World Premiere of “What’s Going On” at Richmond Ballet’s Studio 4

Richmond Ballet Studio 4. Image courtesy of Richmond Ballet

Richmond, VA – Richmond Ballet will be premiering Val Caniparoli’s “What’s Going On” as part of their season finale, Studio 4, performance May 10 – 15 in Richmond, VA. This promises to be an edgy performance as it brings to light pressing issues of the last several decades including war, race, sexual orientation, politics, the environment, and more. The production was originally slated to premiere in 2020 but, as with almost everything else, was postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Rumor has it that Caniparoli has incorporated the pandemic into the performance, adding to the relevance of a piece that is sure to appeal to those who have witnessed changes in societal ideology as a result of various protest movements over the past 60 years.

What makes this production uniquely appealing to all is the history, music, visuals and movement, used to give the audience a look at where we have been and where we are going as a society. The performance includes potential emotion inciting headlines, iconic music by artists such as Bob Dylan, Melanie, Marvin Gaye, and CCR, and powerful dance by Richmond Ballet’s finest!

Richmond Ballet preparing for the premiere of “What’s Going On”. Photo Credit: © Dave Pearson 2022

Thank you Richmond Ballet for giving me the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the company preparing for the production. Having witnessed previous works, I had a good idea of the physical and artistic dedication required of those taking part in the production. How the dancers collaborate with each other and the production and choreography teams is an art in and of itself. In my session everyone worked together to get it right. If the choreographer had a suggestion, they listened, if a dancer had a suggestion, they listened. It was amazing to watch as it all came together. Adding to the experience was how comfortable they felt with each other often breaking a tension with a little laugh now and then.

My observation of the rehearsal also gave me a deeper appreciation of this performance as well as those I have taken in previously and those I will see in the future. While the technical aspects of the dance were vital, just as important was the acting. A lot of effort went into going so above and beyond the technical, delving into the emotion of the piece that can only be delivered with great acting. I am dying to see it all come together!

While Caniparoli has called San Francisco Ballet home for 47 years he has contributed to over 50 companies worldwide, making him one of the most sought after American Choreographers. This is the 10th world premiere Caniparoli has choreographed for Richmond Ballet during their 30+ year relationship. He chose the music because, over the years, these artists and songs, in many ways, set the tone for various movements over the past few decades. “While many listeners enjoyed these songs, singing along and dancing to them, most didn’t even grasp what the lyrics were about. I encourage the audience to think about how far have we really come? And where are we going?”.

If you happen to be in Richmond and wish to see what is sure to be a stunning performance, be sure to get your tickets and join Richmond Ballet’s Studio 4. If you are not in Richmond, be sure to check out your local company’s work. As one who, until recently, had not been involved in ballet, I can tell you, the journey has been wonderful.

Richmond Ballet preparing for the premiere of “What’s Going On”. Photo Credit: © Dave Pearson 2022

Song List
1. What’s Going On:   (Marvin Gaye)
2. Little Wheel Spin and Spin:   (Buffy Sainte-Marie)
3. Lay Down (Candles In The Rain):  (Melanie)
4. Fortunate Son:  (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
5. Everybody Knows:  (Leonard Cohen)
6. Secretly:  (Jimmie Rodgers)
7. Where Have All The Flowers Gone:  (Pete Seeger)
8. Things Have Changed:  (Bob Dylan)

May 10-15, 2022 | Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre
407 E. Canal Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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Tuesday, May 10th at 6:30pm (Choreographer’s Club)
Wednesday, May 11th at 6:30pm
Thursday, May 12th at 6:30pm
Friday, May 13th at 6:30pm
Saturday, May 14th at 5:00pm and 8:00pm
Sunday, May 15th at 1:30pm and 4:30pm

Tickets to Studio Four start at $25. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 804.344.0906 x224, or in person at the Richmond Ballet Box Office, Monday – Friday, 11am – 6pm. To view Richmond Ballet’s most updated health and safety protocols, visit

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Dave Pearson is based out of Richmond, VA by way of Hayward, WI. He has long had a passion for music. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, he rocked out to the likes of Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, and The Lettermen. Then, one Saturday night, being the rebel he was born to be, he caught an Alice Cooper interview (it may have been on The Midnight Special) and saw him perform, “Welcome to My Nightmare”. Dave was hooked on Rock and Roll (and many other genres as well). Dave has enjoyed (amateur) photography to some degree most of his adult life. Recently Dave started to apply his event photography skills in various music settings with success. He finds that photographing a performance gives him a much greater appreciation for the artist.