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Presenting joy and beauty of dance

Valley Dance Theatre's 'Spring Rep' highlights classical, contemporary ballet

Valley Dance Theatre celebrates the joy and beauty of ballet next weekend at its annual repertoire production, "Spring Rep."

The performance will have excerpts from repertory pieces, classical and contemporary, including "Less Is More," set to the music of Soviet Armenian composer-conductor Aram Khachaturian; "Asian Artistry," which unites cultural traditions and features soloist Cherri Wang; and "Gemstones -- Pearl, Moonstone and Quartz," a trio of graceful works by choreographer Brenna Richards.

"Asian Artistry," a contemporary work, has four segments that portray aspects of Asian culture, which are depicted through dancers' costumes and props.

"The symbolic representation in 'Asian Artistry' really stands out," soloist Wang said. "The use of props, the interweaving of the corps and soloists, and the story that unfolds before the audience are what makes the piece so special."

Wang began dancing as a young child to supplement ice skating and fell in love with ballet. A senior at Amador Valley High School, she will attend Harvard University in pre-law in the fall and hopes to join the ballet company there.

Choreographer Richards created the elements of each of the "Gemstones" to flow from one to the other as they would as part of a necklace. At the same time, the piece showcases the unique qualities of each jewel.

"For 'Pearl,' I took inspiration from the classic elegance and encircling feel of a pearl necklace flowing through my fingertips," Richards said. "In 'Moonstone,' I wanted to convey the mysterious, calming effect you might experience whenever you find a moonstone on the beach. In 'Quartz,' I worked to capture the sense of the multi-sided prism rock with different crystals jetting out at all different angles."

"My hope is that the three 'Gemstones' will be a moving visual for the audience, allowing both literal and emotional experiences to unfold," she added.

Richards, who has been a dancer her whole life, followed her deepest passion -- teaching -- and began instructing and choreographing for Valley Dance Theatre in 2001. She has taught students of all levels and ages and has choreographed numerous original pieces. She said she always strives "to inspire or take the audience someplace magical" with her creativity.

Ballet onstage

What: "Spring Rep"

Who: Valley Dance Theatre

When: 7 p.m., Saturday, May 28; 2 p.m., Sunday, May 29

Where: Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore

Tickets: $26 adults; $12 students, 17 or younger. Available online at www.bankheadtheater.org; by phone at 373-6800; or in person at the box office.

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