Fall arts 2023: Bay Area dance troupes ready bold new works, revivala

Fall arts 2023: Bay Area dance troupes ready bold new works, revivala

A beguiling meditation on aging and the body’s inevitable betrayal, the Joe Goode Performance Group’s recent dance theater production “As We Go” turned the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts into a labyrinthine memory palace.

The vignettes and narratives woven through the production were deeply personal, but also seemed to speak to the conundrum facing some of region’s leading dance companies as the founding innovators and mavericks who came of age in the 1960s and ‘70s leave the stage or warily contemplate an exit.

More than any other kind of performing arts organization, dance companies tend to reflect the personality and vision of founding choreographers, which can lead to an identity crisis or worse when the leaders move on. Ever since the decade-long legal struggle over control of Martha Graham’s seminal dances — following Graham’s death in 1991, her heir claimed ownership of her classic works and tried to prevent her namesake company from performing them — modern dance companies have been compelled to think about succession.

In the Bay Area, the milestones have been coming up quickly, like last May’s celebration of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s 50th anniversary. Dimensions Dance Theater, which is also still directed by its founding choreographer (Deborah Vaughan), marked a half-century of bringing Black dance forms to the foreground last October.

And at Smuin Ballet, the company’s last founding member, Celia Fushille, announced that the 30th season will be her last as artistic director, a position she took on following Michael Smuin’s unexpected death in 2007. In what appears to be a model of generational transition, the company simultaneously announced that choreographer Amy Seiwert, who has a long, rich history with the company, will be stepping into Fushille’s role next year.

While dance companies continue to regain their balance after years of buffeting by the pandemic, the inexorable passage of time presents a steeper challenge, and the fall season offers some clues as to how some companies are faring.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming season.

Smuin Ballet, Dance Series 1

The diverse program includes Darrell Grand Moultrie’s world premiere “Salsa ’til Dawn,” which is set to an original Cuban jazz score by composer Charles Fox, Val Caniparoli’s “Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino” (everything but the kitchen sink) and James Kudelka’s Johnny Cash homage “The Man in Black.”

Details: Sept. 15-16 at Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek; Sept. 21-Sept. 24 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts; Sept. 29-Oct. 7 at Cowell Theatre, San Francisco; $25-$89; smuinballet.org.

Chitresh Das Institute

The sudden, shocking death of Bay Area choreography legend Chitresh Das in 2015 left the fate of his company in doubt, but nearly a decade later the West’s most prominent Kathak dance troupe carries on in his grand spirit. The Chitresh Das Institute presents two new works by the company’s director, Charlotte Moraga, with the world premiere of “13 Matra” and 2022’s “Invoking the River,” a dance exploration of India’s sacred waterways.

Details: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at ODC Theater, San Francisco, $25-$50; 6 P.M. Oct. 8 AT Hammer Theater Center, San Jose; $25-$45; www.chitreshdasinstitute.org.

Urban Bush Women, ‘Hair & Other Stories’

A dance-theater work by the Brooklyn-based Urban Bush Women, “Hair & Other Stories,” explores race, identity and ideas of beauty through the lens of Black women’s hair, reflecting on the nature of freedom, liberation, and release in the face of everyday struggles during extraordinary times.

Details: Presented by Cal Performances; Dec. 1-3; Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley; $36-$72; calperformances.org.

Oceánica Ballet, “Sleepy Hollow” and “Lupita”

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Meeting the need for a Halloween-tinged ballet program, Oceánica Ballet presents a double bill featuring Robert Burns Lowman’s adaptation of the tale of the Headless Horseman and Edgar Lepe’s “Lupita,” a celebration of life inspired by Día de Los Muertos, combining elements of classical and folklorico ballet set to Mexican folk music.

Details: Nov. 10-12; ODC Theater, San Francisco; $30; odc.dance, oceanicaballet.org

On the Horizon

San Francisco Ballet, “Mere Mortals”: Kicking off her first season as SF Ballet’s artistic director, Tamara Rojo puts the world’s greatest trouble maker at center stage with “Mere Mortals,” an immersive production in which sound influences dance by Aszure Barton, and dance is shaped by orchestral and electronic music by Floating Points (aka British music producer Sam Shepherd), exploring the parable of Pandora’s Box in a world of AI and endless surveillance.

Details: Jan. 26-Feb. 1; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; (tickets available Sept. 20, prices TBA); www.sfballet.org

Acogny & Malou Airaudo, “common ground(s),” Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables, and Sadler’s Wells, The Rite of Spring: This extraordinary double bill combines the late Pina Bausch’s iconic setting for Stravinsky’s ecstatic “Rite of Spring” performed by an ensemble of more than 30 dancers from 14 African countries, and the companion piece “common ground(s),” a new duet co-created and danced by septuagenarians Germaine Acogny, known as the “mother of African contemporary dance,” and Malou Airaudo, a longtime dancer with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch.

Details: Presented by Cal Performances; Feb. 16-18; Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $19-$86; calperformances.org.


Page 3: Here’s what Bay Area classical music artists and stage companies have planned for the new season.