Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Recommended Posts

I’m not much of a ballet critic, but here are my impressions of the premiere of Sleepy Hollow, performed by CPYB. What began as a gothic tale ended as a wholesome romance which made the production suitable for the entire family, no matter how squeamish or prudish the members. Washington Irving fans may be disappointed, since it strays wildly from his story, but it was nicely choreographed and the plot was easy to follow. Instead of a tale that begins and ends in death, mystery, and suspense, the ballet started on that note, but quickly evolved into an adolescent love story.

With no one dancer dominating the production, each performer was able to showcase his or her talents, making this production especially fitting for a youth ballet. The costumes and music both complemented the story line, and the set changes were cleverly handled.

Has anyone else seen this production? I’m interested in hearing your impressions.

Link to comment

Obbligato, thank you so much for writing about this performance - I think this legend would be wonderful to see! How did they do the headless horeseman?!

Thanks Alexandra for that link to the choreographer's own thoughts! I'm heading over there now. What could be better than to read his thoughts without anyone's editing but, perhaps, his own! Dance history in the making. :)

Link to comment

Thank you, Alexandra, for the welcome and for that very interesting link. I enjoyed reading the thread, and learning how the ballet unfolded for him.

Leigh, my daughter's orchestra teacher has the program right now -- my daughter receives "extra credit" for any performance she attends. As soon as it's returned, I'll post who performed the lead roles.

BW -- before the curtain even opened the music included the sounds of a galloping horse in retreat. The first scene showed a man lying by the graveyard, presumably dead. In subsequent scenes, a jack-o-lantern was used to symbolize the headless horseman. In an unlikely twist, the headless horseman was actually Ichabod's rival, who used his disguise to terrorize the town and win the affections of Katrina.

Link to comment

Excellent post you gave us that link to Alexandra! Very, very interesting to hear from the choreographer how it all unfolded for him. Thank you!

Obbligato, I can just hear the hoof beats! As for the "unlikely twist" part of the plot...I'm confused, wasn't the Headless Horseman always Katrina's other suitor trying to scare off Ichabod? Or is my Walt Disney version clouding out Washington Irving's original tale?:eek:

I know that there is at least one other poster here, who had the good fortune of seeing this performance and I am hoping she will add to this thread.

Link to comment

I imagine that I am the reluctant poster that BW referred to.

I can answer the casting questions:

Ichabod Crane was danced by Grant DeLong. He was the perfect innocent schoolteacher smitten with Katrina.

Katrina was danced by Marissa Keller.

Brom Bones, the headless horseman, was Mark Kopystianskyj --Mark was my favorite--he played the character wonderfully.

Principal Hollow was shared by Carmella McCormack and Rachel Maher

Anneke--Katrina's little sister--was shared by Jackie Damico and Rachel Speck

Dream Katrina was Anna Gerberich

Dream Ichabod was Michael Patterson.

I really enjoyed the performances. It was not a story that was very familiar to me but made a very dramatic and romantic ballet. The pas de trois with Ichabod, Katrina and Brom Bones was my favorite part of the ballet. It was exquisite.

It was a triumph for Alan and CPYB was very fortunate to have had a part in it.

It worked well with these young dancers but I believe that it will work very well with professional companies. The dancing and the story are very engaging. Job well done.

Link to comment

Coming from Washington Irving Country, I can comment in an informed manner on the identity of the Horseman. It is broadly suggested, and even foreshadowed, that Brom Bones is he. Further, Ichabod Crane was the name of a real person, a junior officer in the U.S. Army stationed at one of the various batteries guarding NY Harbor at the time the story was being written. He was a bit of an outsider in NYC High Society of the 18-teens, and Irving knew him well. "Ichabod" in Hebrew means "nobody". Another bit of Sleepy Hollow trivia, Irving wrote the story in celebration of buying his new/old country house in Tarrytown (Sunnyside) from -- the van Tassels!

Link to comment

Mel, I didn't know that Irving bought Sunnyside from the van Tassels!!

Washington Irving's house Sunnyside is right out of a "story book" - I would describe it as having a sort of cheery, Gothic appearance and to add to its charm, it's covered with Wisteria! :)

Lilliana thank you for coming over here with your cast info. You're right, you are the one I was thinking of. :)

I'm still wondering about Ichabod, Katrina and Brom - what is the true story? So, then I am right that Brom was already involved with Katrina when Ichabod came along and her parents tried to set him up with her? Sorry, if this is beginning to sound like a soap opera... ;)

After reading about this new ballet, I am really hoping that the rest of us will have a chance to see it sooner, rather than later!

P.S. Here is a link I found on another thread about this ballet:


Link to comment

As Irving portrays her, Katrina is sort of a "free agent" with regard to choosing her beaux. Brom Bones has been trying to impress her for years, and he's about the best prospect in town, so her parents approve. However, nerdy Ichabod catches her eye, with graceful society manners, and a distinctive voice at church, while singing the hymns. Her parents approve of him, too, as they like educated and cultured men!

Link to comment


Yes, as Mel says, all the literary elements in the story point to Brom Bones as the headless horseman, although its not explicitly stated. I didn't word my post very well. What I meant by the "unlikely twist" is that the story focuses on a place -- Sleepy Hollow. As is typical in early American gothic writing, the wilderness is used as a metaphor for all that is dark and savage in man. In my reading of the story, it is about the power of superstition and how it can destroy lives, not the transcendent power of love (which is the theme of the ballet). At the point in the ballet where Brom Bones is identified as the headless horseman, the ballet veers from the story. The ballet begins to focus on relationships while the story explores the destructive force of superstitious (religious?) thinking. Of couse, as art, it's open to interpretation.


