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Richmond Ballet celebrates the coming millennium with a two-week dance festival featuring works by today's leading choreographers. 

Modern Movement

"Ballet 2000"
Richmond Ballet
Modlin Center for the Arts
May 5-8 and May 12-15
$20
262-8100

To close its 1998-1999 season, Richmond Ballet is offering a two-week dance festival highlighting many of this century's living luminaries of choreography. Separated into two programs, "Ballet 2000" features six works, including two world premieres, by George Balanchine, Mauricio Wainrot, Colin Connor, Kirk Peterson and Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett. Three works will be performed at each performance May 5-8 and May 12-15 at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center.

Wainrot, who has two works in the festival, premieres "Now and Then," set to Henry Gorecki's emotional "Third Symphony, The Symphony of Sorrows." This ensemble piece for 11 dancers with a dramatic duet is based on poems written in concentration camps during World War II.

"There's a story to my dance, but it's not a linear or literal story," Wainrot explains during a break in rehearsals with Richmond Ballet. "It's more of a starting point for an atmosphere of loss and losing illusions."

Wainrot, whose Polish parents immigrated to Argentina to escape persecution, identifies closely with the composer and the soprano who sings in Polish. "When my parents arrived in Argentina, they stopped speaking Polish," he says. "(This piece) is my way of connecting to my past."

Wainrot's second work in the festival is his tender "From Far Away," with music by Wim Mertens. This work, full of romantic sweeping gestures, was first performed in Richmond in 1996.

New to Richmond audiences is Peterson, who will premiere an as-yet-untitled work. Peterson, who was until recently the director of the Hartford Ballet, has chosen Philip Glass's "The Violin Concerto" as musical accompaniment. An ensemble piece with two leads in each movement, the dance follows the music contrapuntally.

The challenge in using Glass's music "is to not be repetitive," Peterson explains, "People think it's minimalist music, but it's not like that at all. It's full of motifs to lock onto."

Peterson describes this work as rich in classical vocabulary. "Some believe classical ballet is over," he says. "I don't agree at all. There's an enormously rich vocabulary that hasn't been exploited yet."

Another work included in the program is Connor's sensual "Terra" which premiered here in 1996. Using a mix of Sephardic, Moroccan and Burundian music, the vibrant and passionate work is Connor's attempt at "glorious physicality," his desire to offset society's preoccupation with technology and remind us of our softer, sensate self.

Also included in the festival is Balanchine's elegant "Apollo," set to Igor Stravinsky's "Apollon Musagete." This neoclassical ballet established him firmly as a 20th-century innovator and tells the story of a young god's maturation into full immortal godliness.

Winslett's sensitive "Ancient Airs and Dances," which premiered in 1986, is also part of the festival lineup. Set to the music of Ottorini Respighi, Winslett says the ballet displays "basic thoughts and feelings, doubts and fears, and hopes and joys."

Winslett describes "Ballet 2000" as "invigorating" and "uplifting ... a testament to the tremendous energy and innovation that characterizes the 20th
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