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Richmond Ballet shows the vibrancy and freshness of classical dance in "Carmina Burana" and "Vortex."

Classic Double Bill

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Richmond Ballet presents two dynamic, not-to-be missed works for this weekend's concert. The much-loved and often requested "Carmina Burana" by John Butler pairs with the fast paced "Vortex" by Kirk Peterson. Both eye and ear will receive their fill when the Richmond Symphony, 47 players and a 100-member chorus perform live for "Carmina Burana." Additionally the frenetic spirals of Philip Glass' recording "Violin Concerto" accompany "Vortex." "Carmina Burana" is a choral theater work based on Bavarian songs and poems written by monks of the 13th century. Though one might expect the monks' outpourings to be ascetic and chaste, they are anything but. These monks left the monastery disenchanted with the stultifying conditions within its walls. Their roaming led to a more self-affirming existence, and the passionate, exultant songs and poems are a record of that life. "Carmina Burana" is a three-part work that reveals the impermanence of life. The first section celebrates the pleasure of spring, the second tavern life, and the third a series of love poems. John Butler's rendition of this classic work, choreographed in 1959, blends classical ballet with modern steps, and this results in a sumptuous mix of delicate and fiery grace. Forty years after the creation of "Carmina Burana," Kirk Peterson continues to prove that classical movements remain as fresh and exciting as ever. Created for Richmond Ballet two years ago, "Vortex," also a work in three parts, blends the emotive and the ethereal with high speeds and light, careful gestures. "Some believe classical ballet is over. I don't agree at all. There's an enormously rich vocabulary that hasn't been exploited yet," says Peterson. Richmond Ballet Mistress Diana Cuotto finds Peterson's work exhilarating. She appreciates his classical structures, the three movements all building "like a snowball with all the dancers appearing together in the third section. He maintains integrity throughout the piece. When he comes into the studio [to develop a new work], he has a strong vision of what he wants to do, and he works very quickly." Cuotto is equally impressed with Peterson's choreographic process. "Balanchine has said that for every two to three hours of studio work, that produces a minute of work on stage. Peterson's got it down to about one hour for every minute .… And yet he's very meticulous." Like Butler with his own distinguished career, Peterson is carving a place for himself in ballet history. He has served as artistic director for the Hartford Ballet for five years and is currently ballet master at American Ballet Theatre. Already Richmond Ballet has commissioned a new work from him, to be included in this year's May concert.

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