Black Choregraphers Festival takes off

For its opening weekend, the fifth Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now relocated to Laney College in Oakland, once a focal point for local dance in the 1990s. The suggestion that Laney's lovely theater — the best in the East Bay — might once again become available to outside dance presenters is wonderful to contemplate.

With six works, three of them world premieres, producers Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes hit the spot on opening night. The pieces spanned a wide spectrum of styles and experiences, indicative of the spirit of generosity and support that permeates this festival. Black Choreographers continues this weekend and Feb. 20–21 with new programs at Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco.

Jaime Wright's Envelope in Blue — for budding ballerinas Alyson Abriel, Alissa Baird, and Sarah Wellman — opened the program. Unpretentious but lovingly tended, the gentle new ballet blossomed and curled in on itself. Premiering with a dynamite performance by choreographer Rashad Pridgen — alongside Byb B. Bibene, Juanita Brown, and Sheena Johnson — Motif Performance Group's first-rate Interludes to Intimacy synthesized a volatile cocktail of dance languages that veered between the discipline of stepping and the freedom of jazz. On the other end of the continuum from Envelope in Blue, Mind over Matter's first performance of the hot and heavy Where you at?! boiled over with sass, sex, and attitude.

The mix of hip-hop and physical comedy in Sometimes was irresistible: dahrio wonder and robert d. lupo, a.k.a. Neopolitan, proved once again how theatrically pungent their work has become. Antoine Hunter is a gorgeously expressive long-limbed dancer whose passionate Now People traveled between utmost despair and the shining heights of hope. His ensemble piece Bullet in the Head, however, needs a lot more structure and discipline to hold its disparate elements together. (Rita Felciano)

Fri/13–Sat/14 and Feb. 20–21, 8 p.m.; Sun/15, 7 p.m.; $10–$15. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. www.bcfhereandnow.com

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