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Fraught history of artist Camille Claudel inspires a new ballet

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Oren Porterfield and Ed Carr in “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” a short ballet by Jennifer Hart, presented by Performa Dance.

“4x3: Four Works by Three Choreographers.” 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. AustinVentures Studio Theater at Ballet Austin, 501 W. Third St. $20-$25. performadance.org

Winner of two Austin Critic’s Table awards, the indie Performa Dance unveils a fresh show of sharp new contemporary dance. Guests include New York solo artist Nic Lincoln and the multimedia Arcos Dance Company.

Performa Dance artistic director Jennifer Hart premieres “Camille: A Story of Art and Love,” a 30-minute story ballet.

Set to Schubert’s haunting string quartet “Death and the Maiden,” the dance interprets the life of Camille Claudel, a gifted sculptor and, most famously, a muse and lover of sculptor Auguste Rodin, whose expressive realist figures foreshadowed modernist styles.

As a woman, Claudel was barred from studying sculpture at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts in the 1880s. Thus she began a tumultuous relationship with Rodin, as muse, lover and artistic confidante, never fully recognized for her own powerful yet lyrical sculpture. Later in life it was assumed that she had some mental illness, and she was confined to an institution.

“Claudel both embodied her time and was a modern woman living in an era that didn’t often recognize the work of women artists,” says Hart. “To me, she speaks to the same challenges women face today in the arts. In that way, I was drawn to her as an artist and woman.”

“Also the idea of one person completely manipulating another choreographically just as Claudel and Rodin manipulated sculptures held interesting possibilities for me.”

“Camille” is performed by Ballet Austin dancers Oren Porterfield and Ed Carr.