Eclectic best describes the dance that will be hitting the theaters in the upcoming month. The other word that comes to mind is profusion—so much is going on in between now and the end of June and so much of it is intriguing that it’s easy to see how a dance lover might yearn to double (or even triple-book) a Friday or Saturday evening. Fortunately or unfortunately, the limitations of the space/time continuum--not to mention city traffic and grumpy ushers--mean that most of us are subject to the one-night-one-dance limit. There is, however, no reason not to pack in several dance concerts a week.
For those of you who love your dance big, cheeky, humane and, ultimately, married to the music, you won’t want to miss the tribute to outgoing Director of Cal Performances Robert Cole, when Cal Performances winds down its 09 season with a bang--Mark Morris’ choreographic Big Bang, to be precise—L’Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato (The Cheerful, the Pensive and the Moderate).
This is a dance of ardent invention and charm set to, even, some would say, illustrating George Frederick Handel’s oratorio L’Allegro and created at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Belgium where the Mark Morris Dance Group was in residence from 1988 to 1991. As an elegant, indefatigable, and often bawdy music-driven pageant on states of being, it includes 24 dancers, singers from the UC Berkley Chamber Chorus and the glorious Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
L’Allegro is not only a capo lavoro for the dance maker but is also a winning tribute to Cole, who recognized Morris’ talent in the late 1980s and worked diligently over the ensuing years to bring the choreographer to the East Bay again and again. The partnership has paid off for Cal Performances, and also for Morris, who has found a welcome home in the East and West Bay and a world of top-flight musical talent here, from the late Lou Harrison to John Adams and the musicians of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. May 29-30, 3 p.m. May 31, Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft Way, Berkeley. $36-82. 510-642-9988. www.calperfs.berkeley.edu
Big goes not only for MMDG but for the Bolshoi, who appear the following weekend at Zellerbach Hall. The ballet company’s name means “big” or “grand” and the Bolshoi the first weekend in June is doing the big, little-seen La Bayadere by Marius Petipa, an exquisite ballet of classicism and exotica with some of the most spellbinding ensemble work in the dance canon. And music being Cole’s first love, the Berkeley Symphony will be in the pit playing the score by Ludwig Minkus.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. June 4-6, 2 p.m. June 6-7, Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft Way, Berkeley. $50-125. 510-642-9988. www.calperfs.berkeley.edu
There is a tiny space on Howard Street in San Francisco that is one of the latest fringe dance spaces to emerge. It calls itself The Garage, and on May 17th it presents one night of sublime conceptual art improvisation in a program called “The Absence of Sequential Thought” by Non Fiction, so named because everything they do they do from life in the moment on stage. The group includes former Trisha Brown dancer Shelley Senter, who moves like water, conceptual artist and dancer Andrew Waas, and dancers Kelly Dalrymple-Waas, Adam Venker and Rosemary Hannon, with sound and video by Jerry Smith.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. May 17, The Garage, 875 Howard St. at 6th St. $10. 415-885-4006
After decades, you can still hear patrons of San Francisco Ballet grumble that the Smuin days were ever so much better than the SFB fare of today. I wonder if they know that Smuin Ballet lives on? If they’re serious and want to stop grousing, they should get themselves over to Walnut Creek or San Francisco to see what Cecile Fushille, Director, and Amy Siewert, Choreographer-in-Residence, are building for the company in Michael Smuin’s honor, and how they are keeping the showman’s flame burning. This season, the company premieres a work by Smuin and another by ballet maker Trey McIntyre.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. May 15-16, 2 p.m. May 16-17, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 3rd and Howard, SF. $18-55. 415.978.ARTS (2787) www.ybca.org/
8 p.m. May 22-23, 2 p.m. May 23-24. Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, $40-55. 925.943.SHOW (7469) www.lesherartscenter.org
We see far too little of Brooklyn-based Ronald K. Brown in the Bay Area, a choreographer who has pushed the dance vocabulary of the African diaspora to a new level of meaning and purpose on stage. This month he moves into performance art as he collaborates with nothing less than Nick Cave’s sound suit installation at the Yerba Buena Cener for the Arts galleries. Sound, costume and movement become one in this exciting experiment.
DETAILS: 7 p.m. May 28; 3 p.m. May 30-31, YBCA Galleries, 3rd and Mission, SF. FREE with Gallery admission.
The San Francisco International Arts Festival this year hosts German dance theater maker Sasha Waltz, who employs the flat visual style of television, the theatrics of stage, and the physicality of late 20th century dance to create often disturbing dancescapes. Sasha Waltz and Friends restage her “Travelogue I—Twenty to eight” about five combative roommates, a quintet you hope never to have to live among.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. May 27, 6 p.m. May 28, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, SF. $20. 415-399-9554. www.brownpapertickets.com/
Contra Costa Ballet, scaling nothing back no matter what the national trends or economic indicators are, is mounting Swan Lake, a new, two-hour production under the direction of school founders and renowned dancers Richard Cammack and Zola Dishong. What better way to give a youth company a demanding forum to test and hone their skills and a platform to mix with seasoned professionals? Wall Street could learn something from such humility and daring.
DETAILS: 8 p.m. May 29 and 2 p.m. May 30, Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. $30-20. 925-943-SHOW.