Escape the Distractions and See these Ten Dance Events

Vincent Chavez and Emily Kerr of Oakland Ballet, which will be performing in this season of the West Wave Dance Festival (Photo: John Hefti)

Fall is upon us and we’re desperately trying to dodge the howling sirocco of the presidential election campaign. Seeking new distractions now that the throbbing beat of samba, bossa nova and funk from Rio is a distant echo, now that the glorious sight of athletes flying through the air and synchronously swimming is a distant memory. Stop trying to parse the rapping Chihuahua, the naked woman swimming in a fish tank, and the unnerving sight of Frank Ocean self-immolating in Blond/Blonde.

Rather, give thanks for the mind-blowing array of dance around the Bay Area. Here are 10 must-see things-involving-dance this fall:

The Milissa Payne Project’s Jessica Woodman (Photo: David DeSilva)
The Milissa Payne Project’s Jessica Woodman (Photo: David DeSilva)

West Wave Dance Festival 25th anniversary season

Sept. 14 – 18
Z Space, San Francisco
Information and tickets

Dance may be the most expensive art to produce, and, in tough economic times like these, dance companies are vulnerable. That is why the continued flourishing of West Wave Dance over the past 25 years seems like a veritable miracle. Fans can ring in the next quarter-century through five nights packed with 25 troupes and solo performers on the spectrum from household name to undiscovered, who are pushing the frontiers of ballet, belly dance, bharatanatyam, and more. Each will present a new work on themes that touch on the casualties of war, stereotypes of beauty, the stresses faced by African American boys, the hilarity of romance gone wrong, a modern-day Frankenstein, and other surprising things you didn’t think could be danced. The line up includes Oakland Ballet, 13th Floor, Anjal Chande/The Soham Dance Project, BodiGram, Mary Carbonara Dances, The Milissa Payne Project, and FatChanceBellyDance.

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis (Photo: Robbie Sweeny)
Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis (Photo: Robbie Sweeny)

Jess Curtis/Gravity and Claire Cunningham: The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight

Sept. 29 – Oct 9
CounterPulse, San Francisco
Information and tickets

A decade after their first encounter, Curtis and Cunningham reunite for this duet that combines movement, song, story-telling, and video. U.K.-based Cunningham is renowned for her exploration of the creative possibilities that spring from physical disability and the tools created to mitigate it – in her case, crutches. In this world premiere, the pair assess their perceptions of each other – as a man and a woman of different ages, bodies and backgrounds. Curtis’ previous work presages an evening that will be provocative and whimsical. Click here to watch the trailer.

The Silk Road Ensemble (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)
The Silk Road Ensemble (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Mark Morris Dance Group: Layla and Majnun

Sept. 30 – Oct 2
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
Information and tickets

Handel, Mozart, Stravinsky — Mark Morris has been there, done that. His latest evening-length extravaganza is an updating of the first Middle Eastern opera, written in 1908 by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. Centered on an ancient Persian tale of thwarted romance, Layla and Manjun provides the backdrop for Morris’ modern exploration of themes of love, tragedy and social justice. Renowned Azerbaijani singer Alim Qasimov performs with his daughter Fargana Qasimova, accompanied by the musicians of the Silk Road Ensemble. Click here to learn more about the production from Morris himself.

Embodiment Project (Photo: Andrew Weeks)
Rama Mahesh Hall and Dante “Animal” Rose of Embodiment Project (Photo: Andrew Weeks)

ODC Theater: Welcome Home @ 40

Oct. 18 – 30
ODC Theater, San Francisco
Information

They drove to San Francisco from Oberlin, Ohio, in a yellow school bus in 1976. They never left. This fall, the indefatigable Brenda Way and collaborators celebrate 40 years of history-making dance performances in the theater they built in San Francisco’s Mission District. Festivities include the premiere of a piece of documentary dance theater by Nicole Klaymoon’s Embodiment Project on the subject of street violence and police brutality. And choreographer Christy Funsch will lead a series of “Wrecking Sessions” in which other artists will be invited to tinker with her work.

Dance Theatre of San Francisco with Jessica Wagner (Photo: Josh LaCunha/RJ Muna)
Dance Theatre of San Francisco with Jessica Wagner (Photo: Josh LaCunha/RJ Muna)

Dance Theatre of San Francisco: Unspoken

Oct. 7 – 13
Vogue Theatre, San Francisco
Information

Still in its adolescence, the repertory company Dance Theatre of San Francisco eschews a live season this fall to bring us Unspoken, a dance film collaboration between choreographer and artistic director Dexandro “D” Montalvo and visual artist RJ Muna. The mercurial soundscape by Daniel Berkman and Muna’s trademark shimmer show off this polished, classically trained company of nine at their sleekest and most mysterious.

