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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Change Is Afoot For Dance Theater of San Francisco Under New Director

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 1:00 PM

DTSF's Cooper Neely and Jessica Wagner - RJ MUNA
  • RJ Muna
  • DTSF's Cooper Neely and Jessica Wagner

With a name like Dance Theater of San Francisco, it’s hard not to root for this home-grown contemporary dance company. In the three years since their inception, the troupe has done an amiable job at representing the city’s dance scene in a considerate manner. They’ve always been good, but can they really make San Francisco proud?

Now in its third season, Dance Theater of San Francisco turns everything on its head. The 18-member company was honed down to a polished group of nine. The curated choreographers are decidedly more edgy. The biggest change of all: The decision to hire local dancer and choreographer, Dexandro “D” Montalvo as Artistic Director.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sympathy for Gravity: Sankai Juku at Yerba Buena

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM

  • Photo courtesy Sankai Juku via Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

In a 2006 interview, Ushio Amagatsu, founder of the Butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku, contrasts his method of “sympathizing or synchronizing with [the] gravity” with the effort of European and American dance to defy it. If you attend a Sankai Juku performance with ballet as your reference, you might note the lack of lifts and vertiginous leaps. Rather than providing a willful transcendence of the force that keeps us on earth, Sankai Juku (and Butoh more broadly) invites an exploration that is closer to ground. It's an invitation to adjust your frame of reference, for example by comparing two sprigs of moss. Watching Amagatsu and seven other dancers perform Umusuna: Memories Before History at Yerba Buena on Friday night, I was struck by the feeling that this visually stunning piece was revealing to me the inconsistent nature of my own perception.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

THIS WEEKEND: Go See Mariinsky Ballet's Cinderella at UC Berkeley

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 1:30 PM

  • Vladimir Baranovsky

Splendid visuals, polished dancing, lush orchestration and a 1930s-style torque on Charles Perrault’s 17th century fairy tale lifted Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra’s West Coast premiere of Cinderella to contemporary spectacle.

The production commissioned and premiered by the centuries-old Mariinsky in 2002 arrived Thursday night at CAL Performances’ Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley looking anything but dated.

Bolshoi Ballet-trained Alexei Ratmansky’s sleek choreography and the marvels of Prokofiev’s score handled boldly by the orchestra and deftly by conductor Gavriel Heine, added luster to the production’s glamour. But surprisingly, opening night was a time of magic rising largely from less-often celebrated onstage collaborators.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

NeekOn, a Free Festival Founded On Selflessness, Hits S.F. Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 12:30 PM

  • The Niosha Dance Academy
  • Neek-on

What started out at as Iranian cultural festival has expanded into a celebration of many cultures around the world, in the spirit of providing an all-inclusive event for anyone to attend.

Called NeekOn, after the Persian word neek (meaning “spreading kindness”), the festival will be free.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

¡FLACC! Celebrates Latin Americans in Contemporary Dance

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM

  • ¡FLACC!

Every artist needs space. In a city where physical space for the arts is becoming scarce, having space might mean finding acceptance in a community or feeling your identity represented within the artists in your field.

¡FLACC!, the Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers, will present its second annual program this weekend at the Mission Cultural Center of Latino Arts in an effort to provide that space for a segment of the contemporary dance world that doesn’t always see itself clearly represented.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Lizz Roman and Dancers Break with the Black Box

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Dancers: Sonsheree Gilles, Megan Lowe - AFSHIN ODABAE
  • Afshin Odabae
  • Dancers: Sonsheree Gilles, Megan Lowe

Choreographer Lizz Roman has been making site-specific work in the Bay Area since 1995. Roman doesn’t just build a piece around a location, she invites her dancers to participate in the choreographic process from the moment they set foot in the space, asking them to respond directly to the physical environment. During a performance, the audience also moves through the space, making the experience as particular for each watcher as it is for the individual dancers. At the same time, dancers and audience engage in a distinctive experience of shared attention.

“I always encourage the people watching to look all around. [For the dancers] there is nothing more beautiful than seeing faces looking up at you.”

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ODC's Walking Distance Dance Festival Returns

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 8:00 AM

  • Daniel Roberts

The summer season is upon us and Bay Area arts festivals abound. Christy Bolingbroke, who curates the upcoming Walking Distance Dance Festival at ODC (June 5-6), which has been offering cutting-edge arts programming in San Francisco for nearly 40 years (timeline here). This is the fourth year for the Walking Distance Festival, which Bolingbroke tells SF Weekly began as a festival in Willits during the renovation of ODC’s headquarters in the Mission.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gotta Dance! Smuin Ballet's Unlaced Dance Series at Yerba Buena

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Smuin Ballet, the San Francisco ballet company founded by the late Michael Smuin, will conclude its 21st season with Unlaced Dance Series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The dancers will be on their toes from May 8-17. 

