ODC

SUNDAY

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FEB. 11

MUSIC

Ettes

Stick this one in your pocket flask and suck it: the holy trinity of badassedness sport the names Coco, Poni, and Jem, and together they carry enough swagger to send you running home to Mama, red faced and yowling. This LA trio – known collectively as the Ettes – slashes out leather jacket heroics in floorboard-punishing bursts lasting three minutes or less, and their strain of garage punk paints flaming visions of Nancy Sinatra (or, better yet, Holly Golightly) drag racing with the Sonics. Their latest release, last year’s Shake the Dust (Sympathy for the Record Industry), sets the record straight once and for all: three-chord rock ’n’ roll has plenty more to say. (Todd Lavoie)

With Masmelo
9:30 p.m., $6
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk, SF
(415) 923-0923
www.hemlocktavern.com

DANCE

Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now

This is the week when African American dance kicks into high gear: the third annual two-weekend “Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now” gives a local perspective to contemporary dance by African American and diaspora artists both experienced and emerging. (Rita Felciano)

7 p.m., $20
Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts
1428 Alice, Oakl.
(415) 863-9834
www.bcfhereandnow.com
Also Feb. 15-17, 8 p.m.; Feb. 18, 7 p.m.
ODC Theater
3153 17th St., SF
See Web site for more information

Attraction is hell

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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW Rarely does ODC Theater pack them in the way it did Feb. 2 for SHIFT Physical Theater’s first full-evening piece, The Shape of Poison. Manuelito Biag has been making work for close to 10 years, but the buzz has really picked up since 2003, when he presented the anguished Giving Strength to this Fragile Tongue. With Poison, developed as an artist-in-residence project at ODC, he has created a work about the inarticulate, often unacknowledged forces that shape our realities. Watching the dancers in pursuit of endless and often turned-in-on-themselves encounters felt like looking for a cause in all those ruffles, vortices, and surges that continually disturb the ocean’s surface. Poison moves leisurely but doesn’t meander; for all its churning, at its core the piece is quiet and wistful.

Philippines-born and California-raised, Biag has described Poison as influenced by the yogic kleshas — corruptions of the mind that prevent enlightenment. It’s not necessary to know that Poison‘s three sections, which can stand independent of each other, explore three kleshas: ignorance, passion, and anger. It’s quite enough to realize that for each part the choreographer developed a highly charged, intensely physical language that he shaped into fluid, at-times soaring movements, which drop hints of narrative like beads of color into a pool of oil. As he did with Tongue, he turned to Jess Rowland for an inspired score, here partially performed live on piano.

The opening trio (Amy Foley, Damara Ganley, and Tessa Nebrida) began posed like statues facing different directions, until Ganley’s tiny tremor sent out enough waves to animate Foley and Nebrida. Even though each of them developed something of a personality — Foley’s lyric groundedness was particularly lovely — more than anything the dancers created a sense of space through which they were reaching for each other, at times tentatively, at times assertively. One had the feeling they were trying to pierce clouds or curtains that hid something. But whenever a connection or moment of clarity was made, it either evaporated or was cut off randomly. There was blindness to the way their hands reached out; touches became almost accidental. In a kneeling position, two dancers held hands and then simply dropped them. A cupped open hand welcomed another, but no emotional current flowed. Almost animal-like, the dancers nosed up to each other, aware of one another’s presence but rarely reutf8g.

The central duet for Biag and the resplendently fierce Erin Mei-Ling Stuart worked with material already explored in Tongue: the unspeakable tension in a relationship in which two individuals feed off each other’s heat. Here the two people were very much equals. Each emotional punch was matched by one of similar force; the two of them were always at a standoff, trapped with no end in sight. The heartbeat in Rowland’s score at times sounded like water torture as the pair watched wearily, waiting for the next explosion to hit. Biag had a stooped way of yanking his legs up — as if dragging them out of a swamp — and then ever so gently moving them like a tiger on the prowl that was truly terrifying. Though he designed wave after wave of full-bodied confrontations, one of the most telling came through his use of arms, which present very narrow points of contact. When the dancers stood face-to-face, forcing their stretched arms against each other, you could see the hell of this mutual repulsion and attraction. This duet is Poison‘s strongest component.

