Liz Lerman has not yet been to the Soviet Union, and, in retrospect, she's glad that her efforts to get there did not succeed. Her latest two-hour, choreographic opus, "Russia: The Transparent Apple and the Silver Saucer," which premieres this Thursday and plays again on Friday, is the artistic distillation of her search for the Russia that Americans know: the Russia of fairy tales, music, paintings, historical writings and literature, and Russia, the political nemesis.

Lerman describes her work as "an American vision by someone fed by the resources available."

"I use dance as a way to learn," says Lerman, who says that other than her "visions of the fiddler on the roof and hiding under desks in the '50s preparing for bomb scares," she knew "nothing about Russian history."

"Russia," structured around historical episodes, is a series of interludes based on fables, short stories and absurdist literature and is punctuated with slide-show presentations and spoken words. It's as broad and multifarious a piece of choreography as the country it explores.

Lerman, conceding that the work may be political, emphasizes that it is not polemical. But her dance is, after all, "about Russia for a reason. What we are again being told is that this is the enemy. We should understand."

The Dance Exchange Performance Company and the Dancers of the Third Age will perform "Russia" at 8 p.m. both nights in the Caplin Theater of Sidwell Friends School.