Dance

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange: "Small Dances About Big Ideas"

The primary function of dance is to heal and create communities
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PREVIEW Liz Lerman is one gutsy woman. Early in her career she decided that there is more to dance than working with highly trained performers for an audience that wants to be entertained. "There was a time when people danced and the crops grew," she told a conference of arts presenters 15 years ago. "They danced, and that's how they healed their children." For Lerman, the primary function of dance is to heal and create communities. Read more »

Dance cocktail

Eve's Elixir performers mix far-flung styles and genres with an open mind
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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. Read more »

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

Ten choreographers in all will show their chops in the tiny but hopping Garage performance space
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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

Created in 2007 with a zero budget for design, Misuse had an inkling for the rough waters the country was about to enter.
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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

Jess Curtis/Gravity and skin's sculptural temptations
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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

The 38th season of ODC/Dance Downtown kicks off with promising premieres
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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"

A good deal on one of the hottest ballet companies in the country
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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 »

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

On their 50th anniversary, as unique as they were on Jan. 31, 1960
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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 »

San Francisco Ballet's "Swan Lake"

The return of the classical idiom
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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 »

Ode to Joy

Sean Dorsey's Lou rises above, aches with beauty and grief
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REVIEW Sean Dorsey's new Lou is a gem. Deeply felt, splendidly shaped, Dorsey's most ambitious project yet tells a tale of vulnerability, passion, joy, and transcendence. It's the story of one human being: transgendered writer, lover, and poet Lou Sullivan, who died in 1991. Dorsey, who was born a woman and lives as a man, used Sullivan's extensive archives to create a portrait of a man who had the bravery and persistence to do what he thought was right, not only for him but others. Isn't that what the mythic heroes used to do — slay the dragons within and without? Read more »