'Kick Ball Change' (Photo: Guy Sadot)
‘Kick Ball Change,’ a Russian entry into this year’s San Francisco Dance Film Festival (Photo: Guy Sadot)

San Francisco Dance Film Festival

Oct. 19-23
Brava Theater Center, San Francisco
Information and tickets

Kicking off with the heart-pounding dramatization of Rudolf Nureyev’s legendary escape from his KGB minders into the embrace of the French police in 1961, the festival veers from documentary to high-tech art films. Now in its seventh year, it continues to expand its reach, screening for the first time films from Slovakia, the Russian Federation, Peru, French Polynesia, Mexico, Argentina and Finland. U.S. premieres include Graceful Girls, an inquiry into the competitive and uniquely Australian dance sport of Calisthenics. Closer to home, Pharaohs of Memphis examines the origins of jookin’, a dance form that originated in Memphis to keep gang warfare at bay. Unique to the SFDFF is a ‘co-laboratory’ experiment that pairs choreographers with cinematographers and puts them under tight time pressure to invent something. This year, Nicole Klaymoon (with Joe Stillwater) and Deborah Slater (with Hervé Cohen) are in the hot seat. Click here to watch the festival trailer.

Ulysses Cooperwood (at center), and Dimensions Dance Theater company in the 1996 production of ‘Project Panther’ (Photo courtesy Dimensions Dance Theater)
Ulysses Cooperwood (at center), and Dimensions Dance Theater company in the 1996 production of ‘Project Panther’ (Photo courtesy Dimensions Dance Theater)

Dimensions Dance Theater: Project Panther

Oct. 15
Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Oakland
Information

Fresh from their electrifying performance of The Town on Notice at the Black Choreographers Festival, Dimensions Dance Theater revives Project Panther to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. The original 1996 dance theater piece examined the civic and humanitarian legacy of the Panthers, and their role as agents of social change. The script has been updated, as has the original score by Glen Pearson, which travels through the era of R&B and funk with a nod to the present-day world of hip-hop.

Marina Fukushima for San Francisco Trolley Dances (Photo: Andy Mogg)
Marina Fukushima for San Francisco Trolley Dances (Photo: Andy Mogg)

San Francisco Trolley Dances

Oct. 15 – 16
Starts at: Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, San Francisco
Information and tickets

Dance-loving fans of public transport will be in their element on this October weekend. They get to ride the Muni from the Castro to the Financial District/South of Market and, along the route, witness the marvels of the Chitresh Das Dance Company, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, James Graham Dance Theatre, Monique Jenkinson a.k.a. Fauxnique, Laura Elaine Ellis, Parangal Dance Company and Epiphany Productions.

Michael Montgomery of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet (Photo: RJ Muna)
Michael Montgomery of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet (Photo: RJ Muna)

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Nov. 2 – 6
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Information and tickets

Alonzo King’s work is invariably a visual and aural splendor, and his dancers are finely chiseled and implausibly long-limbed. Their glories are flaunted this season in a new work, set to a score performed live by mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani. This world premiere is paired with a revival of Meyer, King’s collaboration with composer and bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, performed against a backdrop of dripping water that adds an intriguing dimension to the lush score.

Joe Landini in 'SOMA Now and Then' (Photo: Robbie Sweeny)
Joe Landini in ‘SOMA Now and Then’ (Photo: Robbie Sweeny)

Amy Lewis and Joe Landini: SOMA Now and Then

Nov. 12 – Dec. 4
Starts at: 1347 Folsom St./ Dore Alley, San Francisco
Information and tickets

The historical transformation of the neighborhood south of Market, and concomitant shifts in queer culture from the raunchy 1980’s to today’s tech-fueled gentrification, are the twin subjects of this walking-dancing tour by Amy Lewis and Joe Landini (you walk, they dance.) Director-choreographer Lewis tackles the changes wrought by the 1906 earthquake and fire, the encroachment of the Bay Bridge, and the erection of the Moscone Center and Yerba Buena complex, while Landini guides us through back alleys and secret corridors. For mature audiences.

Escape the Distractions and See these Ten Dance Events 7 September,2016Carla Escoda

Author

Carla Escoda

Carla can most often be found in theatres, airports and on airplanes, writing about dance and the arts for various websites whenever she can find wi-fi. Her blog Ballet to the People<http://ballettothepeople.com> has become a street corner where dance-lovers enjoy loitering and plotting the revolution which will renew the populist roots of ballet.

In her previous lives, Carla worked in scientific research, then in project finance in Asia. Prior to that, she trained as a ballet and modern dancer, and performed with the Yaledancers while getting her undergraduate degrees in Engineering and Applied Science and French Literature, and her graduate degree in Engineering.

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