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To conserve her beauty, 17th-century Transylvanian aristocrat and torturer ErzsÆ’bet B”¡thory bathed in virgin's blood. Condemned as a mass murderer, she was imprisoned in a windowless castle room and permitted to communicate only through a small hole in the wall. Hungarian choreographer Yvette Bozsik's "The Countess," presented at Dance Theater Workshop, captivatingly evokes the mysterious moods and neurotic psyche of this controversial legendary figure who may have been falsely accused.
Wearing a regal black and emerald gown that restricts her torso and conceals her legs, Bozsik portrays B”¡thory largely through intriguing hand gestures and expressive manipulations of her countenance. Her wide eyes bulge, radiating desperation and eccentricity, while her stabbing shoulders and prickling fingers speak an eerie language of evil.
Bozsik's choreography is marked by an economy of movement--beautifully stark images animated through skillful use of repetition, tempo variations, and emotional coloring. The aggressive determination with which she executes accelerating sit-ups--her waist-length braid flying through the air and slapping loudly against the floor beyond her toes each time she folds forward over her legs--simultaneously frightens and enthralls.
Her maid, alluringly danced by Anna Magusin, becomes playmate, servant, lover, and mischievous mimic of the countess's bizarre behaviors. Standing behind her mistress, safely out of sight, Magusin mockingly mirrors Bozsik's minute, speedy moves with amazing precision.
Both women perform this beguiling dance-theatre piece with compelling dramatic intensity that snares us in a web of erotic thrills and fear. Jean-Philippe Heritier's evocative musical score brews an atmosphere of disturbing strangeness without resorting to familiar "scary music" clichÆ’s, while the stage space, designed by Andr”¡s Ravasz, is seductively littered with overstuffed pillows, bewitching feline statuettes, and an enticing shuttered window. It all adds up to a delectable date with a lonely vampire.