San Francisco Performances presents Wendy Whelan, one of America's most famous ballerinas, in a rare West Coast appearance following her retirement in 2014 after 30 years with the New York City Ballet. In this intimate program, the steely Whelan serves as muse to four contemporary choreographers — Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo — who have each created a duet for this original and unusual artist.
Jan. 15-16, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ybca.org/wendy-whelan.
Dance In Revolt(ing) Times (D.I.R.T.)
The world seemed bleak when Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller penned a song inspired by Thomas Mann's short story Disillusionment that would become a sardonic anthem for cynics, starting with Peggy Lee's sultry hit recording in 1969 — "Is that all there is? If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing." We've heard renditions by Tony Bennett, P. J. Harvey, Sandra Bernhard, and more, and it's time to sing that old refrain again as theaters go dark and artists hit the road for Portland and Detroit. For those still standing, there's Dance In Revolt(ing) Times at Dance Mission Theater, ground zero of dance activism in the city. With three programs featuring 16 choreographers over two weekends, the festival is for and by the artists who have made San Francisco home, and who have banded together to create a showcase of work without shouldering the full burden of the production. Artistic Director Krissy Keefer says, "It is the duty of the artist to hold up a mirror to society and also imagine a world that could be."
Jan. 21-Feb. 1, Dance Mission Theater, dancemission.com.
With the country in uproar over recent clashes between police and civilians, MacArthur fellow Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion creates art out of ashes and broken glass in Pavement. Abraham combines 1990s-era hip-hop music with works by W. E. B. Du Bois and John Singleton in his consideration of the decline of urban black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and the development of black male identity through passages of violence and love.
Feb 19-21, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ybca.org/kyle-abraham-pavement.
Choreographer Hope Mohr collaborates with the Shotgun Players' Mark Jackson to produce a dance theater adaptation of MacArthur-winning poet and classicist Anne Carson's rendering of the wrenching story of Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, and her fatal quest to give her brother an honorable burial. Not exactly a Showboat or an Oklahoma!, but Wallace Stevens did write, "Death is the mother of beauty."
Mar. 19-Apr. 19, The Ashby Stage, shotgunplayers.org.
As a company concerned with making dances about Latino-American issues, David Herrera Performance Company investigates families torn by deportation and the work of organizations such as United We Dream, which arranges for the children of deported men and women to reunite with their parents at the U.S./Mexico border — a border being an imaginary boundary that enables us to touch.
April 2-5, Z Space, dhperformance.org.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Each performance by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater ends with Ailey's 1960 classic Revelations, whose rousing spirituality, virtuosity, and vigor never fail to bring the audience to its feet. Now more than ever, we need to reaffirm the optimism and courage that make these particular dances one of the great triumphs of art over adversity in American culture.
April 21-26, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, alvinailey.org.
Tiny Dance Film Festival
Sometimes you need to escape, over and over, in brief hops, to places like Ankara and Athens and Melbourne, in immersive flashes like dreams. Fulfill this urge to see the world with moving pictures of moving bodies in Detour Dance's third annual Tiny Dance Film Festival, which curates a selection of short dance films from around the globe — take in a dozen in under two hours.
April 24-25, Ninth Street Independent Film Center, detourdance.com/tdff.
In 2009, President Barack Obama announced in his inaugural address, "The time has come to set aside childish things," asking a nation that had endured bitterness to unite for the challenges ahead. Six years on, we are still mired in the darkness, and perhaps it is in fact time to reconsider childish things, such as why a mermaid would ever love a flawed and destructive man. Find out in We Players' performance en plein air, gazing on the real and momentary ocean.
May 1-June 7, Sutro Baths and Sutro Heights Park, weplayers.org/ondine-at-sutro.