FALL ARTS PREVIEW: Ballet, hula, modern, and more on fall's vast dance slate
FALL ARTS Most folks going to dance performances have a sense of how they want to spend their time and dollars. For some, a show must be conceptually edgy. For others, it's got to be ballet. Still others want choreography that resonates with socio-political implications — or they only want to see choreography grounded in indigenous traditions. I'm more of an omnivore: show me a piece, no matter its style, in which the forces at work arise from some internal necessity and play off each other convincingly, and I'm in.
The next three months are bursting with dance offerings. In downtown San Francisco, many are free. Zaccho Dance Theatre reprises its hauntingly poetic Sailing Away (Sept. 13-16, Powell and Market, SF; www.zaccho.org ); it pays tribute to the exodus of a remarkable group of African Americans. In only three years, the Central Market Arts Festival (Sept. 28-Oct. 21, various locations, SF; www.centralmarketarts.org ) has exploded into a major event with dozens of performances that have probably contributed just as much to the area's revitalization as those high-rent dot coms. Not to be missed is the world premiere of Jo Kreiter and Flyaway Productions' Niagara Falling (Sept. 26-29, Seventh St. and Market, SF; www.flyawayproductions.com ), projected and danced on an exterior wall of the Renoir Hotel. And how about the easy-riding Trolley Dances (Oct. 20-21, various locations, SF; www.epiphanydance.org ) that offer unexpected site-specific encounters?
If you are willing to take another look at what may be already familiar, and your budget allows it, the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra (Oct. 10-14, Zellerbach Hall, Berk; www.calperformances.org ) brings Swan Lake to Berkeley. It may be the most popular ballet in the world, and it is also one of the greats. Another old-timer, the 40-year-old Mummenschanz (Nov. 23-23, Zellerbach Hall, Berk; www.calperformances.org ), can't be beat for its skill, magic, and gentle humor. Take a kid. If your taste oscillates between new and old, check out Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu (Oct. 20-28, Palace of Fine Arts, SF; www.naleihulu.org ); its mix of traditional and new-style hula — which this year includes hip-hop — will be time and money well spent.
Keith Hennessy, probably the Bay Area's most radical theatrical thinker, moves his pulverizing Turbulence (a dance about the economy) from COUNTERPulse to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Sept. 27-29, YBCA Forum, SF; www.ybca.org ). There you will be invited to participate in the concept's actualization.
Ticket-buying decision time kicks into high gear in October, with the season's most intense concentration of big-time artists both local and visiting. Making its Bay Area premiere with the full-evening After Light (Oct. 13-14, YBCA, SF; www.performances.org ) will be another of San Francisco Performances' finds, Britain's Russell Maliphant Company. The work, set on three performers to Erik Satie's Gnossiennes, is inspired by dance genius Vaslav Nijinsky's photographs, choreography, and drawings. Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (Oct. 18-21, Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, SF; www.mjdc.org ) presents a first look at Times Bones, for which the choreographer excavated ideas in her rep to re-examine for new content.
Alonzo King LINES Ballet's collaboration with musicians and lighting designer Axel Morgenthaler are well known. Increasingly, King seems to be searching also for innovative scenic collaborators to contextualize his mythic choreography. A preview last spring of the as yet un-named premiere (Oct. 19-28, YBCA, SF; www.linesballet.org ), at the very least, promised that Jim Campbell's set of hundreds of LED globes will create its own rhythmic motion.
African and African American voices will be heard at YBCA as part of its commitment to showcasing contemporary dance from that continent. Voices of Strength (Oct. 19-20, YBCA, SF; www.ybca.org ) is a quartet of four African women — among them Mozambique's well-known Maria Helena Pinto — who will show one work each. New YBCA Program Director Marc Bamuthi Joseph concocted "Clas/sick Hip Hop" (Nov.30-Dec.1, YBCA, SF; www.ybca.org ) for which he matches a violinist with five radically different hip-hop artists, including the legendary Rennie Harris, who 20 years ago pioneered the art's theatrical potential.
Others I will try not to miss: smart dance with RAWDance's Burn In/Fall Out, (Nov. 2-4, ODC Theater, SF; www.rawdance.org ); Deborah Slater's in progress collaboration with dancer-vet Private Freeman, Private Live (Nov. 2-3, CounterPULSE, SF; www.deborahslater.org ); and Sebastian Grubb's Workout (Dec. 14-15, CounterPULSE, SF; www.counterpulse.org ). At the Garage (Garage, SF; www.715bryant.org ), it will be Human Creature Dance Theatre for Halloween (Oct. 31), neo-Finnish punkkiCo (Nov. 16-17), and contemporary Congolese, now SF-based dancer Byb Chanel-Bibene (Dec. 5-6). Perhaps I'll also return to the Garage for Burlesque Basquiat, Dorian Faust's birthday tribute to the late painter (Dec. 21-22).