Home teams win
Bay Area dance celebrates birthdays, rides the trolleys, and goes international.

By Rita Felciano

TRUTH BE TOLD , the Bay Area dance season kicks into high gear in early spring. Still, there is a special excitement to early-autumn performances, sort of like the first days of school, when you check out who is new in class. The biggest news this fall is, of all things, real estate. Not the horror stories we have had to live with for what seems like forever – for once, we actually have good news. At an open house, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sept. 11, ODC/San Francisco is opening its new school, the first part of a major expansion that will triple its current space – increasing its rehearsal and performance options, enlarging its community curriculum, and, in the newly created Healthy Dancers Clinic, offering free treatment to any dancer who needs it.

After a decade of serving mainly as a rental venue, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is finally stepping up to the plate by presenting an impressive 10-program lineup of (predominantly) out-of-town dance artists. These companies are filling a huge hole – they'll be presenting quality work that creates a context for local dance, without the need to fill a 2,000-seat venue. Finally, Project Artaud Theater looks like it has overcome its financial doldrums of two years ago and is cautiously reopening its doors to dance.

The following is a chronological baker's dozen of what you might want to take in before the holiday lull in December:

Chris Black and Ken James This pair's flair for the absurd has made them into that exceedingly rare species in dance: superb comedians. Their Adventures of Cunning and Guile, performed at the Cartoon Art Museum, is a collection of older and brand-new duets that you can take in one at a time, as you wander through the museum. Sept. 9-24 (Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.), Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission, SF. $15. (415) 863-9834.

Faustin Linyekula Faustin Linyekula is a 31-year-old Congolese choreographer, trained in various African nations and France. On his first tour of the United States, he is presenting Triptyque sans Titre, a work, he says, intended "to pull off masks," in this case revealing an oppressed people's collective memory. Sept. 16-17, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. $25. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org.

National Ballet of China First under Soviet and then under other countries' tutelage, the National Ballet of China has translated ballet, the quintessential Western dance form, into idiomatic Chinese. For its US debut, it brings to the stage Zhang Yimou's adaptation of his own gorgeous 1991 film, Raise the Red Lantern, a folktale about a forced marriage and the young wife's forbidden love. Sept. 16-18 (Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.), Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph, Berk. $36-$68. (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.

Kunst-Stoff Kunst-Stoff is otherwise known as Yannis Adoniou and Tomi Paasonen, one Greek, the other Finnish. In this program, one of them excavates dance history (Adoniou's Less Sylphedes), the other media technology (Paasonen's ETC). Both are smart, ballet-trained, and theatrically savvy choreographers who are redefining the idea of performance. Sept. 22-Oct. 2 (Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Oct. 2, 8 p.m.), 3153 17th St., SF. $16-$35. (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org.

Campagnie Jant-Bi Last year I almost didn't go to see Fagaala. It seemed too horrendous – a piece about the Rwandan genocide. But this collaboration between Germaine Acogny (the doyenne of contemporary African dance) and Japanese choreographer Kota Yamazaki proved to be stunning, as choreography and as a statement about humanity. Oct. 7-8, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. $19-$25. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org.

AXIS Dance Company AXIS Dance Company continues to reach for the top. And that includes its music: The new Terre Brune, choreographed by Sonya Delwaide, has a score by cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, Ann Carlson's Flesh uses music by Meredith Monk, and the music for Victoria Mark's splendid Dust was composed by Eve Beglarian. Company member Katie Faulkner premieres Decorum. Oct. 20-22, 8 p.m., Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice, Oakl. $12-$20. (925) 798-1300, www.axisdance.org.

Marie Chouinard The ferociously feminist solo work of Marie Chouinard enraged and fascinated audiences in the '80s. Since then she has softened that gut-wrenching physicality into company work (24 Preludes to Chopin and Le Cri du Monde) that is very beautiful, yet still rigorously corporeal. Hers is a long-overdue local debut. Oct. 22-23, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. Call for times and prices. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org.

'Trolley Dances' Kim Epifano, Krissy Keefer, Amelia Rudolph, and Robert Moses create site-specific pieces for Market Street streetcars. Step on board, pay your fare, and the trolley will take you there. Oct. 22-23, F line streetcar, SF. (415) 267-4865.

Capacitor Digging in the Dark has been in the works for a couple of years, with excerpts being shown at various theaters and clubs around town. No wonder it took so long: The show enters a world few of us can fathom, one in which art, science, technology, fantasy, and circus arts meet. Oct. 20-30, Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF. Call for times and prices. (415) 626-4370, www.capacitor.org.

Bebe Miller Company Welcome back: This company last performed in the Bay Area 15 years ago. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with its new Landing/Place. An exceptional talent, Bebe Miller started out as a postmodernist and has since evolved her own visceral style, which is smart, rigorous, and elegant. Oct. 28-29, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. $25. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org.

'India Jazz Suites' Chitresh Das is a master Kathak dancer, and at age 24, Emmy-winner Jason Samuels Smith is already a master tap dancer. Put these men of different cultures and different generations together, give them a group of North Indian classical and American jazz musicians, and you have an evening of fabulous rhythm dance. Nov. 10-12, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF. Call for times and prices. (415) 333-9000, www.kathak.org.

San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Fest 2005 What makes this annual love fest of hip-hop such a joy? Probably the inclusiveness of its programming – professionals sharing the space with students and community groups – and the performers' unflaggingly high energy and generosity of spirit. Don't miss the pre-performance circle dance. Nov. 17-20 (Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.), Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon, SF. Call for prices. www.sfhiphopdancefest.com.

David Dorfman Dance Dorfman has been making sophisticated yet unpretentious dances for 20 years. His athletics-based work always looks simpler than it is. In See Level, he looks at community; in Lightbulb Theory, he delves into loss. Dec. 10-11, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF. Call for times and prices. (415) 292-1200.