If you asked a member of the dozens of ethnic dance groups that make their home in the Bay Area (103 of them auditioned in January for the yearly San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival) why they are willing to rehearse many hours and perform for little or no money, they'll tell you that they like the dances. But of almost equal importance is the sense of community these ensembles create. No doubt nostalgia for a better and simpler world may be factors as well. Even so, it's the sense of being with people who share similar values that creates powerful bonds.
As in any other tight-knit community, however, in order to thrive you need to fit in. In ethnic, or as they are called these days, world dances, there is often not much room for individual expression. What little there is sprouts from within prescribed parameters. Yet some dancers reach beyond these boundaries. Perhaps, as does Wan-Chao Chang, they love Indonesian and modern dance. Ramon Ramos Alayo is the Bay Area's best Afro-Cuban dancer, but he takes his choreography well beyond the traditional modes. What if you want to combine flamenco and tango? "There is no place for us we don't fit into established categories," says Holly Shaw, who is trained in flamenco as well as Middle Eastern, Romani, Balinese, and a slew of other styles. "So we perform in coffee houses and private homes."
To give space to these "homeless" artists, Shaw two years ago started "Eve's Elixir," which highlights contemporary choreographers of world dance. They performed at the open-minded CounterPULSE in the Mission District. For its second incarnation, a grant from the Fort Mason Foundation's In Performance series enables the young enterprise to move into the dance-friendly Cowell Theater.
"EVE'S ELIXIR: EYES OF EVE"
Fri/10-Sat/11, 7 p.m., $25
Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF
(415) 345-7575, www.eveselixir.net