Senior theatre major Nicky Tintle on stage in "Danse Macabre." This dance piece tackles a variety of fears and themes that correlate with their "Season of Horror." Photo Courtesy of David Cimetta

Rowan Department of Theatre and Dance’s latest venture “Danse Macabre” is coming to Tohill Theatre Dec. 8, and the cast and crew are hard at work bringing this bold dance production to life.

Rejecting the preconceived notions of high and low art, director Paule Turner along with the rest of his troupe bring the concepts of fear into the limelight

“Our form allows us to mix any and all things necessary – and even unnecessary – together,” Turner said, explaining how “Danse Macabre” pulls from various works to illustrate its purpose through dance. “When I first looked up the title, it’s not like a tarantella or a square dance, it’s not a dance – it’s an allegory, it’s a concept. I liken it to how we think of the ‘Last Supper’ and how it can be seen in different paintings and different viewers.”

As part of the Rowan Department of Theatre and Dance’s “Season of Horror,” “Danse Macabre” has a very prevalent central theme – death.

Senior musical theater major Kristy Joe Slough, who portrays Miss Giselle DuBois in the production, believes they tackle a lot of different “fears” throughout the show.

“I think it tackles the fear of death, the fear of dying, the fear of being alone [and] the fear of the unknown,” Slough said. “’Danse Macabre’ is a well known theme in art and literature. We were inspired by this but then expanded upon the idea with what scares us as a society by tying in horrifying images from horror films such as ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and the like. We wanted to attach modern day symbols of fear to our show.”

Some characters in the show are adapted from works by authors Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe, while other parts present scenarios and concepts that are real, like racism and animal abuse.

One scene in particular has actor Nicky Tintle, a senior theater major, trying to escape a giant plastic bag she’s trapped in. This scene in particular shows very rational fear from Paule Turner’s perspective, both from the audience and performer.

Anthony Magnotta, another senior musical theater major, portrays Rose Selevy in the production. Magnotta and many other cast members look forward to the audience’s interpretations of their performance.

“I feel that every audience member is going to take something different from the show and form their own storyline and that’s exciting,” Magnotta said, optimistic about their reactions.

Magnotta also touched on some of the notions of fear that appear in this show

“We play around with the idea of torture and revenge in the show but I think the imagery and language alone will be frightening to some,” Magnotta said. “I think, again, once we have an audience they will be able to answer a lot of these questions.”

Some of these symbols of fear Paule Turner feels are portrayed in a more realistic fashion than what “horror” typically shows as a genre.

“I’m really enjoying this season,” Turner said. “It’s probably our greatest acting challenge our students have ever had to do because of having to reject the notions of high and low art. It’s really calling on something deep in society that we don’t know how to talk about, but revealing that this genre is in all art, it’s everywhere.”

Turner explained that through his work with “Danse Macabre” he has hopes to convey this theme of death and fear are present in a variety of everyday forms that we accept regardless.

“I go to the Catholic Church and right at the center is the hugest symbol of torture, but it’s a beautiful place and it’s decadent and they’re talking about beauty and enlightenment and that it comes from suffering, but we know this and we believe this to be true,” Turner said.

Turner noted the various themes of life and death this production touches upon can be very confusing, but hopes the performance sheds some degree of light on life’s many complexities.

“We’re not answering anything, if anything we’re asking more questions,” Turner said.

Rowan University Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of “Danse Macabre” premieres Dec. 8 at the Tohill Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets are free for Rowan students with valid I.D.

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