webre in an interview with the Eye Level blog. “The unknown was a theme in every American's life. What lies beyond the next mountain? What happens when the dirt road ends? … I want to represent the spectrum of what an unknown frontier conveys; opportunity and danger.’’

All of the story’s central characters make an appearance in the ballet. The schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, enchanted by a flirtatious Katrina Van Tassel, draws the wrath of a blustery Brom Bones before being pursued by a vengeful Headless Horseman. But this production also taps into subtexts in the story, bringing in scenes from the Salem Witch Trials, as well as a depiction of trapped souls being freed from a haunted graveyard.

The Ballet’s creative team drew visual inspiration from Hudson River School paintings, as well as 19th century American portraiture and works depicting Revolutionary War battles. Go to the Smithsonian Museum of Art Facebook page to see a selection of the Museum’s artwork that inspired the ballet’s set, costumes, puppetry, and lighting design.

Historic Hudson Valley partnered with the Ballet by donating a four-pack of tickets good for tours of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown. The tickets were featured in a giveaway at a preview event on Jan. 31 at the Smithsonian Museum of Art.

Watch a video preview of the Washington Ballet’s production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

For tickets and more information about the ballet, go to www.washingtonballet.org.


Photo courtesy of The Washington Ballet (Brooklyn Mack by Design Army and Dean Alexander. More photos at washingtonlife.com)

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