Dance performances

Three summer dance shows to see in the great outdoors

To keep us going, the dance companies of San Francisco are mixing up this summer, inviting us to places where we are not used to seeing them. Two weeks ago, we recommended that you approach a few dance companies that have slipped into intimate spaces. Now we take a look at three more, all of which embrace summer 2017 in indoor and outdoor urban landmarks.

Members of the AXIS dance company rehearse Occupy by Stephan Koplowitz – A site-specific journey through an urban garden (Photo: Robbie Sweeny)

AXIS dance company in Occupy – An in situ journey through an urban garden

July 1-2
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“Occupying” a public space can be a powerful act of protest – or simply signal a resolute sense of belonging. This new work by choreographer Stephan Koplowitz for AXIS Dance, the pioneering company of disabled and able-bodied dancers based in Oakland, is set in and around the halcyon Yerba Buena Gardens — a site once considered one of the darkest in the city, over which intense political and legal battles have been fought.

Koplowitz has created site-specific dances across the country, in terrain that poses all kinds of challenges and opportunities. “The process of making this work was eye-opening in that I’m not just creating for a specific landscape, but also working with an integrated cast of first-time performers,” notes Koplowitz. “It made my process challenging in the best sense, pushing me to a new level and making the work more meaningful to me and hopefully our audience.”

During performances, the audience is guided from space to space in the gardens for dance segments that explore the history and design of each space. A score performed live by composer and singer Pamela Z amplifies the immersive visual experience.

Yismari Ramos Tellez and Denmis Bain Savigne of the Alayo Dance Company. (Photo: RJ Muna)

SF Ethnic Dance Festival

July 8-16
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At the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in July, two dozen Bay Area dance and music ensembles championing folk traditions collaborate to remind us of the power of diversity. This year, for the first time in its history, the festival takes over the august War Memorial Opera House.

New companies this year include dance company Alayo, whose imaginative work weaves together strands of Afro-Cuban folk and contemporary dance. They are accompanied by the John Santos Sextet, innovators of Latin jazz. Kathak dancer Antonia Minnecola performs with tabla master Zakir Hussain. San Francisco Awakko Ren brings a joyous piece from the popular Awa-Odori festival to Tokushima Prefecture on the Japanese island of Shikoku. And the Congolese percussion, courtesy of BITEZO BIA KONGO, should sound wonderful in the acoustics of the opera.

Among the cascade of enlightening stories, the Ballet Folklórico México Danza presents a piece highlighting the role of women in the Mexican Revolution, while the Fogo Na Roupa Performing Company performs a maracatu – a dance rooted in the slave communities of Brazil, which the company dedicates “to the dancers of the African diaspora of the Bay Area and to the indigenous communities of Brazil, celebrating the resistance to tyranny and racism, yesterday and today “.

In the brief interludes between some of the spectacular acts, expect to see ingenious cross-cultural encounters – a signature of this festival.

WanTing Zhao and Carlo Di Lanno in Frayed by Myles Thatcher (Photo: Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove

July 30
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Golden Gate Park may be the premier destination this season for euphoric Summer of Love 50th anniversary commemorations, but diehard San Franciscans hold a special place in their hearts for Stern Grove – that sylvan amphitheater and concert site. free since 1932.

A highlight of the Stern Grove Festival for many is the San Francisco Ballet’s mixed program, a devious change from the formal grandeur of the War Memorial Opera House. No one gives a fuck if you spill mayonnaise on your t-shirt, and the occasional San Francisco fog creeping in and around the beautiful backdrop of redwoods and eucalyptus trees only adds a atmospheric mystery. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra sounds just as lush as the opera, and perhaps even more romantic in this setting.