Take a Load Off What is meant to be a festive and spiritual time can be a heavy time as well, what with family and social obligations and all their attendant anxieties. Fortunately, two good opportunities to relieve yourself, metaphorically speaking, present themselves this week. At the seventh annual "Juried Luggage Show: Psychic, Spiritual, Physical, and/or Emotional Baggage," a group of artists investigates what we carry with us and why, and what happens if we let it go. Look for the charred remains of artist Edgar Maxion's studio, which recently burned down, and for a pair of heavy blown-glass platform shoes. The exhibit (which gallery co-founder Laurie Lazer describes as "therapy, social work, and art") is juried by S.F. Art Institute and UC Berkeley Art Museum personnel and opens with a reception at 6 p.m. (it runs through Jan. 30) at the Luggage Store, 1007 Market, S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971. Meanwhile, a roomful of people in long white skirts and tall felt hats will attempt to release themselves from earthly constraints and get closer to Allah with "Sema of Emptiness: Sacred Dance of the Whirling Dervishes." Over 50 dervishes from the U.S., Canada, and Turkey will participate in the 700-year-old Sufi spiritual tradition founded by mystic/poet Rumi, turning in unison accompanied by poetry and live Turkish music featuring Hamza El Din. The dancers remove their black cloaks (representing falseness) and set their white skirts (representing the spirit's shroud) whirling as they surrender themselves to a spiritual illumination said to mesmerize viewers as well. The dancing begins at 8 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakland. Admission is $10-25; call 289-2113.
Art Stuff Former Hamburg Ballet dancer Tomi Paasonen and former Bonn State Ballet dancer Yannis Adoniou chose a German name for their new joint venture: It's Kunststoff, which translates roughly as "Art Stuff." These guys have got all sorts of art stuff planned, including the futuristic fantasy story Tube 58 in March and Americana for Aliens, a Fourth of July rock opera featuring a slew of local bands. But first their debut, notable not only because they're fine dancers themselves (both absorbed Alonzo King's aerodynamic classicism dancing for Lines Contemporary Ballet) but because they've rounded up an intriguing cast, including leggy Lines dancer Nora Heiber and tea shop proprietress Mad Magda, for an evening of dance as well as art, music, and experimental film. Paasonen offers a technological zoo with MegaHz and an "urban scary-tale" in Destination Dreamland, while Adoniou studies basic human emotions in 4 Short Pieces. Afterward, DJs Trava and Captain Quazar spin an eclectic mix of music as viewers peruse films, painting, photography, sculpture, and video installations by local artists in the gallery salon, nibbling snacks from the Mardi Gras Cafe. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday and Sunday) at Brady Street Theater, 60 Brady (at Market), S.F. Admission is $6-16; call 559-9355.
Like a Bowlful of Jelly Dirty-dancing Santa and sexy elves bearing cocktails host the funky little fund-raiser that is the Artists' Television Access Holiday Bash and Benefit. As with other ATA events, this one should be just off-kilter enough to entertain. Craig Baldwin concocts found-footage film collages, Gravity Goldberg gives a holiday Hanukkah puppet show, and Popcorn Theater -- a group of renegade performers whose theatrical exploits usually take place outdoors, at night, in a location unknown to police -- perform indoors for a change. The rest of the night is devoted to food, beer, the Holidex art and photo show, and the screening of films by ATA staff members. DJs and the Oakland-based electronic music duo Donkey Boy deconstruct carols for your dancing pleasure. The party begins at 8 p.m. at ATA, 992 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-50 donation; call 824-3890.
For a Song The American Composers Forum emphasizes the "muse" in music with the Salon for Composer/Choreographer Residencies. But in these three modern music and dance collaborations, the sound didn't always come before the steps. In the case of choreographer Robert Moses and composer Alexis Alrich, the narrative preceded both, when Moses asked a group of kids at Potrero Hill Middle School to describe a difficult moment in their junior high careers. Their tales led to Fuse, a work about life's struggles, set to a score for percussion, strings, piano, and woodwinds played by an eight-person orchestra in which pros mix it up with S.F. Conservatory students. Nesting Dolls choreographer Cid Pearlman and composer Erling Wold held workshops with writers and based their piece Baring the Names, about the tension between men and women, on poetic images, set to an atmospheric score containing snatches of '30s and '40s dance tunes. Their work, along with the collaboration between Moving Arts Collective members Anandha Ray and Sarah Michaels, opens with a reception at 7:30 p.m. at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $7.50; call 863-9834.
