Odyssey Dance Theatre’s ‘Thriller’ brings funky Halloween fun to Park City | ParkRecord.com

Odyssey Dance Theatre’s ‘Thriller’ brings funky Halloween fun to Park City

For the past 23 years, Odyssey Dance Theatre's annual Halloween celebration "Thriller," which opens a three-weekend run at the Egyptian Theatre Friday night, has captured the thrills and chills of things that go bump in the night.

Some of the thrills in the award-winning repertory dance macabre are funny, like the number "Jason Jam," which showcases hockey-masked mass murderers rhythmically dancing with machetes and chainsaws.

Other chills are more serious like the balletic "Salem's Mass" that sees condemned witches conjure their revenge on a judgmental holy man.

Then there are the pieces, such as the funky "Curse of the Mummy" and clumsy "Frankenstein & Frankenstein" pas de deux, that pay twisted homage to the classic Universal Studios monster flicks.

They have to know what they’re doing, and they have to do it well...” Derryl Yeager, Odyssey Dance Theatre artistic director

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"'Thriller' is all part of the Halloween spirit," said Derryl Yeager, Odyssey Dance Theatre artistic director. "That means we also have pieces that are inspired by slasher films."

Scarecrows terrorize teens in "Children of the Corn," and murderous dolls from "Child's Play" menace the audience with "Chucky."

This year's performances will resurrect "The Grudge," an atmospheric work based on the Japanese ghost film franchise, Yeager said.

Kiana Little portrays the vengeful spirit in that number, he said.

"We haven't performed 'The Grudge' for a few years, and Kiana is perfect for the role," Yeager said. "She is an amazing dancer, and she has long black hair and can really embody the ghost."

Of course "Thriller" wouldn't be the same without the namesake opening number, danced to the Michael Jackson hit.

"For some reason, people like watching zombies dance," Yeager said with a laugh.

Then there's "River of Blood Dance," which is a spoof on the award-winning Irish tap and step dance production, "Riverdance."

In "River of Blood Dance," the Irish dancers become targets in a shooting gallery, Yeager said.

"The dancers work hard to get this piece to work," he said. "They learn the real Irish step and tap dance technique, which is very difficult, and then we add a dark and funny twist."

Another technically challenging piece is the aforementioned "Frankenstein & Frankenstein," a work that is based on a ballet pas de deux.

"It takes strength to pull this off, because the guy has to be able to move in an ungraceful an clunky way, but execute the lifts accurately," Yeager said. "And the woman who plays the Bride of Frankenstein needs to be very limber."

The challenge is finding the right people to dance the roles.

"It takes a lot of work to get the couples ready," Yeager said. "It's so difficult that when we bring in new dancers, we spend a whole day just practicing the partnering elements."

After the couples get that down, they can start adding the characterizations, according to Yeager.

"I always tell the men that they have to act like they have 200-pound weights on your feet, like deep-sea divers," he said. "They also have to make sure their fingers are stretched and extended, because if they relax their fingers, their whole body tends to relax. And that's not what the Frankenstein monster is all about. He needs to be rigid, because he is made from a lot of different people's body parts."

Other "Thriller" highlights include the tap dancing skeletons in "Dem Bones" and the vampiric "Lost Boys."

Yeager decided to add some female vampires in "Lost Boys" this year.

"In the past we've had a group of boy vampires attack a girl, and that scenario has taken on disturbing connotations with the #metoo movement," he said. "So we worked in some tough female vampires in the mix to make the work more about vampires feeding, rather than a group of boys attacking a girl."

Adding new twists and new dancers are the secret of keeping "Thriller" fresh after 23 years, Yeager said.

"I'm always taking new notes," he said. "And when we bring in new dancers, we tell them that the bar has been set really high. If they are going to dance in 'Thriller,' they can't fake it. They have to know what they're doing, and they have to do it well."

Odyssey Dance Theatre will present its annual Halloween production of “Thriller,” for a three-week run — Friday through Sunday, Sept. 21-23; Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 27-30 and Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 3-7, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Times vary. The production may be too intense for younger children. For information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.