Friday, October 17, 2008

they've got a ticket to ride, so hold on

October's Cal Performance calendar is full of timely events — muckraker Seymour Hersch this week, performance artist Laurie Anderson with her still-relevant "Homeland" at the end of the month, and Galway's Druid Theatre peppering lots of October's nights. For the balletomane, though, the only event of note is the nearly annual appearance of the Kirov Ballet accompanied by the famed Orchestra of the Maryinsky Theatre, which, not infrequently, is far more enchanting than the ballet company itself.

If that reads like faint praise, it would be if the company weren't populated with so many extraordinary specimens of dancerly clarity. For any ballet lover, to sit for a few hours and marvel at the precision of the corps de ballet — more angelic than militaristic — is nothing short of sublime. What does it matter if the dances (here, a choice between Act 3 of "Raymonda" and the whole of "Don Quixote") teeter between archaic and egoistic, fussy and antediluvian? Beloved Diana Vishneva and Leonid Sarafanov will knock our socks off again if we're lucky, and even if they don't, there are always other surprises. Whatever they are, we won't go away sorry for the experience.

Details: 2, 3 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Oct. 19, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley campus near Bancroft Way; $50-$125; 510-642-9988 or

Alonzo King's dances for his company Lines verge on the unclassifiable. Working at the leading edge of ballet where he fuses the asymmetries of African dance with the precision of pointe shoes and geometrically clear lines, King never thinks only of movement. Movement and music are always one, and, he says, "Dancers are musicians and musicians are dancers." That makes his audiences lucky again this season, as he is back collaborating with legendary tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, a member of John Coltrane's jazz ensemble in the 1960s. Together they will present a world premiere, joined by former San Francisco Ballet ballerina Muriel Maffre.

Details: 8 p.m. Oct. 17-18, 22-25 and 3 p.m. Oct. 19 and 26, Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., S.F.; $25-$65; 415-978-2787 or

An annual event that gets grass-roots press but too little mainstream notice is Kim Epifano's San Francisco Trolley Dances. Trolleys, aka streetcars, are the mode of transport in Epifano's now-annual outdoor event, and with the purchase of a ticket you get taken for a ride, with little long-term damage to your bank account. A $1.50 ticket entitles you to an array of place-specific dances by the likes of Zaccho Dance Theatre and Scott Wells & Dancers.

Details: Begins at 11 a.m. Oct. 18-19 for a two-hour, self-guided tour. Trolleys leave every 45 minutes from the Mission Bay branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 960 Fourth St. (at Berry). Free with a $1.50 ticket or a Muni Fast Pass.

Back this season are two companies that keep on keeping on with the inexorability of the life force itself: Oakland Ballet and Smuin Ballet. Oakland Ballet returns to the Paramount in another now-you-see-them, now-you-don't appearance, reminiscent of a weak patient allowed out for a long walk once a season. On this occasion, the company will reprise excerpts from Guidi's lovely "Romeo and Juliet," Ron Thiele's "How'd They Catch Me?" and Michael Lowe's sensitive "Bamboo," accompanied live by Melody of China.

Smuin Ballet is also back, and with a new work by rising star Amy Seiwert, who has been steering the company in Michael Smuin's absence as he was priming her to do. Also on the program are Smuin's hot "Carmen," along with his much-loved "Dances with Songs."

Details: Oakland Ballet, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 25, Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland; $15-$50; 510-465-6400. Smuin Ballet, 8 p.m. Oct. 24-25, 28-30; 7 p.m. Oct. 26; 2 p.m. Oct. 25-26; Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyons St., S.F.; $18-$55; 415-567-6642.

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