Heaven, Earth and "Other Places" 

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All three works of the season-opening Richmond Ballet Studio I series share the common themes of sweeping partnered lifts, floaty chiffon costumes and brevity. But as Artistic Director Stoner Winslett pointed out, that's where the similarities end.

Tuesday was the world premiere for choreographer Jessica Lang's fourth creation for the company, "La Belle Danse." The piece is a take on baroque and Renaissance dance, which is where ballet originated.

Lang says when she was learning baroque dance, her teacher stressed that there was no bumping in that style and the dancer's skirt shouldn't lift up. In reaction, Lang created a baroque-themed work that she says is "all about bumping and allowing the skirt to dance."

Handel, Corelli, Des Prez and Mozart create a powerful and virtuostic soundtrack for the work. Lang says the choreography has religious themes to reflect how important God was to the composers. To her, the music is about reaching up to the heavens.

"Like your hand meets the hand of God," says Lang, though she admits she is not religious in the traditional sense. "My religion is dance -- I practice that every day."

The two other pieces on offer are "Other Places," a tender and traditional pas de deux excerpt from Winslett's 1990 ballet, and the passionate and intense "Terra," the first piece Colin Conner created for the company in 1996.

The Richmond Ballet's Studio I runs through Sept. 16 at the Studio Theatre. Tickets are $15-$28. Call 344-0906 or visit www.richmondballet.com.

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