Rita Felciano

Inspiring at 89

Merce Cunningham's imagination and craft impresses
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REVIEW After the Company's opening night performance on Nov. 7, 89-year-old Merce Cunningham took to the Zellerbach Hall stage in a wheelchair. With his impish smile still intact but otherwise looking frail, he spread his hands. That's when I started to cry for the second time that week. It's what happens when history unfolds before your eyes.

Cunningham is the single most important 20th century choreographer still alive — and still working. The opening concert of his company's two-week residence showed why: imagination, buoyancy, and impeccable craft. Read more »

LEVYdance

Physical, in-charge dance that thinks big
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PREVIEW LEVYdance company is small: only five performers. But they dance big — hugely physical, totally in charge — and they also think big. They once performed at ODC Theater, but that was too small. Last year they pushed themselves onto the much larger stage of Kenbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center, yet even that space proved too confining. So for the fall season LEVYdance created its own space on the street outside their studio, where they built three stages connected by catwalks. Audiences are interspersed between them. Read more »

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart

GOLDIES 2008 winner: Focusing on the mess humans manage to create for themselves
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When Erin Mei-Ling Stuart packed her bags to leave her hometown of Fresno in 1992, she included her viola — because she had won a scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Here, however, she played so much that she developed tendinitis and had to take a break. That's when dance kicked in. Big time.

The viola went into the closet, and Stuart started to study modern dance — she had dabbled in ballet as a child — first at City College and then in just about every studio she could find. Read more »

Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos

Emmy-winning, ever-expanding superstar's company explores new territory
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PREVIEW How many outside the flamenco family — a sizable one in the Bay Area — realize just how special an artist Yaelisa is? In a less ghettoized genre, this Emmy-winning and always expanding and deepening performer and choreographer would be considered a superstar. Yaelisa foregoes some of the showbiz antics of her colleagues for performances that are no less captivating and, frequently, more intelligently planned and presented. Read more »

Ritual de lo non-habitual

Dohee Lee fascinates with Flux
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REVIEW Since rituals necessitate a community of believers, presenting one for an audience in a theater runs the risk of becoming a mere item of cultural consumption. Yet, on Oct. 16, master drummer-vocalist-dancer Dohee Lee went beyond expectations. Her oddly named Flux succeeded best in its most ritualistic elements — the moments when it called up soul-wrenching memory, pain, and reconciliation.

The title refers to the ever-changing aspects of all creation. Read more »

San Francisco Trolley Dances

Mixing municipal transportation and movement art on the T Third
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PREVIEW How many more 38s do I have to look at when I really need the 5? And how come the 35 is always empty, while you can't find a spot to put your feet, not to mention a seat, on the 22? Muni manages to infuriate just about everybody — from the latte-clutching N-Judah riders to the grocery bag-shlepping "Chinatown Express" shoppers.

Still, I've never lived in a city where people did not vociferously complain about their public transportation system. That's why San Francisco Trolley Dances is such a neat idea. Read more »

Hawaii calls

Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu knows hula from here to next week
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PREVIEW Patrick Makuakane is big. But the tall, muscular choreographer's physical size is nothing compared to the largeness of his laughter, personality, and, above all, his love for and knowledge of hula. In addition to a very large school, Makuakane runs the Bay Area's most successful Hawaiian company, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu. He has coached, choreographed, directed, and MC'd the halau's productions since 1985, and while about half of the dancers are Hawaiian, the rest are there for the love of the art. Read more »

Inbal Pinto Dance Company

Experimental Israeli dance with theatrical punch
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PREVIEW Two years ago the Inbal Pinto Dance Company made its San Francisco debut with Oyster. On first glance it looked like a freak show, one of those traveling circuses that paraded so-called human deformities to titillate audiences. I mean, what are you going to do with a two-headed, four-armed MC and a crone who controls live puppets? Read more »

Raging hormones

Mark Morris takes on Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet
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REVIEW Romeo and Juliet — the ballet, not the play — is not exactly known for its wit. Prokofiev's heavy-handed use of thematic material at times makes Wagner sound frivolous. But leave it to Mark Morris to turn ballet's most beloved 20th-century tragedy into a fairy tale whose comedic overtones are difficult to miss. Does the piece — which was given its West Coast premiere by Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall Sept. 25 — work? Up to a point it does, because Morris set clearly defined parameters and shaped his take accordingly. Read more »

Hang on

Athleticism, lyricism from Robert Moses' Kin
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REVIEW Sometimes dance is so dense, so fast-paced, or so convoluted you can't grasp what the heck the choreographer had in mind. So you throw in the towel and go along for the ride. Such was the case with the Sept. 18 performance by Robert Moses' Kin at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The clearest of the three pieces on view, Approaching Thought, showcased most cogently why Moses' reputation has been growing by leaps and bounds: he creates intriguing ensemble opportunities for individually strong performers. Read more »