At this point, Biag has not quite mastered choreographing for his multicast group. In Poison‘s third section he looked at chaos and instability from a communal perspective. While he was wonderfully adept at designing fluid and formally inventive movements, the circle and diagonal lineups that he set in opposition to individual expressions of anger — tiny Tanya Bello was particularly fierce — didn’t quite add up. However, an excellent duet for Ganley and Noel Plemmons that peeled away from the ensemble brought on a finale that teetered between hope and despair. In the context of Naomi Lazard’s existential pessimism in her poem "Ordinance on Arrival" (read on tape), about a bleak world from which "there is no vehicle out," hands repeatedly planting seeds suggest futility. Yet the stricken Plemmons, after being brutally repulsed by Ganley, reached out his hand to receive a drop of saliva from each of the other dancers. Thus nourished, he veered toward a strong Ashley Taylor, who throughout seemed to function as a calm within the storm. Was he able to push through suffering into the light? It would be nice to think so. *

WEDNESDAY

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Jan. 17

COMEDY

“RiffTrax Live!”
From its humble beginnings as a late-night show produced at a local television station to cult classic status, Mystery Science Theater 3000 endeared itself to fans. Following the adventures of a man marooned in space, his only distraction a group of wisecracking robots and a seemingly never-ending supply of B-movies to watch and make fun of, the show featured the writing, directing, and acting talents of Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, among others. MST3K may be no more, but you can join the three comedians as they perform a live version of their hilarious critique. (Sean McCourt)

8 p.m., $25
Cobb’s Comedy Club
915 Columbus, SF
(415) 928-4320
www.cobbscomedyclub.com

DANCE

“Destination Dance SF”
In the Bay Area, movement in idioms from modern to hip-hop is based in experience as much as biz-based striving. If you want to try to capture the breadth and power of local dance in one night, you could do a lot worse than a lineup that includes ODC/SF, Robert Moses’ Kin, and SF Hip Hop DanceFest founder Micaya and SoulForce. These are just some of the names involved in “Destination: Dance SF,” a concert that also includes Smuin Ballet and Paco Gomes and Dancers’ blend of contemporary approaches and folklore-based forms. (Johnny Ray Huston)

7:30 p.m., $8–$18
Also Sat/20, 3 p.m. gala concert
San Francisco State University
McKenna Theatre, Creative Arts Bldg.
1600 Holloway, SF
(415) 338-2467
www.ticketweb.com

SUNDAY

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Nov. 26

Film

The Bells

Before he was stitched together by Dr. Frankenstein, Boris Karloff appeared in nearly 75 films, including the occasional sign of a stellar career in horror to come. James Young’s 1926 silent, The Bells tells the story of an innkeeper whose greed drives him to murder and whose guilt drives him to madness. Karloff pops up as a creepy mesmerist hired to spook the killer into confessing. The film’s loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem as notable for its use of “tintinnabulation” as it is for wringing sheer terror out of the sound of bells, bells, bells. (Cheryl Eddy)

7 p.m.
Brainwash Cafe
1122 Folsom, SF
Free
(415) 255-4866
www.brainwash.com

Stage

The Velveteen Rabbit

The much beloved and dreaded holidays are about to descend upon us once again. For those who aren’t into Santa-style consumption or churchgoing and don’t really enjoy vaguely Christian-flavored entertainment, there’s The Velveteen Rabbit. ODC calls its annual winter holiday offering, a nationally toured theatrical event now in its 20th year, “a tale of love, loyalty, and hope.” Rabbit is a kids’ show, but like all good fairy tales, its appeal is not restricted to those four feet and under. (Rita Felciano)

Through Dec. 10
Thurs.-Fri., 11 a.m.; Sat., 1 and 4 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard, SF
$10-$40
(415) 346-7805
www.odcdance.org

