Dancing Near the Streets With "Dancing Downtown 1995," Brenda Way and ODC San Francisco continue to set original choreography to unconventional music. This year's two-week, two-program season includes K.T. Nelson's Angel's Doll (with a sound collage of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Glenn Branca), Way's Scissors Paper Stone (featuring words by John "Mighty Mouth" Moschitta and riffs by John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix), and Western Women, a trilogy by Way incorporating the a cappella talents of Bobby McFerrin's SoVoSo. Tonight's performance begins at 7:30 p.m.; the festival continues Thurs-Sun through 7/2 (times vary) at Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, S.F. Tickets are $8.50-26.50; call 978-2787.
Different Drums Son of the legendary Nigerian drummer Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti now leads his own band, and he's one of the main acts at "Africa Féte Three," a rhythmic caravan featuring the traditional/folk fusion of Senegal-based Baaba Maal, the trance-inducing repetition of Haiti's Boukman Eksperyans, and Oumou Sangare, whom some crazy critic recently labeled "the Madonna from Mali" (probably because she incorporates contemporary female perspectives into ancient Malian music). Produced by Island, Motown, and Rounder Records, this year's event starts at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary, S.F. Tickets are $21.50; call 346-6000.
GLAAD All Over Regardless of what one thinks about their local actions, GLAAD's monitoring of gay representation in national media is influential. Seen Anything Good Lately? is a 75-minute program featuring TV clips from a time -- now -- when television is obsessed with gays and lesbians. Are talk shows freak shows, or are they educational? Are fictional characters as important as factual action? These are some of the questions Supervisor Tom Ammiano, talk-show host Joan Jett Blakk, comics Robin Greenspan and Sabrina Matthews, and KPIX reporter Hank Plante wrestle with, in between funny clips from The Simpsons and Roseanne and sad bits from the late, great My So-Called Life. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, Castro & Market, S.F. Tickets are $7; call 621-6120.
Ru Better Work "I wrote this book because I wanted to reveal my soul to the world," writes RuPaul at the beginning of Lettin' It All Hang Out. Of course, in between autobiographical bouts of deep thinking and soul-searching, Ru offers plenty of dish: Afrocentric (with an emphasis on Afro) childhood photos, top-10 favorite lists, helpful hints on being fabulous, and candid thoughts on Milton Berle, Spike Lee, Bill Cosby, Kurt and Courtney, and, of course, the one and only Miss Ross. Catch a big star at 5:30 p.m. at A Different Light, 489 Castro, S.F. Free; call 431-0891.
Lightning Strikes A Match to the Heart is Gretel Ehrlich's award-winning account of a uniquely awful experience: being struck by lightning. In the process of relating her slow, painful, sometimes terrifying recovery, Ehrlich ventures into natural and spiritual concerns; the result is a book that draws basic wisdom from bizarre experience. Hear Ehrlich at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck, Berkeley. Free; call (510) 486-0698.
Powwow Known as the only woman hoop dancer in America, Jackie Bird can spin 38 hoops at one time. She sings too, and she's one of many Native American performers (Lawrence Martin, Keith Secola, and the Wild Band of Indians) taking part in the eighth annual Silver Star Concert and Powwow, a benefit for the American Indian Film Festival. A concert featuring Bird kicks off three days of events -- including ceremonies, tribal dances, and arts and crafts involving more than 75 tribes -- at 7 p.m. at Kaiser Arena, 10th & Fallon, Oakland. Tickets for the concert are $7-15; tickets for the powwow are $1-2.50. Call 554-0525.
Schlocky Shocks In the time-honored tradition of mutant horror/comedy hybrids like Snow White's Bloody Valentine, A Partridge Family Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw 90210 comes A Facts of Life Prom Night, the latest tasteful, highbrow effort from Tony Vaguely's Sick and Twisted Players. See how Jo, Blair, Natalie, and Tootie fare in an ax-or-be-axed scenario. Heads will roll at 9 p.m. at Bernice Street Playhouse, 21 Bernice, S.F. The show continues Fri-Sat through 7/8. Tickets are $8-12; call 826-5358.
