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Val Canaparoli's "Attention, Please" marks his third world premiere on the Richmond stage.

Dancing into the Spotlight

"Attention, Please," "Nuevo Tango" and "The Moor's Pavane"
Richmond Ballet
University of Richmond's Modlin Center for the Arts
September 8-11
8 p.m.

Though he lives and works primarily in San Francisco, choreographer Val Canaparoli has become a darling of the Richmond stage.

It was here, in 1995, that the Richmond Ballet premiered his ballet "Bow Out," with dancers attired in sleek Armani suits. In 1997, he returned to Richmond with the world premiere of "Djangology," a piece inspired by the music of Django Reinhard (and which the ballet will perform again this season).

Both works went on to be performed by companies such as the Cincinnati Ballet and the Oakland Ballet, proving that Richmond is fertile soil for cultivating new work. And once again the Richmond Ballet and Canaparoli are sowing the seeds of dance with the world premiere of "Attention, Please," to be performed during the ballet's season opener at the University of Richmond's Modlin Center for the Arts Sept. 8-11.

"Richmond is a great place to launch a new piece," says Canaparoli, who has been a member of the San Francisco Ballet since 1973. "Stoner [Winslett] makes no limitations on dancers' availability. When the creative moment strikes, you don't have to wait until the dancer comes out of another rehearsal."

Compared to "Bow Out" and "Djangoloy," "Attention, Please," set to Bach's "Partita No.1 for Violin," retains Canaparoli's energetic style and preference for abstraction. What differs is that the movements are quicker and more forceful, with greater unpredictability and rapid shifts from the floor to standing.

"I wanted to use solos as the basis for the work," he explains. "Each dancer has his moment." Each movement blends the dancer's strengths with Canaparoli's ideas, resulting in a dance perfectly tailored to the Richmond Ballet.

Is he concerned that subsequent companies will have a hard time? Not at all, he says. Though he does make changes with subsequent shows, it's more a result of evolving choreography. "I'm like Balanchine," he says. "He was constantly editing his work until the end of his life."

Canaparoli holds back no admiration for the six Richmond Ballet dancers chosen to perform "Attention, Please," all of whom he describes as versatile and well-trained. "Kevin Bowles is amazingly energetic and incredible to work with," he says. "He's willing to do anything. I've actually had to hold him back." Of dancer Mandy Phelps, he says, "She's really come into her own. She's mature technically and in every category. She's also got a good sense of humor." All the dancers' skill, eagerness, and speed in learning new movements have exceeded his expectations, which greatly helped during the creation of the work during his brief, two-week stay in Richmond.

Also on the program for Sept. 8-11 are William Soleau's "Nuevo Tango" and Jose Limon's "The Moor's Pavane."

"Nuevo Tango" was performed by the ballet last year. The vibrant work, which uses the music of Astor Piazzola, recreates a club scene with dancers eyeing one another, engaging in brief impassioned dances, then separating, sometimes abruptly, to watch the ensuing drama of others.

Limon's "The Moor's Pavane," with music by Henry Purcell, loosely recreates Shakespeare's "Othello." Jealousy and love, passion and revenge get displayed by strikingly sharp, dramatic moves, performed by a quartet of

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