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Richmond Ballet features four contemporary ballets in its final concert of the season. 

Spring Rep

As is customary for its May concerts, Richmond Ballet closes the season with four varied contemporary ballets for "Spring Repertory." The enticing offerings include a world premiere by Kirk Peterson, and works by Tomm Ruud, William Soleau and Malcolm Burn, to be performed at the University of Richmond's Jepson Theatre May 2-5.

After creating "Vortex" for the ballet in 1999, Peterson returns with "Howling Cat (Imaginary Tango)," which, as implied by its name, finds inspiration in tango. Tango's current popularity didn't stop Peterson from including it in one of his dances. However, what he does is add a personal twist: surrealism.

A friend had given him a restored version of Louis Feuillade's 1915 film "Les Vampires." "She told me there were fascinating sections in it that I had to see," he says. After viewing the film, Peterson decided upon "a surreal amalgam" of influences, "tapping into my whatever-comes-next subconscious concept of creating a work of art." Although the passionate movements of tango appear throughout the work, by its conclusion "you're no longer in tango land," Peterson says. The result is an eight-section, aerobically intense, abstract work that follows an evolution in styles.

"The story is vague and random," Peterson explains. "It evolves geographically from Latin tango to French Apache... I didn't want it to follow a rational narrative. The story is surreal."

Each of the sections features a strong woman, a choreographic preference of his. But the work also appears old-fashioned, what Paterson calls "night clubby." Performed to a composite of seven composers including Astor Piazzola, this conceptual journey of styles from Southern Spain to Northern Africa, a "landscape of fantastic realism," gets performed at high speeds.

A second choreographer in the concert is Ruud, who based his work "Mobile" on sculptures by Alexander Calder. Like Calder's elegant balancing acts, "Mobile," with music by Aram Khachaturian, involves three dancers partnering in various acrobatic configurations that exhibit great strength and control.

The two other works include two of Richmond's own. Richmond Ballet's Burn created "Paz Glazunov" for former company dancers Igor and Marina Antonov. This bold and compelling work, well received when it first appeared in 1990, showcases the beauty of classical ballet.

Equally appealing is "Tandem Spaces," choreographed by Soleau with music by ex-Richmonder Jonathan Romeo. One of five works Soleau created for the Richmond Ballet, "Tandem Spaces," reveals a series of unrelated street scenes. Lighting isolates dancers in their own worlds, much like a Edward Hopper painting, but without the gloom.

May's concerts always highlight the best in contemporary ballet. Drawing from classical movement and modern dance, the eclectic offerings this weekend uphold that
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