Unity 95 In celebration of the U.N.'s 50th anniversary, the nonprofit Unity Foundation has about a billion cultural and technological things happening. They're offering magic castles, 3-D virtual roller coasters, video conferences, lectures, and exhibits. They're also offering music by Harvey Mandel and the Electric Snake Band, the Caribbean Allstars, Venusians, didgeridoo whiz Stephen Kent, the Vukani Mawethu Choir, Zensnap, and more. The festivities take place noon-midnight at Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, S.F., and continue Sunday. Tickets are $7; call 789-7673.
World's Greatest Bird Chaser The aforementioned title belongs to a charismatic pooch named Mr. Lunch, star of a fantabulous pair of kids books by the husband-wife team of J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh. In the new Mr. Lunch Borrows a Canoe, the cute canine dog-paddles all the way to Venice, Italy, encountering hundreds of neatly labeled, artfully designed, brightly colored doodads and doohickeys. Meet the authors/artists at noon at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight, S.F. Free; call 863-8688.
Basquiat Back to Life "Stripping away surfaces, [Jean-Michel] Basquiat confronts us with the naked black image. There is no 'fleshy' black body to exploit in his work, for that body is diminished, vanishing." So writes the frighteningly prolific bell hooks in a superb essay from her latest collection, Art on My Mind. Hooks highlights the racial and sexual pain, rage, and ambivalence in Basquiat's paintings, rescuing the painter from facile comparisons with the chilly likes of Warhol; local poet/performer Wayne Corbitt (Crying Holy) taps into the same themes in A Fish With Frog's Eyes, a one-man autobiographical performance set against a backdrop of images by Basquiat. Hear and see a fierce talent at 4 p.m. at Headlands Center for the Arts, Fort Barry, Bldg 944, Sausalito. Tickets are $3-5; call 331-2787.
Dog Day Afternoon How did Canis lupus, the wolf, become Canis lupus familiaris, the dog? How did weird-looking critters like pugs, Shih Tzus, and Lhasa apsos come to be? The answer has something to do with Darwin and something to do with Mendel, and it's the motivation behind "Dog Diversity Day," the latest Exploratorium program to focus on the touchy relationship between science and nature. See whippets, greyhounds, boxers, miniature dachshunds, Siberian huskies, and other breeds, as well as the breeders behind them; also, hear a lecture by Dr. Jasper Rine from 2-5 p.m. at 3601 Lyon, S.F. Free with admission to Exploratorium ($2.50-9); call 563-7337.
Live From Death Row In 1992, after a less-than-adequate trial, reporter/journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal -- president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists -- was sentenced to death for the murder of a Philly police officer. Maintaining his innocence, Abu-Jamal has railed against judicial racism and political bias in the pages of The Nation and on National Public Radio (whose sudden cancellation of his commentaries sparked a free-speech controversy). With Abu-Jamal's execution imminent, artists, writers, and activists are rallying behind him. Here in the Bay Area, Adrienne Rich, Piri Thomas, Michael Parenti, Mujah Shakir, Judi Bari, Kiilu Nyahsha, and Diane DiPrima are just some of the participants in a benefit for his defense. Sponsored by Equal Justice USA/Quixote Center and KPFA Radio, the event starts at 7:30 p.m. at M.L. King Jr. Junior High School, 1781 Rose, North Berkeley. $10-12; call (510) 848-6767.
Yes, But In these complicated times, Alexander Cockburn is a contrarian nonpareil: He's for population growth but against cutting down forests; he ridicules the Book of Revelations, yet he supports Scientology. Ultimately, Cockburn is more than his views: He's a sharp (as in cutting) writer. The Golden Age Is in Us is his latest book, and it cobbles together diary entries and letters along with essays previously published in The Nation. Hear him read at 8 p.m. at Printers Inc., 310 California, Palo Alto. Free; call 327-6500.
Dancing Muses As the New York City Ballet's prima ballerina, she was choreographer George Balanchine's original "muse." She was also a frequent partner of the S.F. Ballet's director, Helgi Tomasson, during his dancing years. She's Violette Verdy, and she's the first participant in "Words on Dance," a new series of conversations with prominent dance artists created by local dancer Deborah DeBowy. Verdy will discuss her 40-year career with the San Francisco Ballet's Mikko Nissinen, Tina LeBlanc, and Muriel Maffre, then she'll answer questions from nonperforming members of the audience. The evening's program -- which also includes historical film and video -- begins at 8 p.m. at the Forum at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Tickets are $8-15; call 978-2787.