Performance Preview: What’s On For This Season

By Claudia Bauer

January 1, 2011, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, start your espresso machines—you’ll need extra zip to keep up with the Bay Area’s spring dance schedule, which includes new pieces from renowned local choreographers, avant-garde work by up-and-coming artists, and performances by historic companies visiting for the first time…or the last. Bursting at the seams with names and dates, this preview testifies to the depth and breadth of the Bay Area dance scene, in terms of the artistry it offers and the audience that supports it, and we can be proud of both.

That said, please note that this preview contains people, places and venues who could confirm their plans by our late-autumn press time. If your favorite artists don’t appear here, it was not a deliberate exclusion; please look them up online.

CONTEMPORARY DANCE

Small independent companies thrive thanks to our many small independent venues, and CounterPULSE is one of the biggest. The Riley Project and Aura Fischbeck Dance start things off with a joint home season (Jan 21-23), followed by Contact Improvisation Research Forum performances (Mar 25-27); CounterPULSE’s Artists in Residency Commissioning Program, presenting Kegan Marling and Dandelion Dancetheater (Mar 31-Apr 3); and a show by Kelly Bowker, Ishika Seth and Gretchen Garnett (Apr 8-9). The 2nd Sundays salon resumes with free performances and audience discussion: David Herrera Performance Co., little seismic dance company and Anna Martine Whitehead (Feb 13); punkkiCo, Lisa Townsend Company and Macklin Kowal (Mar 13); Christine Bonansea, Megan Nicely/Dance and Christian Burns Performance (Apr 10); and Nina Haft & Company, detour dance and Tim Rubel Human Shakes (May 8).

Just a hop-skip from 24th Street/Mission BART, Dance Mission’s intimate theater couldn’t be easier to get to. After Sweet Can Circus completes its run (through Jan 8), Dance Mission has Enrico Labayan (Jan 28-30), Paul Flores (Feb 11- 13), Sean Dorsey (Mar 3-6), David Herrera Performance Co. (Mar 11-13), Palanza Dance Company (Apr 1-3), Mainmouna (Apr 8-10), California Institute of Integral Studies with Liz Boubion (Apr 18-20), CubaCaribe (Apr 22- May 1) and Grrrl Brigade (May 6-8).

Over at the Garage, where Joe Landini focuses on developing contemporary choreographers and performers, RAW (resident artist workshop) will present Whitney Stevenson, Katie Anderson and guest artist Christine Suarez (Mar 2-3); BodiGram (Mar 16-17); Tessa Wills, Suzanne Foster and Catherine Debon (Mar 18-19); Requisitedance (Mar 23-24); Alyce Finwall Dance Theater (Mar 30-31); Silvia Girardi (Apr 1-2 and 6-7); Project B, with choreography by Tanya Bello (May 9-10); and Here Now Dance Collective (May 17-18).

But wait, there’s more! The Garage celebrates its fourth anniversary with the MOVE(MEN)T5 series, featuring local companies led by male choreographers: FACT/SF (Apr 8-10 and 13-15); Dance Theater/Shannon, STEAMROLLER and the SF Moving Men (Apr 16-17); and Labayen Dance/SF (Apr 22-23). The latter three companies return in June to join Sara Yassky, Jesse Hewit and Hana Erdman on the roster of AIRspace’s National Queer Arts Festival; check the AIRspace website for work-in-progress shows earlier in the season.

To create The Unsayable, which premieres at Z Space (Mar 3-6), Hope Mohr forged creative partnerships with veterans of conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq. Combining choreography by Mohr, original music by Paul Haas and text by Bart Schneider, who adapted the veterans’ stories for the performance, The Unsayable offers firsthand perspectives on art in time of war. Mohr’s troupe appears with Liz Gerring Dance Company in an abstract piece set to a multichannel electronic score by Michael J. Schumacher.

In the bigger venues, YBCA’s Novellus Theater presents Robert Moses’ Kin in Fable & Faith (Feb 18-20), a new collaboration between Moses and playwright Anne Galjour, who contributed to last year’s Cinderella Project. Later in the season, look for Lemi Ponifasio/MAU (Apr 3-9) and a premiere by Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet (Apr 15-24). Meanwhile, Jess Curtis/Gravity (Feb 3-6) and Jose Navarrete & Violeta Luna (Mar 10-12) appear in the Forum. ODC celebrates forty years of dance with new works and remounted favorites (Mar 10-27), and then welcomes Copious Dance Theater (Apr 3-9).

THE ROTUNDA DANCE SERIES

Lobbying for art over politics, Dancers’ Group and World Arts West present the inaugural season of the Rotunda Dance Series at San Francisco City Hall in partnership with San Francisco Grants for the Arts and City Hall. There’s something to please every constituency in these free shows, which start at noon on First Fridays: Leung’s White Crane Lion Dance (Feb 4), Hâlau o Keikiali’i (Mar 4), Fauxnique (Apr 1), Hui Tama Nui (May 6), Ohlone Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribal Dance (Jun 3), and future performances by AXIS Dance Company and Gamelan Sekar Jaya.

