Blood Thirsty: Ring in Halloween With Haunting Ballet

Dancing vampires at the Little Theatre. Photo by Stephanie Pellicano.

Cobweb-covered chandeliers flicker and a haze machine pumps clouds of fog across a dim vampire lair. Blood-red lighting and black wooden coffins set the stage for an eerie evening of enchantment.

Vampires have a forbidden sex appeal that crosses gender lines. There’s something about white-clothed angelic humans being held against their will, bitten by Gothic fanged seductresses and sparkly sullen-eyed vampires, that’s oddly arousing. Lisa Starry’s “A Vampire Tale,” now in its seventh year of production, tapped into the bewitching powers of vampires before baby Twihards could even spell Edward Cullen.

“A Vampire Tale” is more than a modern dance show. It’s a dark and horrific romance rolled into a quirky comedy, with original music, film, aerial acrobatics (think Cirque du Soliel-style carnival feats), costumes and elaborate makeup — it’s truly a spectacular Halloween production and excellent evening outing at downtown Phoenix Theatre’s Little Theatre.

“A Vampire Tale” follows a young forlorn girl as she is lured into a den of vampires in search of her boyfriend. A series of creative ballet and modern dance pieces draw the audience into this intense storyline, freckled with humor and awe-striking aerial movements.

Starry’s choreography takes into account the four walls and ceiling of the black box theater. In an opening scene, dancer David Starry hangs from metal piping and slithers down to the stage. During the second act, pairs of dancers show off their fangs in an impressively choreographed coffin scene.

Starry, who founded Scorpius Dance Theatre with her husband and high school sweetheart David Starry, is the director and choreographer of the show. Starry says the dance company, which is in its twelfth year of operation, produces shows that are a mix of dance and theater, and that she looks for a dancer’s ability as a performer rather than as just a technician when conducting auditions.

Arizona State University student and dancer Madeline Wilcox. Photo by Stephanie Pellicano.

Madeline Wilcox, a dance performance and communications senior at Arizona State Unversity, is in her first year with Scorpius Dance. Wilcox is a performer at heart, from the moment she twirls onto the stage to the moment she pops out from the backdoor of the theater in ASU sweats with a big smile and hug for her mom. It’s impossible not to be charmed.

Wilcox, a Flagstaff native, transferred home from Chapman University in Orange, Calif., after becoming disenchanted with the commercialized art scene and materialism of Orange County.

Lucio Abruzzi, a former Scorpius dancer, ASU alum and friend of Wilcox, first introduced her to the company. Wilcox auditioned for and was accepted to Scorpius as an apprentice two dancer, and is currently the understudy to the Forlorn Girl in “A Vampire Tale.”

Apprentice two dancers are just a step below Scorpius core dance members, and can be moved up at any time. They are compensated slightly less than core members but play a larger role than apprentice one dancers.

In “A Vampire Tale,” the apprentices start out as victims of the vampire Klan, and are bitten and transformed into vampires.

“I like the fact that we get to do two different roles,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox’s background is mostly ballet and jazz; she trained in the Royal Academy of Dance method. Right now, Wilcox is studying release technique modern dance. While classical modern dance is very ballet-based, Wilcox explains that release technique involves learning to release tension in your joints and muscles to move with ease and fluidity.

“That’s something I’m still working on because I have so much ballet training,” she says. “It’s like the opposite of ballet — it’s a challenge, so I love it.”

After graduation Wilcox plans to move to New York to pursue dance as a career. “I would love to be in a modern company,” she says.

For now, she is wowing audiences with her graceful, yet haunting moves.

“A Vampire Tale” may be a theatrical performance, but don’t tell one of the dancers to “break a leg” before the show — dancers say “Merde!”

Friday Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. will be the final performance of “A Vampire Tale,” and tickets include entry to a post-show closing night party with the cast and crew. Tickets are $35 with discounts for students and attendees dressed as vampires.

To purchase tickets, visit www.scorpiusdance.com or call 602-254-2151.

Contact the reporter at melody.parker@asu.edu.