Rita Felciano

Move(men)t: A Men's Dance Festival

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PREVIEW In the history of dance, the male of the species occupies a curious position. In some cultures only men were allowed to dance in public. In Western aristocratic education, dancing was a requirement for a future courtier. But until fairly recently, ballet choreographers consistently undervalued male dancers, and it was women who pioneered modern dance. In the 1930s, however, Ted Shawn's all-male ensemble did much to break down the prejudice against men in dance. In the Bay Area, every decade or so brings about a refocusing on masculine performances. Read more »

John Jasperse Company

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PREVIEW When New York choreographer John Jasperse presented his company in its local debut in 2004, the severe and pared-down choreography of his multimedia piece California looked more New England Puritanism than California hedonism. Good for him, I remember thinking, for not having bought into popular stereotypes. Still the omnipresent leaf blower and the dancers' self-involvement needled me. No such hint of a cultural disconnect is likely to trouble his Misuse liable to prosecution, which takes its name from the milk crates we use to store and move our belongings. Read more »

Body language

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In watching Jess Curtis/Gravity in The Symmetry ProjectStudy #14(re)Presentation, it becomes immediately clear why sculptors from Michelangelo to Maillol to Moore couldn't keep their hands off the human figure. There is a tactile quality to skin — whether it has the silken gleam of white marble in Maria Francesca Scaroni or Jess Curtis' scuffed cragginess — that is irresistible. Read more »

Back to nature

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ODC/Dance opened its 38th season with world premieres by artistic director Brenda Way and co-artistic director KT Nelson. Neither Way's In the Memory of the Forest nor Nelson's Grassland broke new ground. But novelty is overrated. What you want from experienced choreographers is that they continue challenging themselves with ideas that are compellingly realized. If both works need some settling, the rest of the season should take care of that. Read more »

"Fridays at the Ballet"

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PREVIEW By now the fact that San Francisco Ballet is one of the hottest ballet companies in the country is no longer news. It's also common knowledge that ballet is an extremely expensive art form. Ticket prices reflect that unfortunate reality. That's why SFB's "Fridays at the Ballet" are such a good deal. Read more »

Project agora's "With (& Without) Words"

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PREVIEW In 2006 Kara Davis and Bliss Kohlmyer Dowman founded project agora as an umbrella organization under which they could present their own choreography. Strong and experienced performers — Davis with Kunst-Stoff and Janice Garret and Dancers; Kohlmyer Dowman with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and Robert Moses' Kin — the two got to the point where realizing other choreographers' dances became less attractive and creating their own work grew more compelling.

For With (& Without) Words, Davis went solo. Read more »

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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PREVIEW If success breeds success, why has Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater not had any imitators? The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in December, and Revelations will be half a century old next year. Yet Ailey and Revelations continue to be as unique as they were on Jan. 31, 1960, when the company thought the work had failed because the audience greeted it with a stunned silence. Then, of course, the roof came down, and Revelations continues to move audiences around the globe. Read more »

Jerome Bel's "Pichet Klunchun and Myself"

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PREVIEW In Europe, French dancer-choreographer Jerome Bel's work has earned him the nickname of the "pope of anti-dance." While it's true that Bel has a tendency toward pontificating on contemporary performance theories, and his work — minimalist in terms of movement, maximalist in terms of embracing the ordinary human body — stays far outside the parameters of what dance audiences might expect, he is anything but anti-dance.

He lives and breathes dance — the relationship between performer and choreographer, the persona and the person, the meaning and Read more »

San Francisco Ballet's "Swan Lake"

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PREVIEW Maybe it was not the best move politically for San Francisco Ballet to schedule a new, no doubt very expensive version of Swan Lake just now. But a lot — besides the pragmatic "you have to spend money to make money" — can be said for Helgi Tomasson revisiting the world's most popular ballet. In European-derived dance, Swan Lake is the great classical achievement. Read more »

Spirited

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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. Read more »