A roundup of local Halloween events

WHAT’S SCARIER THAN A SMART WOMAN?: Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre performs The Tenth Muse, a multimedia production inspired by the life of 17th-century Mexican poet, scholar, artist and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Dancer Elizabeth Huntley is pictured. The Sugar Skulls showcase also includes a butoh work, poetry, visuals and a Day of the Dead ceremony.
WHAT’S SCARIER THAN A SMART WOMAN?: Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre performs The Tenth Muse, a multimedia production inspired by the life of 17th-century Mexican poet, scholar, artist and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Dancer Elizabeth Huntley is pictured. The Sugar Skulls showcase also includes a butoh work, poetry, visuals and a Day of the Dead ceremony. Photo by Giles Collard

Ride a bike, cut a rug, revisit Neil Young, tour a haunted house or celebrate the spookiest season with poetry and pie. There are as many ways to commemorate All Hallows Eve as there are sexy zombie costume possibilities.

Speaking of what to wear for Halloween revelry: We’ve done a little research on the projected top-trending costumes of 2016. Hillary and The Donald are front-runners, naturally, as is Harley Quinn from the forthcoming Suicide Squad movie, Pokemon characters, Prince and (rather inexplicably) the “sexy hipster mermaid.” Our suggestion is the Beaver Lake rabid attack-beaver. (And if anyone does attempt that costume, remember: Photos or it didn’t happen.)

Find more Halloween events in Clubland, Calendar and mountainx.com.

Día de los Muertos at the Bebe Theatre

The Sugar Skulls showcase is the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration. The production, held at the BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce St., Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Oct. 30, includes a new butoh piece by Julie Becton Gillum and a Day of the Dead ritual at which audience members can share photos of their dearly departed. But the main attraction is a performance of The Tenth Muse, a contemporary ballet inspired by the life of 17th-century Mexican poet, scholar, artist and nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre co-founders Giles Collard and Susan Collard, who often travel to Mexico, noticed that there were two women on the country’s currency: artist Frida Khalo and Sor Juana. When they began to research the story of the nun, “We were like, ‘Holy cow,’” says Giles. Though born out of wedlock and denied formal education, Sor Juana was a prodigy, mastering Greek logic and teaching Latin by adolescence. She went on to educate others in dance and painting. She also composed music and wrote operas, plays, poetry and lesbian erotica.

PEDAL PARTY: Asheville on Bikes' annual Pumpkin Peddler rides again. Cyclists start and return to New Belgium Brewing, where a party awaits. Photo courtesy of Asheville on Bikes
PEDAL PARTY: Asheville on Bikes’ annual Pumpkin Pedaller rides again. Cyclists start and return to New Belgium Brewing, where a party awaits. Photo courtesy of Asheville on Bikes

“She had the biggest library in the Americas,” says Giles. “She didn’t know she was doing it, but she wrote the first feminist manifesto saying all women should be educated.” But Sor Juana was eventually condemned by Francisco de Aguiar y Seijas, archbishop of Mexico, and forced to give up her writing, musical instruments and books. She died after caring for fellow nuns during a plague.

Though Sor Juana is known as “the Tenth Muse” and “the Phoenix of the Americas,” “when we bring her up to a lot of people who have done women’s studies in the U.S., they’ve never heard of her,” says Giles. It’s also healing, he notes, in the face of current attitudes of prejudice against Mexican people, to draw attention to a Mexican woman who was so learned and accomplished at a time when European settlements in the U.S. were little more than a few rough cabins.

Giles and Susan studied Sor Juana’s story in Mexico and collaborated with Mexico City-based choreographer Jaime Camarena. Like the Collards, Camarena has his own dance school and small theater. “We saw one of his performances when he put a piece on [with] the Yucatan Classical Ballet in Merida,” says Giles. The company brought a smaller-sized version of that production to the Bebe Theatre.

For The Tenth Muse, Camarena choreographed one section and Susan worked on seven other parts — including a final character being choreographed at press time. With funds from a North Carolina Arts Council Emerging Artists Grant, Giles sculpted large foam heads of the archbishop of Mexico City, the last the viceroy of New Spain, and others who affected Sor Juana. Camarena’s girlfriend, Evelyn Gomez, designed costumes from leather and fencing equipment.

The show itself is a multimedia experience, with poetry by CoCo Palmer and visuals of Sor Juana’s personal calligraphy — examples of which Giles found in Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Puebla, Mexico, considered to be the oldest library in the Americas — performed along with the dance.

The production will travel to Merida in December, where it will be performed in Spanish, and later it will be staged in Mexico City. In Asheville, performances take place Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. $17 adults/$15 students and seniors. acdt.org

Haunted happenings around WNC

• Asheville on Bikes hosts its annual Pumpkin Pedaller, a community bike ride on Saturday, Oct. 29. Cyclists leave from and return to New Belgium Brewing, 91 Craven St. Meet at 2:30 p.m.; the group leaves at 3 p.m. A Halloween party follows at New Belgium with music by DJ Sci-Fi and other acts TBA. Costumes are customary, and County Commissioner Brownie Newman will judge. Free. avl.mx/30k

• Wisely, The Crow and Quill, 106 N. Lexington Ave., is pacing its festivities, beginning with a Halloween warmup on Friday, Oct. 28. Charming Disaster performs “Gothic folk [and] charming songs of gloom and doom” at 9 p.m. Then, on Monday, Oct. 31, Wasted Wine and Plankeye Peggy offer up carnival tunes and pirate shanties. thecrowandquill.com

