Dance fever

The tights-clad crew at The Kansas City Ballet will meld traditional dance with modern passion in its annual spring performance, which showcases a classical masterpiece, a sultry tango number, and a world premiere by local director William Whitener.

The performance will include the company premiere of the classical ballet Paquita, choreographed in 1881 by Marius Petipa, who also choreographed Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Paquita is an old-school Russian ballet, telling the story of a child rescued from a massacre by gypsies — those traveling saviors your mother always warned you about. According to Whitener, this ballet is performed throughout the world and uses a full company of dancers, and each dancer must be technically accomplished enough to perform the demanding ensemble work.

The company will also perform Margo Sappington’s highly popular Cobras in the Moonlight, which premiered in Kansas City in 1997. Although a cobra might not be the first image to come to mind when one thinks of beauty, Whitener calls this work, which evokes the seductiveness of the tango, “sultry, sensuous, quick, daredevil, and passionate.” With the women in high heels and the men in tuxedos, the performers dance in trios, an unusual occurrence in ballets. Cobras also does a little gender-bending, providing that down-home appeal for the cross-dressing ballet-goer.

But the highlight of the evening may be Whitener’s Each and Every. This innovative work showcases the music of Francis Poulenc. “Poulenc’s ‘Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra’ is an elegant and witty work,” Whitener explains. “I am intrigued by the manner in which the score moves from Balinese to Mozartian to playful French themes with great ease and charm. The choreography reflects the array of musical ideas and features the entire company of dancers.”

Whitener’s dancers rehearsed for six weeks to bring these works to life, and the result is the final performance of the 1999-2000 “Legacy of Dance” season.

The Kansas City Ballet will complete its season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 16, at the Lyric Theatre, 1029 Central. Tickets range from $18 to $44. Call 816-931-2232