Dance performances

Unmissable dance performances this season | East Bay Express

For an unsuspecting audience, dance can be one of the easiest art forms to dismiss with the statement “It’s just not for me.” But East Bay’s diverse and burgeoning dance scene deserves an audience. Fortunately, the community is opening its arms wide this season, offering performances that expertly execute traditional dance forms as well as local modern dance companies that chip away at the wall between audience and dancer.

One of the most accessible – and fun – events for non-dance experts is the annual Paufve Dance event. 8x8x8 show (November 18). This year is the tenth edition of the production, which began at the Stork Club as a way to bring modern dance to people who wouldn’t normally go to see it. The production fueled the creativity by imposing restrictions – namely that its eight choreographers each prepare an eight-minute performance to be done in a space (roughly) eight by eight feet. (Admission is also $8!) This year’s event will be held at The Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) for the third year, and although there is now a bit more space for dancers, the pieces always retain an offbeat spirit. Rather than performing on a stage, the dancers do their thing on the floor, standing straight in front of the audience. This year 8x8x8 boasts one of the most exciting lineups to date, including performances by Amy Seiwert’s Imagery of San Francisco, one of the Bay Area’s hottest experimental ballet companies; Push Up Something Hidden founder Amy Lewis; Bandelion from the always interesting Dandelion Dancetheater; Art of the Matter (an umbrella organization of Deborah Slater Dance Theatre); Evie Ladin, who plays the banjo; Fog Beast; sculpted movement; and Stance Dance Company (the first hip-hop dance company that 8x8x8 hosted).

For those interested in a longer, more involved viewing experience, brave new dance group Stranger Lover Dreamer will present Paul C’s class diary (Oct. 4-5 and 11-12) at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (2704 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley). The play centers on the troupe who find the diary of a high school student named Paul C. It is made up of a number of segments – put together by band members Andrew Merrell, Elizabeth Randall and Shaunna Vella with help from the choreographers guests Tyler Eash, Rogelio Lopez and Todd McQuade – let each begin with the dancers reading a passage from the newspaper. A teenager’s daydreams are sometimes the most universally moving, and SLD makes them even more accessible by weaving in pop music and pop culture references that partially ground the dreamlike performance in reality. This is the relatively young but up-and-coming band’s first full production, and it’s likely to live up to expectations.

For the youngest, the internationally renowned AXIS dance company will hold its annual meeting Access to dance day (Nov. 13-15) again at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts (1428 Alice St., Oakland). The company, known for its high-calibre choreography that incorporates disabled and non-disabled dancers, offers a free educational show for children aged six to twelve. The performance, which features excerpts from all of the company’s repertoire, aims to educate children about the performing arts, accessibility and collaboration. AXIS primarily works with schools to set up field trips for the show, but parents who want their children to attend are encouraged to ask their teachers about it. Seniors, homeschooling families and adults with disabilities are also welcome.

For those looking for an exceptionally different visual experience, East Bay choreographer and performer Mary Armentrout will present one of her signature “performance installations,” which straddle the line between theater and dance at the Z Space (450 Florida St., San Francisco). The show, titled fantasizes about the moment when the woman invisible to herself and the man who does not yet know whether or not he wants to exist decide to go live together in an apartment (September 11-13), is an exploration of the ongoing process of getting to know yourself and investing in relationships with others. As often at Armentrout, the show will be experienced in immersion in an in situ environment, with an audience of 35 people maximum for each show.

Armentrout is also co-organizer of a series of dance salons called milk bar with Merlin Coleman and Ian Winters. The show, which is housed in The Sunshine Biscuit Factory in East Oakland (851 81 St.), features an eclectic lineup of multidisciplinary experimental artists working at the intersection of film and visual and performance art. The upcoming MilkBar (November 14) will feature Ian Winters, Erin Malley, Maureen Whiting and Merlin Coleman.

For more gendered work, the Inclusive Interdisciplinary Ensemble is the group to watch. The collaboration between the Dandelion Dancetheater and the Department of Theater and Dance at California State University East Bay (25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward) led by CSUEB professor Eric Kupers, draws its creative impetus from the diversity of its members. The group will perform at the CSUEB’s annual dance and theater show, ICE-X (December 5-6) which is presented by Kupers and fellow dance teacher Nina Haft. ICE-X is performed in collaboration with its partner dance showcase ICEbut features bolder, more experimental productions that incorporate elements of theater and music with a social-activist angle.

San Francisco Annual West Wave Dance Festival (September 4) will again divide its acts into geographic categories this year, and East Bay will have its own spotlight on the Z Space stage. Included in the lineup is El Elle, a musician and performance artist behind the now defunct new wave band The Lovemakers who will perform a piece about the commodification of yoga and sex. As Arts & Above partners Laura Kirkeby and Joseph Nontanovan will perform join, a moving play about a woman and her dying spouse. Sarah Bush Dance Project, known for its performances in unusual locations, will also perform.

Those interested in more high-profile performances should visit Cal Performances, which once again has an exquisite lineup planned for the Zellerbach Theater (101 Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley). Brooklyn’s Mark Morris Dance Group will once again prove why they are one of the country’s leading dance companies with two programs (September 25-28) featuring live musicians, and ranging from Scottish folksongs to modernist americana.

Later, Sasha Waltz will visit us from Germany with an intimate and romantic piece about (and titled after) Schubert Impromptu (Oct. 24-25). Waltz, who is known to travel with multidisciplinary collaborators, will arrive with seven dancers, pianist Cristina Marton and mezzo-soprano Ruth Sandhoff.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will also be back for its annual vibrant and colorful modern dance performance that never disappoints (April 21-26). And for ballet lovers, the spellbinding Joffrey Ballet will also return (March 14-15) with a three-performance programme, culminating in the West Coast premiere of Alexander Erkman’s tumultuous Episode 31. The Australian Ballet will also perform Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake.

If you fancy even more classic performances, Diablo Ballet (1646 N California Blvd, Walnut Creek) has a promising lineup of Holidays that swing (Nov. 14-15), Seductive beauty (6-7 February) and Famous masters (8-9 May). The Oakland Ballet Company will also satisfy your holiday cravings with Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker (Dec. 20-21). And in the spring, the company will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with Five decades of dance (May 22-23), an exciting program that highlights both historical masterpieces and newly commissioned productions created by company alumni.