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Synergy in the Studio

The Richmond Ballet starts from scratch.


"It can be terrifying to work this way," Hineline says, "and as overwhelming for me as for the dancers. Usually, the dance would play stepchild to the music rather than being completely fueled by the creativity in the room."

"It has not been thought out and planned in advance," Begin says of the collaborative process. "You're really starting from zero, not knowing the length or the ending. It's a less chronological way of working. The dancers never know what they are going to get going into the studio each day, whether everything they've learned is going to be kept or scrapped. It's not something they are used to."

New York-based Hineline and Begin, of Richmond, are longtime friends whose collaborations include new pieces for several ballet companies. So trust and mutual respect cushion the uncertainties of working in this manner. The resulting piece "is about the chaos that exists between two fixed points," says Hineline, "this conceptual idea of the spaces between things."

The dancers are sometimes onstage watching other dancers move, "almost voyeuristically," Begin says. "I don't get the feeling that I'm necessarily watching a performance, but I'm watching something happen."

The choreography requires intelligence and adaptability by the dancers, Hineline says. "This work couldn't be done by dancers who didn't have a clear understanding of classical vocabulary and training in that vocabulary, the way it sets the body up to move."

The music is divided into three sections. The saxophonists — including Albert Regni, principal saxophonist of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera orchestras — alternate between chordal ideas and solo lines. The score builds in intensity with complex rhythms, short melodic segments, changing meters and various structures "that are really groovy," Begin says. "There's not a single part of the piece that is 'difficult music' or unlistenable. It may be challenging, but I try to bring the audience along."

"You don't want to keep giving people what they know," Hineline adds. "It's important to ask an audience to stretch. That's what I hope we're doing. With this piece, there is new music, new choreography, and a live performance by the American Saxophone Quartet. Those are three big reasons to come." S

Richmond Ballet presents Studio 1 at the Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre, 407 E. Canal St., Tuesday, Nov. 9 - Sunday Nov. 14. Showtimes include evening, late evening and matinee performances. Tickets $15 - $20. For information, call 344-0906 or go to

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