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10 Picks for Bay Area Summer Dance, Steeped in Tradition and Change

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Tahjanee Singleton of Alafia Dance Ensemble and Denmis Bain Savigne of Alayo Dance Company for the 2018 CubaCaribe Festival (Photo: Andy Mogg)

Considering the tsunami of new dance that engulfed San Francisco Ballet in May, you can’t blame us for thinking change is in the air. And yet we’re also grateful that some longstanding San Francisco traditions remain unwavering. This summer sees the return of beloved dance festivals with a bunch of new artists thrown into the mix, and a handful of world premieres from choreographers famous for the unexpected.

Embodiment Project’s Amber Julian, left, and Terrence Paschal in Nicole Klaymoon’s ‘Music of the Actualized Child.’ (Photo courtesy of the artists)

Nicole Klaymoon | Embodiment Project in ‘Music of the Actualized Child’

June 7–9
ODC Theater
Tickets and Information

Individual tales of childhood trauma narrated by the distinctive dancers of Embodiment Project are interwoven with the voices of racial equity activists and alchemized through music and dance into this soaring piece of documentary theater. Inspired by Shakti Butler’s new film Healing Justice, about the systematic funneling of children of color into the prison system, Music of the Actualized Child makes its world premiere after previewing last fall at YBCA. Nicole Klaymoon heads the multiracial, multidisciplinary cast.

Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson for the 2018 Fresh Meat Festival. (Photo: Jay)

Fresh Meat Festival

June 14–16
Z Space
Tickets and Information

While other parts of the country tie themselves in knots over how to police their bathrooms, San Francisco gleefully spotlights trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming artists in the 17th installment of the Fresh Meat Festival, curated by Sean Dorsey. Newcomers this year include legendary singer-songwriter Blackberri, comedian Charlotte Tate, and the queer disabled dance duo of Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson. Plus, a sneak preview of The Red Shades—a rock opera about a teenage trans girl who escapes small-town life in the ’60s and joins a gang of trans superheroes in the Tenderloin.

Dancers of Tim Rubel Human Shakes in Rubel and Elisabeth Kindler-Abali’s ‘ALIEN.’ (Photo: Victor Talledos)

Tim Rubel Human Shakes and Elisabeth Kindler-Abali | ALIEN

June 14–16
Tickets and Information

Spurred by increasing xenophobia in America and Germany, collaborators Tim Rubel (San Francisco) and Elisabeth Kindler-Abali (Berlin) researched stories of immigrants and refugees, many of whom come from Muslim communities. They also reflected on their own experiences, as well as those of their dancers, of being ‘othered.’ These observations inform a fantasy about members of a fictional human race who are forced to flee their homeland, and who become objects of fear and suspicion in a new land. Spoken text, song and video installations are woven into this choreographic statement that rejects the legitimizing of intolerance and examines the use of the word ‘alien’ as applied to a human being.

Mariella Morales, Laure Fluerentin and Gabriella Brito of Alafia Dance Ensemble for CubaCaribe. (Photo: Andy Mogg)

CubaCaribe Festival

June 15–28
Laney College, Oakland
Brava Theater and Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Two weekends of dance, music, film and spoken-word performance open with the world premiere of Calle, which unites the Cuban contemporary Alayo Dance Company with Oakland street dancers famed for their turfing and breakdancing. Co-choreographers Ramón Ramos Alayo and Jamaica Itule—working with hip-hop dancers Zimmy, Phil of the Future, and The Intricate, as well as Cuban artists Denmis Savigne, Maikel Castellanos Perez, and guest choreographers Johnny Lopez, and José Francisco Barroso—seek to bridge the gap between concert dance and dance that happens in the street, or calle. They note that hip-hop is both celebrated and devalued, as it is learned in the street rather than in a formal academy, and often dismissed as being ‘too urban’ or ‘too black’—much like Rumba, the national dance of Cuba, which originated among marginalized Afro-Cubans.

Other festival performers include Aguas Dance Company; The Cali Dance; El Wah Movement Dance Theater; Nicaragua Danza, Hijos de Maiz; Alafia Dance Ensemble; Dimensions Dance Theater; Yabás Dance Company; and playwright and performance artist Paul Flores.

tinypistol’s Robyn Gerbaz and Alex Carrington in Maurya Kerr’s ‘kosmos.’ (Photo: Stephen Texeira)

Maurya Kerr | Tinypistol in kosmos

June 21–23
ODC Theater
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Though steeped in ballet as a performer, Maurya Kerr makes dances that take us to dark places where ballet rarely if ever penetrates. Her newest work belongs to no time or place—though we are told it springs from the realization that people of color have, as a rule, been written out of tales of wonderment. Kerr asks: How has this affected their ability to envision themselves “in connection to the vastness and mystery of the cosmos”? A score commissioned from Ben Juodvalkis and set design by Allen Willner are intended to convey this starlit vastness and “allow room for softness and hope.”

