If John Prinz had used different music, his Emperor Variations," which received its world premiere by the Capitol Ballet last night at Lisner Auditorium, might have been the classical-lyrical piece the company obviously desires and needs, to flesh out its repertoire.

It's not inconceivable that Beethoven's "Emperor Concerto" could be made into a successful ballet -- there is probably no music that someone someday will not find a way to choreograph -- it's just that Prinz only used snatches of it, and in such a square, step-for-note manner that the often original and well-danced choreography was as lost as Beethoven's classical form.

Capitol needs a classical work to both show off and stretch its dancers, and Prinz's actual choreography is tasteful and often interesting. There are some lovely moments in the central pas de deux for Sandra Fortune and Leroy Cowan, and both principals and the eight supporting soloists danced the work with a clean ease. It's a shame Beethoven didn't write his concerto the way Prinz wished he had. What will Schroeder say?

George Balanchine, of course, is a master at mating choreography to music. In the case of his "Tarantella," the Gottschalk score is not great -- just infectious and lively and perfect for dancing. Both Kathleen Smith and Vincent Wineglass gave a spirited account of the ballet, although Smith lacks the necessary speed and brilliance for the ballerina part.Wineglass has an adequate, if somewhat slack, technique, but his relaxed and musical performance was appealing.

The company looked best in the two ballets by its assistant artistic director, Keith Lee. "Times Past," to music of Cole Porter, is a phantasmagoria of the kinds of people one might have met on the street 40 years or so ago. The choreography is funky-vulgar, and the company obviously enjoyed itself tremendously. Everyone was good. Guest David McNaughton (from the San Francisco Ballet) was a naughtly shoeshine boy, Charles Adams an oily "man on the Make." The most interesting character Kathleen Smith, as a madame) gets killed off early on, but comes back as an angel to lead the finale.

The program closed with Lee's spirituals ballet, "Nearer to Thee," which was given a strong performance by the entire company, particularly Fortune, who seems able to perform in every style, and Gregory Hinton.