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Richmond Ballet works the old and the new

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Richmond Ballet's Studio 3 recently offered a well-balanced program of the ballet canon, in the form of Balanchine's traditional "Mozartiana" on one side, and the bloom of the new, in the form of "Voyages," a premiere by Argentine choreographer Mauricio Wainrot.

"Mozartiana" (1981) was one of the last ballets created by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky's suite, although he presented earlier versions during the 1930s and 1940s. With his final muse, Suzanne Farrell, as his inspiration towards the end of his life, he got it right. The ballet manages to feel compact and spacious at the same time, with solos, duets, or small groups onstage throughout until the final section, when all 11 (four young girls, four women, a male soloist, and the principal couple) emerge to dance together.

From the opening "Preghiera" or prayer section, with principal Anne Sidney Davenport wistful among four young girls, the feeling and tempo brighten as the work progresses. Legwork and jumps sparkle throughout Balanchine's choreography. Christopher Nachtrab shone irresistibly in the solo "Gigue" section, with his bright, open expressiveness and big jumps. A greater elasticity, a deeper grounding beneath the jumps, would complement his expansive, engaging presence. Igor Antonov, precise and wholly appealing, partnered Davenport through the "Thème et Variations" section, which she danced with a sweetness tinged with melancholy, it seemed, in her final program before retirement from the company.

Wainrot's "Voyages" explored music from far and wide -- the Throat Singers of Tuva, traditional music of Bulgaria and more -- but kept to contemporary, fairly abstract movement rather than pursuing folk forms. It's a looker of a piece, with dramatic lighting, shirtless men, crazy hairdos, and lovely costumes by Tamara Cobus. Wainrot's choreography juxtaposes rippling torsos, deep plies and swooping arcs in and out of the floor with the classical idiom -- lifted bodies, straight lines, high extensions. Though a deeper grounding in modern technique would give the company a boost in navigating such transitions, they looked great, particularly Lauren Fagone, who prowled sexy as hell through a solo section, and Kirk Henning and Jesse Bechard partnering with intent, near-combativeness.

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