Thanks for your perspective. Do you think Irving included the names of real historical characters (Ichabod Crane, Cotton Mather, etc.) to give his work credibility? He seems to take more than a few jabs at the religious establishment, or the lingering Puritan influence. I'm interested in hearing your view of the themes of the two works, if you care to compare them.

Link to comment

Obbligato -

You're raising a really interesting point, and one that can be asked more generally, as well as in the specific instance: How does ballet handle "darker" subjects?

As you noted in the original post, a realistic judgment was made here both about the people who would be viewing the ballet, and as importantly, the young dancers dancing it. But is it Irving's story? At the same time, was Petipa's Nutcracker Hoffman's or his Sleeping Beauty Perrault's? Is classical ballet's tendency to "lighten" stories a natural response in an artform which portrays ideals best?

What do people think?

Link to comment

Rather than address Leigh's point right away (I need time to think about this), I'll go after obbligato's question to me.

If you're even in Sleepy Hollow (formerly North Tarrytown) you can visit the Sleepy Hollow graveyard, and then cross over the bridge that Ichabod crossed to get to safety. If you will notice while you're there, the bridge is due south of the cemetery, and on the main road back to NYC! Locals and visitors would have recognized this fact in an instant, and made the story more credible. In the Sketch-Book, from which the "Legend..." is taken, many society names were used, in part to give the NYC Knickerbockers a charge at seeing their names in print, and in part to add local color.

There is even more of this sort of thing going on in "Diderich Knickerbocker's" History of New York, which Irving wrote, including much merry parody of prominent New Yorkers. One sequence, "The War between the Yankees and the Dutch", twitted NYC mayor Nicholas Fish, for his Massachusetts background, and gave him a Puritan "ancestor" -- the Yankee General "Preservéd Fish"!;)

Link to comment

Yes, Nicholas Fish was the father of Hamilton Fish I, who was Governor of New York, and Secretary of State in the Grant administration. His son was Hamilton II, who was KIA in the Spanish-American War, but not before fathering Hamilton III, the old Congressman, who was in turn the father of Hamilton IV, the younger old Congressman, who was the father of Hamilton V, late publisher of The Nation magazine, who I believe is the father of Hamilton VI, who hasn't done anything of national significance...yet.;)

Link to comment

Thanks Mel - I knew I could count on you! I think the most recent Hamilton Fish VI did run or at least he thought about running for something about 14 years ago, as I met him once way back then under "political" circumstances.

OK, back to the discussion as to whether or not ballet tends to avoid the "darker" issues or lightens them instead of taking them head on. Leigh what about some of Eifman's ballets - do they delve into the dark side more often than not? This makes me think about another thread dealing with ballet's supposed inability to deal with psychological nuance and/or subplots that are wrapped in the heavy velvet of Freudian drapes. ;)

Not having seen The Legend of S. H., in ballet form, I can't comment on this particular one but I do hope that we will hear from Obbligato, Lilliana and even BalletNYC, himself!

But as Leigh asks:

Is classical ballet's tendency to "lighten" stories a natural response in an art form which portrays ideals best?  

My first reaction is that I never really thought about ballet portraying "ideals" best. I must go back to my analyst's couch and ponder this, along with the nobless oblige of the Fish Patriarchy! ;) I promise not to derail this topic again!

Link to comment

This all sounds very much like the "which is better, the book or the movie?" discussions. Since I was not very familiar with the story , I was not bothered by its differences from the original story. I know that different versions of Swan Lake end very differently--some have happy endings and some have tragic endings. I , for one , am a sucker for a happy ending. I am very glad that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow ended with a wedding--and the good guy got the girl. I enjoyed THIS version of The Legend.

Link to comment

Oddly, this thread has become "Irving"ed, which is just fine, as one of the author's original intents was to bring notoriety and celebration to the historical and legendary traditions of the Hudson Valley. And if there wasn't some, he'd make it up!;) It was Hammy (Hamilton Fish V) who ran for congress some years ago.

I'm aware of the content of the form and content for Sleepy Hollow because I wrote a libretto and choreographic script - not quite as detailed as a Petipa script, but even so - hoping to find a young composer interested in doing music for same. They all kept saying, "you're stifling my creativity - why do I have to write a pas de deux with an entrée, adage, male variation, female variation, coda? The next thing you'll do is tell me to write something in sonata or rondo (ecch) form!" There is perhaps no author more un-Goth than Irving, and his tale would lend itself to the kind of story-telling of A Folk Tale or Coppélia

Link to comment


I very much enjoyed this version also. I hope this ballet enjoys a lot of success, and becomes to Halloween what the Nutcracker is to Christmas.


You lost me with your ballet-ese, but your Irving facts are fascinating. I'm not sure I agree with your "un-Goth" observation, though that seems true for his satire (which I've never read, but I'll take your word for it). Not that I would want to make a science of categorizing and classifying art (though I'll attempt it anyway), but his short stories do seem to contain the elements that define the genre of early American gothic fiction. Anyway, I think its sort of fun to put these works in their historical and literary contexts. Knowing the history of the story helps me appreciate the ballet and vice versa.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...