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"Yes, Virginia Dance!" Returns with a diverse array of works from talented choreographers.

Virginia Keeps Dancing

After the success last year of "Yes, Virginia Dance!," artistic directors/choreographers Kaye Weinstein Gary and Chris Burnside are producing a second version of the show. This year, seven works by choreographers from Virginia, Maryland and Texas make up the dance invitational May 19-20 at Virginia Commonwealth University's Grace Street Theatre.

The original intent for the show was to pool resources, particularly to ease the financial burden of producing a dance show, and to encourage dialogue among choreographers. Audiences benefit by being exposed to a diversity of talent within one concert. "A lot of people wanted it again," Weinstein Gary says. "It was an overall great experience. The formula is already in place so we decided to do it again."

Before this year's production Weinstein Gary and Burnside traveled around the area to investigate dancers and choreographers. "[We] chose what we responded to personally," Weinstein Gary says. "The program reflects our aesthetics." She admits that her own preferences tend toward the conservative, but she realizes, too, that those choices appeal to a Richmond audience that is rarely addressed. "Last year I spoke to people who had never been to the Grace Street Theater, never been to a modern dance concert," she says.

Weinstein Gary will present her new work ,"Journey," which includes both a solo and group section. An aluminum ladder plays a prominent role, almost like a partner in the dance, allowing her to explore level changes. Though she's been climbing a ladder frequently during the recent renovation of her home, she's had an ongoing fascination with this tool. Her intent is to strip it of its utilitarian purpose and use it artistically.

Two popular works familiar to Richmond audiences are included in the program: Burnside's moving "Runaway Horses," with members of the Richmond Ballet, and Rob Petres' powerful solo "Rope Dance." "Lisboa" a dance inspired by a Portuguese song about loss, sorrow and the desire for home, will be presented by t & t trio from the Shenandoah Valley. Laura Schandelmeier, a VCU graduate and director of The Field/DC, presents her solo "Mademoiselle," a look at pop icons and female rituals of beauty. Texan Mary Williford Shade also offers a solo, created by Karinne Keithley, titled "Will It Fit, Will It Spill?" with movements that suggest puppetry. Lastly, Maryland resident Adrienne Clancy, another VCU graduate, presents her duet, "Climbing Mountains," which explores the relationship between a headstrong man and woman.

Although no theme ties the pieces together, Weinstein Gary notices one recurring element. "Each one uses space in different ways," she says. "Adrienne exposes the back wall and walks on it, Mary uses stark lighting which divides the stage, Rob has his rope and me, I have my ladder."

It's impossible to ignore the show's great variety, which was exactly the intention of this collaborative team. And will there be a third show next year? They've already written and sent in the grant application to the Virginia Commission for the

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