by Ann M. Colford

The week between Christmas and New Year's often feels like it has slipped between the cracks of normal time. The big exception to this feeling of floating aimlessly through time comes on New Year's Eve, our big opportunity to mark time's passage with reckless abandon.

Unlike a year ago, celebrations this year may not hold the same adrenaline rush of history-in-the-making combined with potential impending doom. (Remember Y2K?) Still, for those who are precise about such things, January 1 will mark the official start of the 21st century, and indeed the Third millennium. So it seems that some sense of occasion is called for.

As an alternative to the bigger and splashier social events on tap this New Year's Eve, Theatre Ballet of Spokane presents its 13th annual "Ballet and Bubbly" reception and gala at The Met. Only 500 tickets will be sold for the gala, so it promises to be an intimate yet cultured affair.

"The event has evolved a lot over the past 13 years," says Theatre Ballet director Peggy Goodner Tan. "It's become more sophisticated, and the standard of the dancing has gone up. We have some wonderful, delightful performers this year."

Along with Spokane's own 14-member Theatre Ballet company, the program highlights two guest artists from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Emily Grizzell and Yosuke Mino. Grizzell, a native of Spokane, studied at the Ballet Arts Academy in Spokane and danced with the Theatre Ballet company before joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Mino began his dance training in Japan at the age of 9, continuing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. He joined the company in 1999. The pair will dance the Tarantella from legendary choreographer, George Balanchine, set to the music of Gottschalk. Tan says it's a rare opportunity to see a Balanchine piece performed locally.

"All of his pieces are kept by the Balanchine Trust," she says. "They're not in the public domain, so a company must have special permission to perform them. The dances are very much under lock and key." Before approval is granted, a representative of the Balanchine Trust visits the prospective company to make sure the dancing is of the appropriate caliber. Fortunately, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has already received approval, so their dancers may perform Balanchine's works here in Spokane.

"It's a real treat," Tan says. "This is really a show-stopper type of piece, and it's so suited for them. She is a little dynamo on stage." Grizzell will also perform a solo contemporary piece that was commissioned for her for a recent international competition.

The grand finale of the evening will be Roarin' Ragtime, set to the music of Scott Joplin and other ragtime composers, and choreographed by another native of Spokane, McGary Caven. The work was originally staged five years ago by Theatre Ballet, Tan says. "It's a saucy little piece, perfect for New Year's Eve." The ballet features seven short vignettes that portray a New Year's celebration, including dancers in flappers' outfits, dancing the Charleston en pointe.

Rounding out the program are pieces by Spokane-based choreographers Karen Kraft and Thyra Demetrick, along with a new version of Steam Heat, staged by Kirsten Cooper of Seattle in a style reminiscent of the late Bob Fosse. Kraft is a former member of the Joffrey Ballet who has created a new classical ballet called Midnight Suite, set to the music of Glazanov. Demetrick, formerly of Calgary, has produced a contemporary work called Visited that will provide one of the more serious moments of the evening.

The gala begins with a champagne and chocolate reception at 8 p.m., with the dance performances beginning at 9 p.m. Sparkling cider will also be available. The lobby of The Met will glitter with golden decorations, Tan promises, and everyone will be dressed accordingly. "Our audience has told us they like getting dressed up for New Year's Eve," she says, adding that it won't be a late night. "We like to finish up early so people can either head home or get to another event before midnight."

& & & lt;i & "Ballet and Bubbly is at The Met on Sunday, Dec. 31, at 8 pm. Tickets: $15. Call: 325-SEAT & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

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