Inbal Pinto Dance Company
Seeing an Inbal Pinto Dance Company show is akin to experiencing Cirque du Soleil without all the commercial flourishes and dumbed-down phantasmagoria. The Israeli choreographer returns with a troupe of 11 dancers and two actors in Shaker, a boundary-crossing bit of enchantment where circus and commedia dell'arte get fused with urban dance and invincible acrobatics. The visual and metaphorical framework? A snow globe, in which Japanese pop kitsch, sinisterly beautiful characters, and Pinto's penchant for delicious whimsy get stirred up to provoke a storm of gorgeous and sometimes disturbing imagery.
Oct. 11, 8 p.m., and Oct. 12, 2 p.m. Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard (at Third St.), S.F. $27-$39; call 392-2545 or visit www.performances.org.
For more than two decades, the LINES Ballet has been crystallizing dance into a breathtaking alchemy of light and movement under the direction of Alonzo King. This time, it teams up with jazz luminary Pharoah Sanders, whose turbulent, free-form tenor sax offers an apt counterpoint to King's controlled chaos. Through primal gesture, costumes that resemble otherworldly ephemera, and the theme of the body as musical instrument (and vice-versa), they create a show that's tremulous with emotion without sinking into sentimentalism. A pas de deux with guest dancer Muriel Maffre (a former San Francisco Ballet prima ballerina) rounds out the evening.
Oct. 17-26, 8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.) Novellus Theater. $25-$65; call 863-1180 or visit www.linesballet.org.
Luis Brava's 13-year-old off-Broadway extravaganza is a crowd-pleaser because it serves up one of the most tantalizingly seductive dances in a format digestible for both dance buffs and simple lovers of spectacle. The 14 dancers and 11-piece orchestra (including the heartrending notes of the quintessential tango instrument, the bandoneón) heat up this intimate, improvisational dance form with a few flourishes: theatrical dance-offs, vocal interludes, and plenty of sexy stage-trawling. Sure, the passion is a little calculated, but Forever Tango offers the kind of torrid, vicarious stage experience that'll make you feel you're enjoying a sultry evening at a Buenos Aires milonga.
Nov. 5-16, Post Street Theatre, 450 Post (at Powell), S.F. $50-$75; call 771-6900 or visit www.unionsquaretheatres.com.
Huckabay McAllister Dance
Yes, it's modern dance, but don't expect ethereal wafting about or mysterious metaphors to fog up the stage. Huckabay McAllister Dance (founded by choreographers Emma Lou Huckabay and Jenny McAllister) deals in performances bursting with the aesthetic satiety of a Luis Buñuel film — full of comic pop, subversive sexiness, and toothsome sensual indulgences delivered with a surprising economy of detail. Lucky 13 kicks off opening season in the form of a pagan dinner party where werewolves and other beasts in formal attire sup alongside fairy-tale archetypes, and foreboding signs and symbols are revealed through mundane gestures and cathartic athleticism.Nov. 7-9, 8 p.m. CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth St.), S.F. $15-$20; call 279-0889 or visit www.hmdance.org.
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
New York-based choreographer Cunningham is one of the OGs of modern dance. He's approaching his work now with the same amount of vigor he brought to the scene way back when modern dancers were more likely to perform in bohemian art spaces than in mainstream venues. While his hawklike attention to costumes, set design, and the vital intersection between movement and technology can be a bit academic at times, it's rarely sterile. This fall, Cal Performances offers a compendium of some of the choreographer's most celebrated rule-breaking pieces over several evenings, including a tongue-in-cheek work titled eyeSpace. With its iPod-shuffled score, snatches of spoken word overlaid with ambient sound, and call for audience participation, commotion becomes the desired playlist.
Nov. 7–15, 8 p.m. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. $26-$48; call 510-642-9988 or visit www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
Fall Arts Guide
Choreographer Erika Chong Shuch by Nirmala Nataraj