Ballet is really, really hard to do. You have to have the right stuff: line, turnout, high extensions, high pain threshold, and soaring leaps that achieve exactly the right shape four feet off the ground. You are not allowed to show effort, because you are a gravity-defying creature who lives in—and sometimes on—air. Add the contemporary emphasis on warp-speed and mind-bending choreographic complexity to this traditional cocktail, and you have one heck of a kamikaze shooter. Perhaps that's why there are only a few professional ballet companies in the Twin Cities. Fortunately, this weekend brings the debut of the Chamber Ballet of St. Paul, with four ballets by artistic director Phillip Carman and dancing by a company of eight young professional performers. The choreography is contemporary: fresh, sleek, frisky, but with a solid classical base. Of special interest is Carman's new version of "L'après-midi d'un faune" to Debussy's atmospheric music, showcasing the considerable talents of Andrew Lester as a faun among nymphs. Vaslav Nijinsky's original 1912 production caused a riot with its two-dimensional movement (as on a Greek vase), and randy faun. Carman's version animates the dancing with a more balletic plastique. Black-tie Valentine's Day event features dinner at the St. Paul Hotel and performance for $145 per person.
Feb. 14-16, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 16, 2 p.m., 2008