Hansuke Yamamoto and other dancers of San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Rush© at the 2016 Stern Grove Festival 
(Photo: Erik Tomasson)
Hansuke Yamamoto and other dancers of San Francisco Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Rush© at the 2016 Stern Grove Festival (Photo: Erik Tomasson)

Get Intimate: Summer Dance Highlights in Unique Spaces

Get Intimate: Summer Dance Highlights in Unique Spaces

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San Francisco may well boast more dance troupes and dance-makers per square kilometer than any other city in the United States, but the city also suffers from a chronic shortage of adequate performance spaces. This summer, some of our best-loved local companies and festivals have decided to mix it up a bit. So whether you prefer your dance up close and personal or in more formal settings, these performances provide its audiences with unique opportunities to engage with dance.

Monique Jenkinson, a.k.a. Fauxnique. (Photo: RJ Muna)

Sixth Annual ODC Walking Distance Dance Festival

June 9-10
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This politically charged festival runs along the teeming dance corridor made up of the ODC Theater, the ODC Dance Commons, and the Joe Goode Annex. On the final weekend, witness an evolving work by a group of artists directly inspired by the writings of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Soul to Soul: An Artistic Response to Baldwin and Coates is conceived and directed by Laura Elaine Ellis, co-director of the Black Choreographers Festival, with a powerhouse of a creative team that includes Gregory Dawson, Joanna Haigood, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph, musicians Byb Chanel Bibene and Jordon Dabney, and poets Jordon Dabney and Marvin White.

Also on the roster on this weekend are a couple of world premieres: one by Monique Jenkinson/a.k.a. Fauxnique (the first and only cissexual, pageant-winning drag queen) and the other by Maurya Kerr, founder-choreographer of tinypistol. In C*NT, or The Horror of Nothing to See, Fauxnique displays her contemporary dance chops and a fearless desire to examine what she terms “drag’s complex relationship to femaleness.” Kerr premieres PoemAnthemSong, a trilogy of protest dances inspired by literary texts.

Members of Micaya's SoulForce Dance Company in Strings (Photography and design: Blake Tucker)

Micaya’s Mission in the Mix

June 16-25
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The whirlwind named Micaya, who put San Francisco on the global map of hip-hop dance, has attracted an indomitable lineup of local talent to Dance Mission Theatre. In "the mix" with the dancers of SoulForce, Micaya’s own troupe, are an assortment of adult and youth hip-hop groups, as well as pop and contemporary dancers. Micaya will also showcase students from her own workshops, one of which is labeled "Hips Lips and Dips (a workshop for sexy girls and boys)."

Micaya means serious business. She readily calls out the hypocrisies in the dance world. A personal peeve of hers right now are television dance shows which appoint celebrity judges who are not experts in dance. She derides the “recording pop stars who dance sometimes [but who] do not know how to give constructive criticism on technique. It’s unfair and disrespectful to the art of dance.” For the real deal, ditch your TV and get over to Mission in the Mix.

Anne Zivolich-Adams and Garrett Anderson of SFDanceworks (Photo: Andrew Weeks)

SF Danceworks

June 22-24
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San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko has quite a few distinguished friends in the ballet business worldwide, and a persuasive instinct. This season -- only the second for his fledgling repertory company, SF Danceworks -- he's commissioned a new work from Izzie award-winning Bay Area dance maker James Graham. This joins the U.S. premiere of British choreographer Christopher Bruce’s highly acclaimed Shadows and a 1942 vintage solo by the great José Limón, Chaconne, to be danced by newly retired San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Pascal Molat and accompanied live by violinist René Mandel.

The program, staged at the intimate ODC Theatre, also includes works by two artists from Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance -- resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo and dancer Penny Saunders.

Sarah Griffin of Amy Seiwert's Imagery (Photo: David DeSilva)

SKETCH 7: Amy Seiwert’s Imagery in Wandering

July 21-23
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Amy Seiwert’s summer SKETCH series has traditionally been a sundae of short new ballets concocted by a handful of choreographers and delivered by the dancers of Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, around a specific challenge dreamed up by Seiwert. The technique is classical, the mood generally experimental, the results often exhilarating.

Though held at Cowell Theater, the seventh installment of SKETCH switches gears to unveil the product of Seiwert’s recent residency at New York City’s Joyce Theater -- the first National Residency offered by the Joyce to a company outside of New York. Set to 'Winterreise (Winter Journey),' Schubert’s deeply moving song cycle, this new ballet titled Wandering is Seiwert’s first evening-length contemporary ballet and first full-blown narrative work, against the backdrop of a design that she describes as “surreal.”

Members of the Chitresh Das Youth Company. (Photo: Margo Mortiz)

Chitresh Das Institute Inaugural Season

July 21-23
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The sudden death of Pandit Chitresh Das in 2015 shook the Bay Area dance world. A global ambassador and innovator of kathak, his generosity of spirit and collaborative genius was evident in many productions, notably in the film Upaj: Improvise, a documentary of the kathak master’s journey to India with young tap freestyler Jason Samuels Smith.

Since Pandit Das’ death, several of his former students and company members have embarked on a variety of ventures to sustain his legacy. Among them is the founding of the Chitresh Das Institute (CDI) in 2016 by his widow, Celine Schein Das, with longtime student and company member Charlotte Moraga, as well as Preeti Zalavadia, who runs the CDI School. Their aim with the CDI is to build “a nerve center of Indian classical arts in the West.”

CDI presents their inaugural season this summer at the storied Z Space, the centerpiece of which is a world premiere solo kathak performance by Artistic Director Charlotte Moraga, accompanied by renowned tabla master Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri.

Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival flier
Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival flier

Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival

Aug 11-13
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Antoine Hunter's Urban Jazz Dance Company is flying in deaf artists from Germany, Russia, Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Nigeria, New York, Missouri, Texas and Washington, DC, for the fifth anniversary season of the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival (BAIDDF) headquartered at Dance Mission Theatre.

This season promises a wealth of performances and workshops taught by local and international deaf, hard of hearing and hearing artists who sign fluently. The diversity of sign languages represented at the festival this year include Mexican Sign Language (LSM), British Sign Language (BSL) and Hong Kong Sign Language -- all celebrating the theme ‘Deaf United Louder.’

Alongside Hunter, other well-known performers include Rosa Lee Timm and Kassandra Wedel (the winner of So You Think You Can Dance in Germany.)