Fall into autumn dance concerts

  • by Philip Mayard
  • Tuesday August 29, 2023
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Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu dance company
Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu dance company

Over the past few years, the Bay Area's dance community has demonstrated remarkable resilience through innovative virtual performances, outdoor showcases, and hybrid formats that prioritized safety without sacrificing artistic expression. Collaborations among dancers, choreographers, and organizations have not only sustained the community but also fostered a spirit of unity that continues to fuel its evolution and growth in the post-pandemic era.

This fall you can experience the vibrant pulse of San Francisco through dance performances that showcase a diverse array of styles and cultures. From site-specific contemporary works to traditional staged performances that celebrate a spectrum of rich international heritages, these programs offer a unique opportunity to be moved by the passion and talent of our community during this season of dance.

'The White Feather, A Persian Ballet Tale'  

"The White Feather, A Persian Ballet Tale"
As part of a highly successful national tour, artistic director Tara Ghassemieh, former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Vitor Luiz, and a full company of international ballet dancers present "The White Feather, A Persian Ballet Tale," commemorating the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini's arrest and death in Iran, an event that provoked an international women-led uprising. Amini was a 22-year-old woman who died under suspicious circumstances in Tehran, following her arrest for allegedly not wearing a hijab.

The ballet explores the rich history of Iranian art and the untold story of the Iranian National Ballet, the country's only state dance company that was closed down during the Islamic revolution in 1979. Hailed as "extraordinarily beautiful, powerful, and informative," (Los Angeles Dance Chronicle), "The White Feather" looks to be an inspiring launch to the Bay Area's fall dance season.
$35-$195. September 9, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave. www.cityboxoffice.com

Smuin Contemporary Ballet (photo Chris Hardy)  

Smuin Contemporary Ballet
Smuin Contemporary Ballet's 30th anniversary season kicks off in grand style with, "Salsa 'til Dawn," a world premiere work by one of America's most sought-after dancemakers, Darrell Grand Moultrie, whose resumé includes choreography for American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Beyoncé, and Savion Glover.

The program also features the return of James Kudelka's riveting ballet in cowboy boots, "The Man in Black," set to the music of Johnny Cash, and "Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink)," a dynamic neoclassical work by internationally acclaimed choreographer Val Caniparoli.
$25-$89. September 15-October 7; Lesher Center for the Arts, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason. smuinballet.org

Petipa Awards Gala: World Ballet Stars
For one night only, San Francisco will be the center of the ballet universe, with a star-studded gala performance by some of the world's most renowned dancers, and a celebration of the winners of this year's Petipa Awards: iconic prima ballerina and choreographer Natalia Makarova and the late Pierre Lacotte, a revered French ballet choreographer and historian, perhaps best known for his role in helping Rudolf Nureyev defect from the Soviet Union.

Dancers from Paris Opera Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, Teatro alla Scala, Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza, and Astana Opera Ballet will perform a diverse range of classical and contemporary works, including the U.S. premiere of "Grand Pas Electrique" from Petipa's long-forgotten ballet "Bluebeard."
$180-$1240. September 23, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave. www.cityboxoffice.com

Bellwether Dance Project
Founded by Bay Area dance luminary Amy Foley in 2015, Bellwether Dance Project took a big step forward in 2019 with its first home season at ODC Theatre. Bellwether returns to ODC for its second home season with two world premieres: "Aurora Sad Magic," a work inspired by an old legend that explained the aurora borealis as the dancing souls of lost loved ones, and "What's the Matter," a solo work set to a poem by Meriweather Campbell, a lifelong friend of Foley's.