Goldies Dance winners Benjamin Levy and LEVYdance

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Benjamin Levy entered college as a future pediatrician. He left as a dancer — not exactly what his Jewish Iranian parents had in mind. “They were not pooh-poohing it,” Levy recently recalled. “They just had no frame of reference. It was not even in their lexicon.”
After graduating from UC Berkeley, Levy danced with the Joe Goode Performance Group for two seasons. “He was such a beautiful mover. He could do anything and was a good inventor and great collaborator,” Goode says. “But it was very clear that he needed to do his own thing.” So in 2003 the newly formed LEVYdance company made its first splash as part of the second House Special, ODC Theater’s two-week residency program. The following year the company made its East Coast debut, and the dancers have been back every year since. In 2005 they were chosen for the prestigious California Regional Touring Project. Last March they performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of its “Minimalist Jukebox” festival. Last month they embarked on their first international tour — a two-week gig in Lithuania. The company has given workshops across the country and worked with college ensembles. Recently, it moved into its own large and handsome studio South of Market. And all of this with a repertory of barely a dozen pieces.
So what makes LEVYdance so hot? For one thing, the dances crawl under your skin. Levy’s pieces look a little bit like creepy film noir. Shadowy forces lurk inside the voluptuously strong dancers, but you can’t quite pin those forces down. And actually, you probably don’t really want to know why a hug turns into a chokehold or flailing limbs get so entangled that you wonder whether they’ll ever return to their owners. The intensity is fierce. The choreographer describes Violent Momentum, a 2005 commission from ODC and Meet the Composer, as “being with the rawest part of yourself. It may be an uncomfortable experience, it may be an embracing one, but ultimately, it’s an important, sobering journey.”
And yet Levy’s work is gorgeous to look at. He embeds finely detailed choreography into theatrical contexts with sophisticated lighting designs, stark but elegant costumes, and imaginative and oft-original scores. This is a man of the theater, maybe even an old-fashioned man of the theater.
Levy started to dance and choreograph in high school (“It fulfilled a PE requirement, and I didn’t want to run laps”), but his eyes were opened by his Martha Graham training. It’s as much Graham’s ethics as her movement that impressed him: “Life is too precious to mess around. If you can’t be here fully, don’t show up.” Used to seeing a lot of dance that he describes as “the ooey, gooey, never-ending releasy soup,” Levy appreciated that in Graham “a hard line could be a hard line, and it could stay there and be energized and buzz with life. That was so exciting.”
Up next is an untitled work to be premiered at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco in 2007. It will be the biggest piece Levy has done yet. “It’s about how identity is formed in first-generation Americans who are born of parents who fled oppressive governments,” he says. “The interesting thing is that it is a veiled past — a past that is vast and influential, yet your parents don’t speak about it very much.”
So are his parents reconciled to not having a pediatrician in the family? “My mom not too long ago said to me that doctors can heal bones, but artists can heal human souls,” Levy says with a smile. (Rita Felciano)

Goldies Dance winner Sean Dorsey

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One look at Sean Dorsey — a debonair dancer with slightly mussed hair and innovative modern dance choreographer — and two words instantly come to mind: dip me!
But watching him dance, you see more of a rough-and-tumble Gene Kelly than a gliding Fred Astaire. Which isn’t to say he can’t throw down a steamy tango, as he does in Red Tie, Red Lipstick, a moving pas de deux about violence against a transgender couple. Dorsey featured the piece, with narration by trans poet Marcus Van, in his first full-length show, Outsider Chronicles, staged last year at ODC Theater and soon to be remounted Nov. 16 to 18 at the Dance Mission Theater.
Since moving to San Francisco in 2001 from Vancouver, Dorsey has blazed a fierce trail for transgender performers. He immediately became enamored with the city when he met site-specific choreographer Lizz Roman while visiting here with the Kokoro Dance company. “There was very little release technique or inversion work in Vancouver,” the native Canadian recalls. “I totally fell in love with her [Roman’s] movement and what she was doing.”
The feeling was mutual, and Roman gave the young dancer a spot in her company. Dance Brigade founder Krissy Keefer also went mad for Dorsey, granting him a solo slot in the now-defunct Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival. Even our pampered SF LGBT audience wasn’t used to seeing butch-looking dancers like Dorsey onstage, and its response was ecstatic.
By the spring of 2002 he was in ODC Theater’s Pilot Program, which nurtures emerging choreographers as they develop new work eventually showcased on the theater’s floor. Three months later he founded the groundbreaking Fresh Meat Productions, which brings trans and queer performers, filmmakers, musicians, and writers together annually to tell their stories through their chosen artistic discipline. Since the first two-day show at ODC Theater that summer, Fresh Meat has moved on to cosponsoring Tranny Fest, a festival of independent trans cinema now helmed by Dorsey’s partner, filmmaker Shawna Virago, and also helped to organize national tours of trans artists. Currently, Dorsey, the nonprofit’s artistic director, is organizing a show for a trans printmaker at the Femina Potens gallery and another solo show for a trans visual artist.
Amid all the organizing, marketing, and promoting, Dorsey brought his own point of view to queer performance with last year’s Outsider Chronicles, via an individual artist grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. Written and choreographed by Dorsey, the program combines modern dance with music and narration in five stories that reflect the life of a transgender person — as well as any human being who has ever had a crush, a secret, or a high school guidance counselor with a textbook full of bad advice. Each vignette (most performed with dance partner Meir Culbreth) expresses a language of movement that is boldly real and acutely honest.
Through Fresh Meat and his own choreography, Dorsey has been able to combine art and activism in a way that creates alliances, fosters a community of like-minded artists, and changes our notion of what defines dance and, at its most basic level, our bodies. Next on the horizon, the onetime housing and poverty activist who realized his dance career almost accidentally while on a hiatus from grad school plans to use his Gerbode Emerging Choreographer Award to continue combining his two great passions. Tentatively titled Some Went Untold, the envisioned piece will be based on interviews Dorsey conducts with trans folk across the land.
“I’m still, like, ‘Hello, hello, hello, where are all the trans dancers?’” Dorsey says. “I’m hoping very soon that there will be more trans dancers to work with.” He also hopes to find the time to learn ballroom dance. Let the dipping begin! (Deborah Giattina)