• Last year’s Day of the Dead fair in Hendersonville grows to a full-on festival this year with raffles, contests, games, sugar-skull painting, music, folk dancing, altars and Mexican food for sale. The multicultural commemoration, sponsored by El Centro, takes place on Sunday, Oct. 30, 3-6 p.m. at Los Reyes Bakery, 810 S. Grove St. “During the event, we will have a brief explanation of the meaning behind the symbols found on the traditional Day of the Dead altar,” says a press release. There will also be “a contest for community members to create their own altars and volunteers dressed in typical Day of the Dead costumes.” Free. elcentrohvl.com

DIG THIS:  The Digs pull out the stops for their Funky Halloween Dance Party at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall. Photo courtesy of the band
DIG THIS: The Digs pull out the stops for their Funky Halloween Dance Party at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall. Photo courtesy of the band

•  The Digs pull out the stops for their Funky Halloween Dance Party at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road, on Saturday, Oct 29. The show will feature “Claude Colemen Jr. of WEEN on drums (who recently headlined at Bonaroo and Lockn festival),” says guitarist Ram Mandelkorn. And, “for the Halloween show we will have Caromia Tiller singing with us, and a bunch of Asheville musician friends joining, as well.” 9 p.m. $8 advance/$10 day of show. isisasheville.com

• “Built in the 1930s by Southern Railroad executives as a rustic mountain retreat, the 6,500-square-foot [Round Knob Lodge, 2345 Mill Creek Road, Old Fort] replaced the ritzy Round Knob Hotel, which served railroad passengers and employees from the 1880s until it burned in 1903,” says a press release. Costumed guides from the Swannanoa Valley Museum will lead tours and share ghost stories from the historic haunted railway. Two-hour tours leave every half hour from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29. $25 members/$35 nonmembers. swannanoavalleymuseum.org

• The two-night stand at Jack of the Wood, 95 Patton Ave., kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 29, with a pre-Halloween costume warmup bash featuring viper jazz outfit Woody Pines. If your costume is in anyway retro, ragtime, Prohibition-era or Roaring ’20s, you’ll fit right in. 9 p.m., $5. Then, on Monday Oct. 31, the annual Honky-tonk Halloween Bash with ACMR Asheville Country Music Revue takes the stage. The band features members of Town Mountain, and the audience is encouraged to “dress as your favorite country music star” with cash prizes for best get-ups. 8 p.m. $10. jackofthewood.com

• More sweet than scary: “Our fundraising baked goods sale [has] a spooky twist — join us for storytelling, poetry and music,” says the Facebook invite to Great Tree Sangha’s Poetry & Pie event. The gathering takes place at 5 Ravenscroft Drive on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. “We’ll begin with a Segaki ceremony to placate the Hungry Ghost,” the invitation says. “Wear a costume and be a part of the fun.” avl.mx/30n

• New Mountain, 38 N. French Broad Ave., hosts a Samhain Celebration featuring Desert Dwellers, Living Light, Templo and more acts to be announced. Monday, Oct. 31, at 9 p.m. $20 advance/$25 day of show. newmountainavl.com

• The Haunted Trail, billed as “Asheville’s best family-friendly haunt” runs Wednesday, Oct. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 30, at Pisgah Brewing Co. The adventure is geared toward ages 5-12 and is considered to be “intermediately scary, ideal for families looking for a spooky session that doesn’t cross into violence or gore.” Stroll at your own pace; design your own fright level. 6:30-9 nightly. $9 kids/$11 adults. hauntedtrailwnc.com

• Rainbow Community School holds its Halloween Harvest Hoedown on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the school’s 574 Haywood Road location. Expect games, music, food, bounce houses, a haunted house, a raffle and a silent auction. The festivities raise money for improvements to the community center auditorium and local organization Children First/Communities In Schools. Noon- 3:30 p.m.. Free to attend, activities are ticketed. rainbowcommunityschool.org

• What’s spookier than a Neil Young song? Well, probably tons of things (though “My My, Hey Hey” is seriously eerie). But that’s the theme at The Mothlight (701 Haywood Road) where Better Twin (the new project of Wayne Robbins) will cover The Godfather of Grunge, as well as tunes by Lee “Scratch” Perry (performed by Seth Kauffman and Michael Libramento) and Velvet Underground (performed by Missing Stares). Monday, Oct. 31, 9:30 p.m. Free. themothlight.com

• Folkmoot hosts the Spookmoot Haunted Schoolhouse at the historic Hazelwood School, 112 Virginia Ave., Waynesville, on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29. Along with “frightening internationally themed characters who danced at Folkmoot Festival and refused to go home,” visitors can take a spooky tour and partake of cornhole games and the pumpkin catapult. Food trucks will be on-site. 8 p.m.-midnight, tickets with set tour times are $15 in advance. 252-2997 or folkmoot.org

• Buxton Hall Barbecue (32 Banks Ave.) promises a bigger, better version of last year’s event. This time around, the Saturday, Oct. 29, celebration starts with a block party, music and beer at Catawba brewing. The haunted dance party kicks off at Buxton Hall at 10:30 p.m. with rotating DJs, barbecue and drinks. buxtonhall.com

•  After the Monday night contra dancers clear the floor, Unknown Hinson takes the stage at The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave. The psychobilly musician and performance artist looks “somewhat like Dracula’s nasty little brother who spent some hard years drinking and working as a carnival barker for a second-rate freak show,” according to a press release. “Raucous, theatrical and over the top, Unknown Hinson isn’t just for the trailer-park set anymore.” Oct. 31, at 10 p.m. $17 advance/$20 day of show. thegreyeagle.com

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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