St. Louis dance fans will be swirling into spring with an expansive range of dance performances, from the world-class Joffrey Ballet to noteworthy local dance events.The Joffrey BalletMarch 9-10 brings the return of The Joffrey Ballet, the company that Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino created as the first truly American ballet company.With its highly trained dancers and an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary repertoire, the Joffrey Ballet from its origins in the 1950s set the tone for ballet companies worldwide. Works included the first psychedelic rock ballet, "Astarte," in 1967 and "Billboards," a rock ballet to music by Prince.The concert series at the the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Touhill Center is sponsored by Grand Center-based Dance St. Louis. Dance St. Louis has presented the Joffrey in recent years in "The Nutcracker," but not since 2001 has St. Louis enjoyed samples of its other works. The concerts are at 8 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday, March 10, at 2 p.m.On the program are two richly passionate works balanced by a round of dance fireworks.Artistic Director Ashley Wheater invites those with a stereotyped view of ballet, "to come see what we're doing" and be amazed.Rising star Edward Liang's acclaimed "Age of Innocence" was inspired by Jane Austen's novels and is set to the propelling music of Philip Glass. The large ensemble breaks into smaller groups of couples and duets in this look at the sensual forces tearing at social conventions.In "After the Rain," celebrated British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's exquisite pairs flow to famed composer Arvo Part's lilting violins and then a tinkling piano, like those last lingering drops of rain. Wheeldon takes the classical vocabulary and works his ingenious contemporary magic.Then to blast the mood comes "classical ballet pushed to the edge" as Wheater sees it. American William Forsythe's international hit "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" leaves dancers on point but possessed by the electronic-punk score. World ballet has never been the same since this 1987 masterpiece premiered with Frankfurt Ballet in Germany.For more information, call 534-6622 or visit dancestlouis.org.Five dances include one set to Scott Joplin's ragtime music and one to music by St. Louis experimental composer Tory Z Starbuck. Two others offer a dance video collaboration and an exploration of dance for the camera.For information, visit annonyarts.org. For tickets, go to cocastl.org.
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