This small, visionary company reminds me of the folktale about stone soup. All the poor villagers laugh at the guy who starts boiling a stone in a kettle of water, but then they remember they have an onion, a carrot, or a bit of meat in the house and throw them into the pot too. Voila–soup. Artistic director Mario de la Nuez started Ballet Theater of Chicago two years ago with a few strong ideas and little else: he wanted a company that would shine in classical works as well as contemporary pieces, and for dancers he’d draw on international schools and companies, applying his own high standards and those of his fellow director, Meridith Benson, in rehearsals. Lo and behold, together they produced a full-length, highly acclaimed Giselle in 1996. Since then Ballet Theater has established a partnership with the Lexington Ballet that pools their resources and provides lots of advantages to both: the ability to hire more dancers with longer contracts, an in-house production department, and a costume designer; more frequent performances; large studios; and a school. Still struggling, still small, the well-regarded Ballet Theater troupe plans a subscription series of two programs this year. The first, this weekend, is made up of two contemporary pieces–Majisimo, which draws on classical Spanish traditions, and Ben Stevenson’s 1961 Three Preludes, set to Rachmaninoff and accompanied by Russian concert pianist Alexander Zintchenko–and the famous third act of the 19th-century La bayadere, the “Kingdom of the Shades.” Thursday, October 9, at 7:30, Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8, and Sunday at 3 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $25, $12 for seniors and children under 12 (subscriptions are $42.50). Call 312-559-1212 or 773-935-6860 for tickets and information. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): stage photo by Lee P. Thomas.