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"Yes, Virginia — Dance" showcases the best of regional choreography.

Regional Movement

For a third year, artistic director Kaye Weinstein Gary presents "Yes, Virginia — Dance," a dance invitational for regional choreographers. A concert like this, with eight choreographers from throughout the mid-Atlantic region, celebrates local talent and provides performing opportunities at a time when it is increasingly difficult to present such work. "Yes, Virginia — Dance!" will be presented at Grace Street Theatre May 18-19.

The program's lineup varies slightly from years past. Previously, Weinstein Gary and then-co-artistic director Chris Burnside scouted the region for talent. This year, she widened the search. "I sent out notices," she explains, "an open call for choreography. I had no preconceived notion. I wanted to see what was out there."

One of her great finds is Jayne Bernasconi from Baltimore who will perform a low-flying trapeze piece called "The Dream." Starting from the floor and making her way airborne, Bernasconi perfectly embodies restful sleep and numinous flight with her gentle swings through space.

Bernasconi was attracted to this form by the opportunity to explore weight shifts and to defy gravity. Though she performs on a trapeze, she performs at several inches or a foot or so off the floor, not at the neck-craning heights of the circus trapeze artist. "It's a lot like contact improvisation," Bernasconi explains, "but taken to an entirely different level."

Bernasconi first saw low trapeze in Boulder, Colo., where she lived for a time, but it wasn't until moving to Baltimore that she took workshops to lift her dancer's grace off the ground. Her aerial maneuvers have since inspired audiences and dancers alike. Last year she established Air Dance Bernasconi, a six-member company.

Ex-Richmonder Cathy Paine returns to town to perform "Views," an unusual solo improvisation. Paine will watch the first half of the concert and then incorporate her observations of both performers and audience into a work created as she steps onto the stage. "Views," from a series of improvisational scores, ensures that this work will be unique.

As in years past, no central theme ties the concert together. If there's any common ground, it's that Weinstein Gary wanted to feature "seasoned performers." Burnside offers a solo, "Understanding," based on his friendship with an elderly neighbor in Venice, Calif. Jane Franklin Dance, from Arlington, will perform a somewhat eccentric duet "Memento" to an 18th-century harpsichord. Also from Arlington, Bowen McCauley Dance presents a romantic duet, "At Last," which blends classical and contemporary movement.

From Maryland, Adrienne Clancy performs Laura Schandelmeier's "Annabel," an investigation into female sensuality and stereotypes. Assemblage Dance Company of Williamsburg presents the athletically aggressive "Pulse." And Weinstein Gary steps out of her role as artistic director into the role of dancer for "Are You Smart?" This humorous duet, with Pedro Szalay from Richmond Ballet, tells a love story to an assemblage of music, from Henry Mancini to Elvis Costello.

When Weinstein Gary initiated the series, she wanted to find out what was happening in the region. What she proves through "Yes, Virginia — Dance!" is that a variety of amazingly skilled dancers live nearby.

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