National Dance Week, centered around the April 29 birthday of 18th-century ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre, has always promoted the idea that dancing is good for the body, mind, and soul by teaching people about the history and aesthetics of the art -- as well as its techniques. This is the week when people begin to understand movement in ways they hadn't before: Wallflowers finally learn to waltz, and experienced hoofers pick up new tricks. The local kickoff party takes place Friday at the Metronome Ballroom; spokesperson Blanche Brown, director of the Haitian company Group Petit La Croix, and honorary chair Donald McKayle, a nationally known contemporary choreographer, preside over the salsa and hip hop lessons, buffet table, and freestyle dancing. Additional highlights include the topsy-turvy partnering of the West Coast Contact Improv Festival (April 26 and 29-30 at 848 Community Space, with live performances May 1 at the Montgomery and 24th & Mission BART stops) and a master class with McKayle (April 27 at Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley). Show up to the master class wearing red, blue, or yellow, and ODC's Brenda Way, KT Nelson, and Kimi Okada will put you in a piece that they'll choreograph on the spot and premiere at a public performance that evening (April 27 at ODC). Watch, learn, and join in the folk dancing at the Blossom Festival International Folk Dance (April 27 at the City College North Gym) or window-shop at Retail Dance (where performers boogie in store windows, May 3-4 at Union Square). San Jose hosts an Outdoor Dance Festival, with classes and performances from professionals and students (April 27, Circle of Palms and San Jose Museum of Art); back indoors, San Francisco Ballet holds an open rehearsal (May 3 at the Opera House). And the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards ceremony, also known as the Izzies, honors outstanding local contributions to dance (April 28 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum).
Learning to dance is only part of the pleasure -- see how our local pros do it at performances by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (now celebrating its 30th anniversary, see Page 41), Scott Wells & Dancers, Moving Arts Dance, the Joe Goode Performance Group, and others. NDW's closing party, a daylong ceremony with modernist Anna Halprin, takes place May 4 on Mount Tam.