The program also includes the revival of the company's popular "Let Slip the Witches," a dance for five women responding to the archetype of the witch, which Foley notes, is both ancient and timely. She says, "The witch is by turns both magical and mundane, frightening and nurturing, a powerful figure of both exile and desire."
$25-$75. September 14-16, ODC Theatre, 3153 17th St. www.odc.dance

RAWdance's Yebel Gallegos and Ryan T. Smith in 'Loving Still' (photo: Helena Palazzi)  

Since 2004, San Francisco's award-winning RAWdance has pushed the boundaries of contemporary dance through a mix of performance, curation, and collaboration. The company's newest project, the world premiere of "Loving Still," is inspired by Huge Nini and Neal Treadwell's stunning 2020 book, "Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s-1950s," which features over 300 previously unpublished photos of men representing "the love that dare not speak its name."

In response to the collection, ten male dancers will perform a series of intimate duets that aim to bring these extraordinary photographs to life. A selection of the images, which span members of the military to heirs of high society, will be reproduced in large format and displayed in the gallery throughout a two-month residency. Additionally, the company will explore the queer roots of the venue's historic Jackson Square neighborhood.
Ticket price TBA, December 8-10, 836M Gallery, 836 Montgomery Street. www.rawdance.org|

Sean Dorsey Dance (photo: Lydia Daniller)  

Sean Dorsey Dance
Emmy Award-winning trans artist Sean Dorsey returns to San Francisco with his namesake company as part of a ten-city international tour of "The Lost Art of Dreaming," a powerful amalgamation of heart-stopping dance, intimate storytelling, and elegant queer partnering. The work is performed by an ensemble of five trans, queer, and gender-nonconforming dancers, with an original sound score and commissioned music.

The performance is followed by an interactive lobby experience of visual artworks entitled "Postcards from the Future" and "The Futurist Pledge," a self-declaration of each audience members' commitment to a life filled with joy, pleasure, love, and well-being.
$15-$50. September 29-October 1, Z Space, 450 Florida St. www.seandorseydance.com

PUSH Dance Company
PUSH Dance Company kicks off its 18th home season with a celebratory grand opening performance event at its new BIPOC Artists Sanctuary home in downtown San Francisco. The program will encompass site-specific performances on all four floors of the building, as well as on the outdoor stage in a neighboring park.

The centerpiece of the evening will be the world premiere of "Performable Posthumanism" by PUSH Artistic Director Raissa Simpson, a multidisciplinary work exploring the potential outcomes of AI technology in the judicial system for people of African descent.
$15-$50. October 15, PUSH Artists Sanctuary, 447 Minna Street. www.pushdance.org

San Francisco Trolley Dances  

San Francisco Trolley Dances
For 20 years, Epiphany Dance Theatre has presented its enormously popular San Francisco Trolley Dances program in, on and around the city's public transit system, free of charge. The program, which draws hundreds of dance fans and curious MUNI riders, is a communal experience bringing together a diverse group of dance artists, encouraging people see dance in new ways, while connecting neighborhoods and participants to San Francisco's history, culture, architecture, natural environment, and social fabric.

This year's Trolley Dances highlight San Francisco's downtown district, the Exploratorium and Fisherman's Wharf. Performances include site-specific works by Nava Dance Theatre, Blind Tiger Society, Jean Isaacs, Kinetech Arts, Jennifer Perfilio Movement Works, Loco Bloco, and Epiphany Dance Theatre.
Free. Oct 21-22, various San Francisco locations. www.epiphanydance.org

Urban Bush Women's 'Hair & Other Stories' (photo: Hayim Heron)  

Urban Bush Women
It's been many years since the remarkable Brooklyn-based performance ensemble Urban Bush Women has performed in the Bay Area. So it's exciting that Cal Performances will welcome them back to the intimate Zellerbach Playhouse with "Hair & Other Stories," a full-length dance-theater work exploring race, identity, and beauty through the lens of Black women's hair.