The Other White Meat EinstYrzende Neubauten's mechanical clang and clamor has only just dissipated after last week's show, and now Pigface comes along to wreak more sonic havoc on our delicate eardrums. It's what noiseophiles might call old home week. Pigface is an industrial electronic supergroup with a revolving lineup. This time out it stars members of the Thrill Kill Kult, Test Dept, and (would you believe?) mid-'80s English girl group the Belle Stars, shepherded by Martin Atkins, PiL's former drummer and the owner of Invisible Records, an indie label that counts EinstYrzende's FM Einheit and Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge among its artists. Which leads us to the opening acts, who, with longtime members of the industrial family, have as much to offer as Pigface's flashy gang of drummers, dancers, and guest celebrities: As Sow, theatrical vocalist Anna Wildsmith gets backup from remnants of KMFDM, while the strangely charismatic Genesis, whose cacophonous multimedia performance events and early forays into acid house won him a cult following, meets up locally with his old bandmate Larry Thrasher in Thee Majesty. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison (at First Street), S.F. Admission is $20; call 974-6644.
Airing Their Shorts Empathy Films director/producer Elise Robertson didn't have a lot of money to film F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "The Sensible Thing," but she did have the Fitzgerald estate's blessing, the author's good name, and a San Francisco-based volunteer crew to expedite the process. Shot in just nine days with a budget cobbled together from donations and the loan of locations, props, costumes, and period cars, the 30-minute work looks remarkably lush. It's the first installment of a broadcast series Robertson has conceived: "American Storytellers," which will test the talents of emerging writers, directors, and actors in adapting short stories by esteemed American writers (upcoming productions include Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," to be filmed here as well). The 1924 Fitzgerald story, a fictionalized account of the author's stormy courtship of Zelda Sayre, offers local theatergoers two familiar faces: Kristina Robbins, whose solo performance The Face by the Door was a big hit for the Marsh, plays Jonquil, and ACT alum Jason Cole plays George. The show airs at 10:30 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.
Save the Children Oh, the irony! Sally Struthers has served as Save the Children's teary-eyed pitchwoman for so long that seeing her out of soft focus, as the mean orphanage matron Miss Hannigan in Annie, will be something of a shock. Just remember: When she screams at a roomful of little girls and makes them cry, she's only acting. In the touring Broadway production, Struthers (otherwise known as Gloria Stivic in the TV series All in the Family) will be joined by fellow TV actor Conrad John Schuck (McMillan and Wife) as Daddy Warbucks, and 9-year-old Brittny Kissinger as the redheaded runaway. The Depression-era Christmastime tale, based on the spunky heroine of the Harold Gray cartoon, isn't for everyone -- people with an aversion to child actors, cloying tunes like "Tomorrow," and Struthers should sit this one out -- but it has won seven Tonys, been translated into 17 languages, and is one of Broadway's longest-running shows, so obviously someone likes it. Annie opens at 7:30 p.m. (and runs through Jan. 3) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Admission is $22-62; call 776-1999.
Do a Little Dance, Taste a Little Lox, Get Down Tonight Violinist Kaila Flexer & Next Village, featuring Moldovan accordion virtuoso Nikolai Prisakar, play country-eastern music -- as in Eastern Europe. Their style of klezmer, one of many showcased at Klezmer Mania!, is a hybrid of classical, klezmer, and jazz woven with storytelling and spoken word. An adventurous spirit has made the concert a popular holiday tradition; that and, well, the food, catered by Saul's Restaurant and Deli and other local purveyors of kosher goodies. Before the show and during intermission, guests have a little schmooze and a little nosh. During the show, which Flexer created nine years ago with mandolinist Mike Marshall to celebrate the folk music of Eastern and Central Europe, listeners will be treated to the haunting harmonic refrains of a cappella women's choir Kitka, steel-pan player Andy Narell, clarinetist David Krakauer & the David Krakauer All-Stars, and Marshall. Family Secrets monologuist Sherry Glaser MC's the show, which begins at 7 p.m. (also Wednesday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $14-26; call (510) 642-9988.