FARGO — Step into the darkness on Friday, Oct. 18, for the one-night-only performance of “Spooky Ballets,” Fargo Moorhead Ballet's celebration of the spookiest time of year, at the Fargo Theatre.

On a night so dark and dim, a flicker covers the world in a sheath of weathered light. It creeps through a jet-black forest, approaching a line of women in dresses stained by destitution.

Down a long, wooded cavern they follow a dark figure. The creature, without a head, is carried by a horselike apparition. Through the mist he rides, out of the forest and onto the stage.

Opening the season for Fargo Moorhead Ballet, the Halloween-themed "Spooky Ballet" performance continues with a sixth year of spooky storytelling. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Opening the season for Fargo Moorhead Ballet, the Halloween-themed "Spooky Ballet" performance continues with a sixth year of spooky storytelling. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Cue the lights

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FMBallet’s Halloween-themed performances have become a mainstay act of the season.

Creating a mosaic of movements, each year has evolved into the next, from zombies and spiders to vampires and ghosts. This year, there’s spooky to spare with “The Headless Horseman.”

“Dance is a fleeting moment,” says Artistic Director Matt Gasper. “When we have a one-night-only, that performance is something special to that audience. But as an artists, that’s frustrating because you want more people to see it.”

An original dance performance based on Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” tells the story of pagan Russia and a dancer who leaves it all on the stage, including her life. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
An original dance performance based on Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” tells the story of pagan Russia and a dancer who leaves it all on the stage, including her life. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

During a late-night rehearsal, a stark studio is lit by the glow of cutthroat focus. Each dancer navigates a memory board of steps while maintaining complete poise. As people slice and dice pumpkins and fill their candy bowls at home, the dancers are here preparing.

“'Spooky Ballets' really show off our company,” Gasper says. “It appeals to audiences from those who want to see concert dance to people who like storybook ballets and classical ballets. It mixes both elements.”

In front of the studio mirror, FMBallet Mistress Lindsey Setzekorn smooths out any stray movements or kinks as the company rehearses “The Rite of Spring.” Originally by Igor Stravinsky, their performance includes original choreography and an explosive ending.

Headless hat trick

Costume Designer Suzanne Spiese had the unique challenge of designing a headless costume for this year’s "Spooky Ballet." Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Costume Designer Suzanne Spiese had the unique challenge of designing a headless costume for this year’s "Spooky Ballet." Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Considering they will only get to perform once, there’s a lot of work to put into the various scenes. Other work to be done includes costumes.

The story of "Sleepy Hollow" presents a unique challenge for Costume Designer Suzanne Spiese.

“I started thinking about headless first because it’s a costume that needs to be engineered,” says Spiese. “He actually has a suspender going over his head because he has to keep everything together.”

A headless dancer still has to see, so there's a square hole cut out and covered with nylon between the collar, neck and shirt. It’s a bit of stage magic, letting the audience live in a world that can’t exist otherwise.

Playing the role of the horseman, Caleb Reich also assisted in constructing the costume out of mesh, foam and muddled gray fabrics. Reich has been with the FMBallet since 2014. He graduated with a bachelor’s in musical theater from Minnesota State University Moorhead and currently works as an instructor at Gasper's School of Dance.

Other acts that will be featured include the fan-favorite “Thriller,” as well as “Beetlejuice” performed by Mateo Lesley and Patrick Gasper. A costume contest is sure to get attendees in the spirit as well, with prizes awarded for the best dressed.

While it may only be one night only, a collaboration between Fargo Moorhead Opera and FMBallet on “Hansel and Gretel,” set for Oct. 25 and 27 at North Dakota State University's Reineke Concert Hall, is sure to be just as chilling. Artistic Directors Matt Gasper and Eric Gibson will be working together to produce choreography for a dream scene in the forest filled with luscious music and colorful scenes.

If you go

What: “Spooky Ballets” by FMBallet

When: 7-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18

Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway N.

Info: Tickets available online ranging from $12 to $33; fmballet.org/tickets

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.