YueRu Ma and James Gilmer of Amy Seiwert’s Imagery in Seiwert’s world premiere for ‘SKETCH 8.’ (Photo credit: Patrick Stull)

Amy Seiwert’s Imagery in ‘SKETCH 8: Origin Stories’

June 28–30
ODC Theater
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Female choreographers—a rarity in the ballet world—are a staple of the SKETCH series. This year, artistic director Amy Seiwert invited New York-based choreographers Jennifer Archibald and Gabrielle Lamb to make new work on her dancers alongside a world premiere of her own. Lamb explores the differences between European and indigenous beliefs about air, wind, breath, and atmosphere. Archibald takes as her starting point the belief in certain cultures that taking a picture can steal a person’s soul. Seiwert collaborates with violist-composer Christen Lien to revisit the Greek myth of Elpis, the spirit who remained trapped in Pandora’s box after all the other evils escaped into the world.

Parangal Dance Company. (Photo courtesy World Arts West)

San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival

July 6–22
War Memorial Opera House
Tickets and Information

All dance is ethnic, and in the current atmosphere of xenophobia, certain dance forms risk being wiped off the map. Yet a stout defense is provided by this mighty festival, now in its 40th year. Festival newcomers include Ananya Tirumala (South Indian Kuchipudi), Antara Asthaayi Dance (North Indian Kathak), Te Pura O Te Rahura’a (Tahitian ʽŌte’a and ʽAparima), and Ye Feng (Chinese contemporary).

With temperatures rising on the Korean peninsula, keep an eye out for the world premiere of Korean OngDance Company’s Salt Doll. Inspired by the tale of a salt doll’s quest for identity which takes her into a heat that ultimately melts her, this modern-day interpretation fuses Chinese, Japanese and Korean elements. And as you sample the savage beauty of Parangal Dance Company’s Kiyaprawa a ko Arkat Lawanen (The Abduction of Princess Lawanen), from an ancient legend of the Meranaw people of Mindanao, contemplate the ongoing atrocities by the Philippine military on that island, perpetrated on the pretext of wiping out Muslim rebels.

Marit Brook-Kothlow, James Graham, Damara Ganley in Joe Goode’s ‘Still Standing.’ (Photo: RJ Muna)

Joe Goode’s Still Standing

July 12–Aug. 5
Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco
Tickets and Information

Roam the stately Haas-Lilienthal House along with dancers and musicians in Joe Goode’s latest piece of dance theatre, titled Still Standing. Home to three generations of a prominent German-Jewish family, the house survived the 1906 earthquake and fire; today, restored to its Victorian-era splendor, it operates as a heritage museum. Paralleling the complex family history embedded in this singular piece of architecture, Goode embeds real and fictional stories drawn from the lives of his performers to comment on the resilience and the spirit of reinvention for which San Francisco is famous. One of his characters grapples with masculine and feminine influences over decades, redefining how they want to exist in the world. Another trio of dancers imagines the history of domestic life in the grand house, full of conflict and temptations. These tales are framed by an original score by Ben Juodvalkis and the music of Tassiana Willis, Lila Blue and Shawna Virago.

San Francisco International Deaf Dance Festival. (Photo: Matt Haber)

Urban Jazz Dance Company | Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival

Aug. 10-12
Dance Mission Theater

This year’s lineup includes the Bay Area’s Visceral Roots, Ian Sanborn, South Africa’s Unmute Dance Company and Nigeria’s Magic Fingers Entertainment Productions. Festival founder Antoine Hunter also premieres a new work on pointe, set on his Urban Jazz Dance Company. The festival proper is bookended by a presentation of Muffled Ovarian by DeVinci Deaf Loud Dance Theatre (Urban Jazz Dance Company) and other Deaf Theatre artists who share their #metoo and survivor stories on Jul. 28 at Oakland’s Flight Deck, and by Urban Jazz Dance Company’s Deaf In Prison at CounterPulse on Nov. 8-11.

dawsondancesf’s David Calhoun. (Photo: Devi Pride Photography)

Gregory Dawson | dawsondancesf in Mangaku

Aug. 24–25
Tickets and Information

Fast, sleek, darkly elegant and introspective describes what I’ve seen of Gregory Dawson’s work so far, in an edgy ballet technique reminiscent but not imitative of his mentor, Alonzo King. Mangaku, a West African term for ‘coming of age,’ marks Dawson’s fifth collaboration with saxophonist-composer Richard Howell, whom KQED called the ‘hidden Jedi of Bay Area jazz.’ The backbone of this latest work is Howell’s newly released album, Coming of Age – Mangaku. Both artists say they resonate with the message in the name: they both feel they’re coming of age right now. Howell will perform live with a quartet that includes his young percussionist son, Elé Salif Howell.



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