PREVIEW When Nacho Duato, crowned with laurels from his years in England and Holland, returned to his native Spain in the 1980s, the country's national ballet company offered him its directorship. He took one look at the ensemble's anemic repertoire and decided he could breathe some life into it. Consequently, today Compañía Nacional de Danza is a repository of Duato's choreography. Spain could have done worse: Duato has put contemporary Spanish ballet on the world map like no one else. Don't expect even a shadow of bolero or flamenco in the two different programs that constitute his company's San Francisco debut. You will get the fruits of an exceptionally broad musical imagination and dancing that is full-bodied and energized still ballet based but moving into a lush contemporary sensibility. One of this tour's pieces, Castrati (2002), also performed at the University of California at Davis a few years back, recalls the brutal ceremony that insured boy sopranos retained their voices beyond puberty. To the sounds of the most glorious Vivaldi, cassocks fly about the stage in a none-too-gentle representation of those initiation rituals. An older work, 1996's Por Vos Muero, splendidly evokes the role of dance as a social occasion and is performed to 15th- and 16th-century Spanish music. The newest work, Gnawa (2007), named after Moroccan descendents of slaves, explores connections within Spanish and North African cultures. Also on the program are Gilded Goldbergs (2006), White Darkness (2001), and Rassemblement (1990).
COMPAÑÍA NACIONAL DE DANZA Program A, Wed/20Thurs/21, 8 p.m.; Program B, Sat/23, 8 p.m., and Sun/24, 2 p.m.; $35$55. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org, www.ybca.org