BAY AREA BALLET

With the season of sugarplums behind us, ballet season begins in earnest with San Francisco Ballet’s three-hankie Giselle (Jan 29-Feb 12). SFB’s calendar is loaded with classics by Balanchine (including his Coppélia), Ashton and MacMillan, plus Petrouchka, Yuri Possokhov’s dazzling Classical Symphony and several contemporary works.

Company C Contemporary Ballet, performing in several cities around the bay, has put together a winter program of works by Maurice Causey, David Anderson, Daniel Ezralow, Charles Anderson and Benjamin Bowman (Jan 21-22 and 29-30, Feb 12-13, Mar 19-20), and a spring rep that includes Twyla Tharp’s supremely athletic Surfer at the River Styx, plus Nine Person Precision Ball Passing and world premieres by Charles Anderson, James Sewell and Jodie Gates (Apr 30-May 14).

Anyone who missed Smuin Ballet’s fall program, with its premiere of Trey McIntyre’s Oh, Inverted World, can catch it (reincarnated as the winter program) in Walnut Creek (Feb 4-5), Carmel (Feb 18-19) or Mountain View (Feb 23-27). The spring program (May 8-Jun 4), performed in four Bay Area cities, combines Michael Smuin’s To the Beatles, Revisited, Choo San Goh’s Momentum and the world premiere of Amy Seiwert’s Mozart Requiem.

Ballet San Jose casts its spell in a four-act Swan Lake (Feb 25-27), and then stages Roland Petit’s Carmen (Apr 1-3). With new artistic director Graham Lustig leading the way, the Oakland Ballet is taking off in a fresh, contemporary direction set to debut at Laney College Theater (May 19-21). Farther east, Diablo Ballet reprises its Inside the Dancers Studio series, offering two programs that combine classical and contemporary ballet with moderated audience discussion (Mar 4-5 and May 6-7).

DANCE FESTIVALS

The Black Choreographers Festival (Feb 25-27), Bay Area National Dance Week (Apr 23-May1), the San Francisco International Arts Festival (May 18-Jun 4), the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (Jun 3-Jul 3) and Mission in the Mix (Jun 17-26) all return to celebrate dance from bhangra to queer contra.

TOURING COMPANIES

Evidently some people think the Bay Area dance community doesn’t produce enough interesting work, and they feel the need to bring in outside artists. Fortunately, these people have superb taste.

San Francisco Performances has arranged a grand slam of celebrated companies, all performing at YBCA: Stephen Petronio Company’s 25th-anniversary season wraps up with the West Coast premiere of I Drink the Air Before Me (Mar 4-5). Paul Taylor Dance Company offers three mixed programs that include Cloven Kingdom, Orbs 1 & 2 and the West Coast premiere of Brief Encounters (Mar 30-Apr 2). Run, don’t walk, to see Lucinda Childs’ revival of Dance, her 1979 collaboration with Philip Glass and Sol LeWitt (Apr 28-30). In the home stretch, Doug Varone and Dancers bring the West Coast premiere of Chapters from a Broken Novel, an exploration of the nature of art and inspiration (May 21-22).

At Cal Performances, kabuki meets martial arts meets contemporary dance in Ex Machina’s Eonnagata (Feb 9-10), a performance piece about Charles de Beaumont, Louis XVI’s cross-dressing spy, by choreographer Russell Maliphant, director Robert Lepage and former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Sylvie Guillem. Dancing to music by experimental composers like Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass, Nederlands Dans Theater pushes the envelope in Jiri Kylián’s Whereabouts Unknown and resident choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol León’s Silent Screen (Mar 18-19). Transitioning from Judith Jamison to new artistic director Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater makes its annual visit to Berkeley (Mar 29-Apr 3). And in their first-ever appearance at Zellerbach Hall, the Royal Danish Ballet honors its 263-year legacy with La Sylphide and The Lesson, and forges ahead in a second program highlighting modern Nordic choreography (May 31-Jun 4).

Finally, special mention must be made of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. UC Berkeley was one of the earliest organizations to give the company a stage, and it will be one of the last to do so when the company’s Legacy Tour makes its final visit to Zellerbach Hall (Mar 3-5). Don’t miss your chance to see dancers selected and trained by Merce perform some of his most famous works: Pond Way, Antic Meet and Sounddance in Program A, and Roaratorio in Program B. When the curtain falls on Saturday night, an incredible era will come to an end.


Claudia Bauer is a freelance writer. She covers dance for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine and DanceTabs.com.

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