Modern dance meets the Renaissance in the Ground Zero Dance Company's

When England created a preliminary version last year under the title "Impossible Saint" she knew the work was incomplete. "I had to sit with it a while and let the characters be known to me," she says.

"It needed to be fuller and bigger, but I didn't know how at the time. I had to put it away and let the work congeal."

The work began with an exploration of the word court and its meaning in phrases such as "court of law," "court jester" and "courting affections." England was also reading novels set in the 15th century. Then she discovered the Renaissance music of John Dowland, a British subject frustrated by his appointment to the Danish court, who wanted to return to his homeland. Intrigued by his dilemma, she wondered whether religion or a lack of money kept him away. His story, along with his music and lyrics, fascinated her.

"The lyrics are more complex than I would have expected," she says. "They're also darker and more emotional than I thought they might be." The resulting work, England says, explores the tension between "religious devotion and the corruption of rituals."

To bring the Old World mood of the period alive, Ground Zero will present the show in an unconventional setting, Tredegar Iron Works Gun Foundry, which provides a three-quarter-round stage. After visiting numerous local churches, England chose the striking building along the James River for its distinctive backdrop. "When you walk in, with all its brick and beams, you get transformed to another time," England says.

Ground Zero, comprising Victoria Fink, Lea Marshall, Tommy Parlon and Rob Petres, has engaged the talents of live musicians to further flavor its modern dance with more than a touch of the old. Cellist Teresa Bjornes, violinist Loretta Carraras, guitarist Jack Jones, and singers Matt Hassmer and Dennis King will bring Dowland's pensive, sometimes diabolical music to life. To further evoke the period, special guest artist Foolery will also perform "Excerpts from a One-Man `Hamlet.'" S

Ground Zero Dance Company presents "Court" at the Tredegar Iron Works Gun Foundry Building March 15-16 at 8pm. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for students. 353-9774


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