Michael Smuin (1938-2007) had a long and prolific career in the dance world, including stints at the legendary American Ballet Theater, The Dance Theater of Harlem, and San Francisco Ballet.  A veteran of Broadway, founding Smuin Ballet in 1994, he died doing what he loved best — dancing. (He collapsed in the middle of teaching a dance class.)

But his legacy lives on with the still vibrant and active Smuin Ballet. The Yerba Buena program will include new works, but will also see a return of Smuin's own work to the stage, including the balcony scene from his acclaimed Romeo and Juliet. Smuin's Hearts Suite, set to the music of the great cabaret chanteuse Edith Piaf will also return, as a tribute to Piaf's Centennial. 

Smuin remains fondly remembered by company member Erin Yarbrough, who danced with and for him.

Erin Yarbrough, Jonathan Powell - KEITH SUTTER
  • Keith Sutter
  • Erin Yarbrough, Jonathan Powell

"One of the things I loved about working with Michael was how much he cared about the dancers," Yarbrough told SF Weekly.  "I always felt that he was so supportive and truly on our side. He really cared about what we brought  to the table as individual artists." 

Yarbrough felt as though she were free to express herself under Smuin's guidance. "I never got the sense that he wanted me to dance like someone else," she recalled. "He was always trying to find what we the dancers did particularly well as individuals and would showcase that. His energy and passion for art were inspiring." 

"Michael was an American choreographer," recalls Celia Fushille, Smuin Ballet's Artistic Director. "Much like our country is made up of people from many cultures, his work is made up of many dance styles that influenced him and which he studied. From the Ballet Russe to Gene Kelly, Michael saw the value in all dance styles and sought to create new ballets that utilized music and movement that might not at first be considered in classical ballet."

Fushille pointed out that Smuin was a classical ballet master who was "fearless" about bringing the music of Sinatra, the Beatles, Broadway or Latin beats into the ballet world.

"Smuin Ballet has been an incredible place for me to grow as an artist," said Yarbrough. "It's a small company, only 16 members, so I've gotten a ton of opportunity to perform. I've been encouraged to take risks. I've been given the freedom to fail."

Smuin was also concerned with the well being of his dancers. "He always kept things in perspective if dancers were getting overly stressed," Fushille said. "He'd remind us frequently that it wasn't brain surgery, so as not to get too worked up."

He also enjoyed laughing with his dancers. "He loved telling stories and would often stop in the middle of a rehearsal to interject a joke or recount a story about an experience he once had," according to Fushille. "It may have seemed unfocused, but in many ways it made everyone more relaxed and focused a culture of an easy-going attitude in the studio, which he found more productive. We keep this approach in the studio today." 

Erica Felsch, John Speed-Orr - KEITH SUTTER
  • Keith Sutter
  • Erica Felsch, John Speed-Orr

That positive atmosphere transfers to the stage. "Smuin Ballet is a great company to see for people who don't yet know that they love ballet," said Erin Yarbrough. "It is accessible and highly entertaining. Definitely a taste for every palate."

After Unlaced Dance Series concludes its run at Yerba Buena, Smuin Ballet will take these performances to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and the Sunset Center in Carmel.

Smuin Ballet's Unlaced Dance Series, through May 17 at Yerba Buena, 701 Mission, 415-978-2787.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Transport to the Past, at the Dancehall Of Beautiful Radiant Things

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Rubin Starset

For those who yearn for the old school, love to dress to the nines and have a hankering for the earnestness of generations past (but without the boring conservatism), The Dancehall of Beautiful Radiant Things is not to be missed!

Each month, the Verdi Club features an old-fashioned dance experience that caters to dancers of all skill levels. Upon entering, you are given an actual dance card with 21 spots to fill. If you're an accomplished dancer and want to show your flair, you get a yellow card. Those who are less skilled, or who would rather just focus on conversation, get an orange card. All dance abilities are encouraged and there is plenty of interaction between the different card holders, so newbies won't be treated like lepers. The  Dancehall attracts people of all ages, from all around the Bay Area with its fun, unpretentious vibe.

  • Austin Staunch

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Friday, April 24, 2015

You Have One More Chance to See Alvin Ailey's Magnificent Program C

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Christopher Duggan
  • Revelations

Making their annual week-long appearance as they have done since 1968 at UC Berkeley’s CAL Performances, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s “Program C” on Thursday night was indeed an evening of “C’s.” Oh, the grade — if such a thing applies — was an “A.” Suitably, however, the third letter of the alphabet’s spelled community (and more “C’s” to come) in the night’s ballets: two Bay Area premieres, a duet and a classic.

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