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Odyssey's 'Thriller' is frightful fun

The Odyssey Dance Theatre is celebrating its 10th anniversary. And artistic director Derryl Yeager is glad to be here.

"It was a struggle in the beginning," Yeager said. "But we're here today thanks to 'Thriller.' It helped us tremendously and it's one of our most popular performances."

"Thriller" is Odyssey's annual Halloween-themed dance fest, and it's what got the company through some hard times. "It saved us," Yeager said. "And people like what we are doing."

This year, he has streamlined the production to make it flow better. "I've taken out some things that seemed to slow things down. There is no magician this year and I've double cast the dances so there aren't a lot of costume changes that seemed to take a lot of time."

Still, Yeager knows there are works that "Thriller" fans expect to see. "We're keeping the 'Frankenstein' duet in, and the hip-hopping 'Curse of the Mummy.' We can't do without the 'Jason Jam' (which has hockey-masked killers beating out rhythms with ice picks and chainsaws), and I kept the 'River of Blood Dance.' "

"The River of Blood Dance" is Odyssey's spoof on "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance," and ends with the dancers tapping for their lives as a sniper tries to pick them off one at a time. "It's one of the audience's favorites," Yeager. A couple of weeks ago, the company performed the piece in Louisiana, and that audience also loved it, he said.

Another highlight is the creepy vampire work "Lost Boys," during which Yeager dresses in black leather and rides a Harley-Davidson onstage. "It's my bike, yeah. When we first did the piece, we borrowed a motorcycle and ran into a lot of problems — insurance problems and stuff like that. So I decided to get my own bike, get insurance and ride it myself. That way I'm totally responsible for it and don't have to answer to anyone else."

A new work this year is called "Miss Alli's Nightmare." "We did this work because Allison Thorton, our rehearsal director, is leaving the company this year," said Yeager. "She's been with us from the beginning and needs the rest."

The work is a takeoff on a young dance-school program where everything goes wrong, said Yeager. "It's hilarious, and we, as dancers, have experienced it or have participated in something like this. It's our way of sending Allison off. She has done so much for this company."

If you go. . .

What: "Thriller," Odyssey Dance Theatre

Where: Kingsbury Hall

When: Friday through Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.; matinees Saturdays, 2 p.m.

How much: $20-$40

Phone: 355-2787 or 800-451-2787