Photo by Chelsea Rowe

Fall Dance: Ten Shows Worth Stepping Out For

Monday, September 2, 2013


The pleasures of the Bay Area dance scene -- as with so many other aspects of Bay Area life -- lie in its diversity. A dance lover here might start out a diehard ballet fan and, after seeing the Chitresh Das Dance Company, become a devotee of world-class Indian Kathak. The list below embraces Congolese dancing, European contemporary ballet, politically subversive dance theater, avant-garde postmodern dance and more. But no top-ten can encompass all our region's dance richness, and it pains me to leave off so many other exciting offerings from Joe Goode Performance Group, the gender stereotype-smashing ladies of Tango Con*Fusion and many others.

Ganesh Vasudeva / Vishwa Shanti Dance Company

Sept. 6, 7-8
CounterPulse (1310 Mission St., SF)
For decades, the south Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam, which uses elegant miming gesture to tell the timeless stories of the Ramayana and other Hindu texts, has flourished in the South Bay. Some of the best Bharatanatyam dancers take over the intimate space of CounterPulse for a weekend. First, the ebullient male dancer Ganesha Vasudeva gives a solo concert Friday. Then, Saturday and Sunday, the delicate virtuoso Shreelata Suresh and her San Mateo-based company, Vishwa Shanthi, unveil Padme: The Lotus in Asian Mythology. If you love sumptuous costumes, sensuous movement and a good yarn, you might fall in love with Bharatanatyam.
For tickets and information, visit

KUNST-STOFF 15th-Year Retrospective

Nov. 8-10
ODC Theater (3153 17th St., SF)
Was it really 15 years ago that Kunst-Stoff (literally, in German, Art-Stuff) began making avant-garde ballet cool and fun in the center of San Francisco? Yannis Adoniou and his co-founder Tomi Paasonen made us stare at lots of weird video effects, lots of bizarre costumes and lots of tense movement -- and provided the ideal forum for some of our finest homegrown dancers. Energizing and influential, Kunst-Stoff is leaving San Francisco after this season. I miss them already.
For tickets and information, visit



Sept. 26-29
ODC Theater (3153 17th St., SF)
Kyle Abraham exploded on the New York dance scene in 2006 with his authentic representations of African American life, sometimes autobiographical, sometimes inspired by sources like the film Boyz n the Hood. The LA repertory company Bodytraffic, founded in 2007 to dance a range of contemporary choreography by fresh talents, visits San Francisco with a preview of a dance by Abraham they commissioned, Kollide. Also on the program is a suite by Barak Marshall inspired by his family's home in Yemen, and a romp to jazz classics by Richard Siegal. Bodytraffic's dancers are versatile and charismatic, especially co-founder Tina Finkelman Berkett.
For tickets and information, visit

Dimensions Dance Theater: Celebration at 40

Oct. 5
Yerba Buena Center Forum (701 Mission St., SF)
Dimensions Dance Theater is like Oakland's church of African diaspora music and movement. With the indomitable Deborah B. Vaughan at its center, the troupe offers roof-raising performances and high quality dance. Vaughan and her fierce dancers celebrate the big 4-0 with the premiere of Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line. Four choreographers representing the evolution of Congolese dance contribute: Herve Makaya (Congo), Isaura Oliveira (Brazil), Jose Rojas (Cuba), and Latanya Tigner (New Orleans). The program, which includes revivals of past favorites and live music from Brazilian, Cuban and Congolese drum batteries, will be a big, joyous event that shouts "amen" in many languages.
For tickets and information, visit

West Wave Dance Festival Presents We Have This

Oct. 21
Z Space (450 Florida St., SF)
Want a crash course on politically-conscious dance in the Bay Area? This program is a great way to get it. Curator Jesse Hewit has paired five of the city's most influential rabble-rousing choreographers with emergent peers. Representatives of the old guard include silver-tongued Keith Hennessy, the explosive Sara Shelton Mann, and Amara Tabor-Smith, formerly of Urban Bush Women.
For tickets and information,

Nederlands Dans Theater

Oct. 23-24
Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley campus)
It's hard to overstate the influence of Nederlands Dans Theater on today's choreographers -- and hard to capture the astonishing fluidity and precision of the troupe's sleek, almost frighteningly focused dancers. Truth be told, I am disappointed that NDT is not bringing work by its past artistic director Jiri Kylian, one of the most important and most theatrically arresting dance-makers of the past century. But I would crawl miles to see this company (which rarely visits California) dance anything -- and like Kylian, the current resident choreographer, Paul Lightfoot, also has a flair for the dramatic. His Sehnsucht, to Beethoven, is staged in a revolving cube. Also on the program is a West Coast premiere by Sol Leon.
For tickets and information, visit

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Oct. 25 - Nov. 3
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts LAM Theater (701 Mission St., SF)
Alonzo King's LINES Ballet is one of San Francisco's greatest international success stories. Working with a mystical sense of mission, a sleek movement style, earnest spiritual themes and a who's who of music collaborators, King has made his troupe of commanding, hearts-on-their-spandex-shorts dancers a yearly must-see. For the fall home season, they'll dance Writing Ground, commissioned in 2010 by the Monaco Dance Festival and featuring a libretto by acclaimed novelist Colum McCann.
For tickets and information, visit

Chitresh Das Dance Company, Shiva

Oct. 26 and 27 
Z Space (450 Florida St., SF)
Nearly 70 and still a fiery soloist, Chitresh Das is a virtuoso advocate for the North Indian classical dance form of Kathak. His company's beautifully produced shows are as mesmerizing as they are educational, leading newbies and Kathak diehards alike deeper inside the form's rhythmic complexities and Hindu storytelling. Any performance of the Chitresh Das Dance Company is bound to beguile.
For tickets and information, visit

Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's Layla Means Night

Oct. 30 - Nov. 3
ODC Theater (3153 17th St., SF)
LA choreographer Rosanna Gamson's passionate new dance will transform ODC Theater into a chamber of Persian sensuousness: viewers will roam through a land of veils and curtains while enjoying rich Persian food. But Gamson's goal is not escapist; she uses the framing story of Scheherazade to examine power struggles between women and men. The original score is by Houman Pourmehdi.
For tickets and information, visit

Ballet San Jose 2013 Gala

Nov. 16
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose)
It's been a chaotic couple of years at Ballet San Jose, with the ouster of founding director Dennis Nahat. But the company recently made a stunning announcement: Jose Manuel Carreno, one of the biggest ballet superstars of the '90s, will take the helm. His spring season is aggressively contemporary and international, including works by Israel's Ohad Naharin and the Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo. We'll have to wait for those, but in the meantime Carreno will inaugurate his leadership with a gala performance featuring guest stars from American Ballet Theatre, English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet and others.
For tickets and information, visit