A participatory performance work of activism and engagement, audience members are encouraged to move, comment, reflect, and bear witness to this highly engaging work, rooted in personal stories gathered from participants at "Hair Parties" the company hosted with women across the country.
$36-$72. December 1-3, Zellerbach Playhouse, 2413 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. www.calperformances.org

David Herrera Performance Company (photo: Alexa Treviño)  

David Herrera Performance Company
Órale! — a common interjection in Mexican Spanish slang expressing approval or encouragement — brings to the Z Space stage a joyful evening of contemporary dance in celebration of the Latinx/e experience. The evening features ten Bay Area dancers performing choreography by artists from across the U.S., who will explore the vibrancy, complexity and richness that their communities bring to American culture.
$20-$40. September 7-9, Z Space, 450 Florida St. www.dhperformance.org www.zspace.org

World Arts West Dance Festival
San Francisco's World Arts West Dance Festival returns to the Presidio with a remarkable lineup of artists presenting dances from Mexico, India, Nicaragua, Brazil, West African, Spain, Tahiti and more, set against the beautiful backdrop of the Bay in the new Presidio Tunnel Tops park, all for free.

Dance groups include Calpulli Tonalehqueh, Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, Melissa Cruz Flamenco, Mona Khan Company, Nicaragua Dance Ensemble, Ruth Asawa SF School of the Arts world dance group, and Te Pura O Te Rahura'a. Join in interactive demos with artists, enjoy international food offerings from the Presidio Pop Up food trucks, and revel in the power of dance.
Free/register. September 10, Presidio Tunnel Tops, 210 Lincoln Blvd. www.worldartswest.org

Noorani Dance Company at Yerba Buena Gardens ChoreoFest  

Yerba Buena Gardens ChoreoFest
One of the city's most popular outdoor performing arts festivals returns with two weekends of dance, spotlighting the creativity and diversity of the Bay Area community. Pack a picnic and sunscreen and get ready for a truly international dance experience.

The first weekend of ChoreoFest showcases contemporary works by Fullstop Dance; dances fusing classical Chinese movement, modern, and ballet by Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company; "queer creation stories" by Seeds and Sequins; and eye-popping, contortionistic, TURF (Taking Up Room on the Floor) dance moves by Oakland's original turf dancing crew Turf Feinz.

The second weekend spotlights contemporary works by PUSH Dance Company; multi-ethic, multi-genre dances by the female-identified artists of Mix'd Ingrdnts; South Asian Kathak dance by Noorani Dance Company; and an eclectic mix of works by David Herrera Performance Company, one of only a few predominantly Latinx-focused modern dance companies in the U.S.
Free. September 23 and 30, Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission Street at Third. www.ybgfestival.org

Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu
Founded in 1985, Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu is known for its unique contemporary style called "hula mua" or "hula that evolves," blending traditional movements with non-Hawaiian music including opera, electronic, alternative, and pop. Through chant, movement, song, and dance, "Ritual," the company's world premiere production, is an exploration of the role that rituals play in Hawaiian culture.

Given the recent devastating fires in Maui, there has perhaps never been a more important time for audiences and performers to gather and feel the aloha spirit, and to rediscover the power of ritual, reaffirming how it creates meaning, binds us together, and invigorates our lives.
$35-$55. September 23-24, Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Avenue. www.presidiotheatre.org www.naleihulu.org

Snack Break Movement Arts at the Hip Hop Festival (photo Micah Spader)  

San Francisco International Hip Hop DanceFest
Celebrating its 25th anniversary under the direction of legendary San Francisco dance artist Micaya, the SF International Hip Hop DanceFest is the first-ever festival dedicated to the artistry and diversity of the hip hop dance form in a professionally curated, non-competitive environment. The festival has become a global phenomenon, drawing performers and fans from around the globe.

This year's festival showcases work that draws from b-boying, breaking, popping, locking, whacking, boogaloo, clubbing, house, and urban dance, in addition to other styles such as modern, salsa, merengue, and Afro-Cuban. In addition to the vast array of performances, a number of special 25th anniversary events will be held, including freestyle sessions for kids, a "Soul Train"-style onstage contest, and an anniversary gala.
Ticket prices TBA. November 11-12, Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon Street. www.sfhiphopdancefest.com

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