SUNDAY

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Dance

Savage Jazz Dance Company

Do you know what jazz dance is? For Reginald Ray Savage, who took it upon himself to let the Bay Area see what he considers jazz dance when he founded his Savage Jazz Dance Company 14 years ago, the definition is simple: jazz dance is what gets performed to jazz music. His musical taste is immaculate and never better than in the current premiere: Everything’s Everything is all based on Miles Davis. (Rita Felciano)

3 p.m.
ODC Theater
3153 17th St., SF
$15–$25.
(415) 863-9834
www.odctheater.org

Also Oct. 19–21, 8 p.m.; Oct. 22, 3 p.m.
Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts
1428 Alice, Oakl.
$14–$19
1-866-558-4253, (415) 256-8499

Music

Vagabond Opera

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, there run two rivers, one of vodka and one of absinthe. Not found on any maps, they are known only to five men and one woman. The name of these musicians? Vagabond Opera. Fusing klezmer with sounds of the Balkans and the Rom, along with a peppering of belly dance, opera, and tango, these neo-cabaret fire starters roll out a rabble-rousing vision of globalization, 1920s-style. With the “Bay Area’s Premier Balkan Brass Band,” Brass Menazeri. (Todd Lavoie)

9 p.m.
Amnesia
853 Valencia
$7
(415) 970-0012
www.amnesiathebar.com
www.vagabondopera.com

The jump off

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› johnny@sfbg.com
Underground Sam Green’s documentary The Weather Underground helped spark David Dorfman Dance’s ambitious new 50-minute piece about activism and terrorism, but Dorman’s own experiences growing up in ’60s Chicago during the Days of Rage are an even bigger influence. Dorfman and Green will also discuss Green’s film in a related event.
Sept. 21 and 23. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org
“Kathak at the Crossroads” Working with companies in India and Boston, Chitresh Das Dance Company has put together perhaps the biggest event ever dedicated to Kathak in this country. No better figure than the energetic, veteran Das could be at the helm of such an undertaking.
Sept. 28–30. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 333-9000, www.kathak.org
Tarantella, Tarantula The local Artship Dance/Theater, led by Slobodan Dan Paich, explores the tarantella, a dance used to ward off the poison of a tarantula bite in particular and malaises of the heart in general. This premiere is paired with a visual art exhibit based on Artship’s years of research on the subject.
Sept. 28–Oct. 8. ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org
King Arthur Mark Morris collaborates with the English National Opera and takes on Henry Purcell’s semiopera, giving it a vaudevillian spin, with costume design by Isaac Mizrahi. Productions in England have already been lavishly praised.
Sept. 30–Oct. 7. Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft and Telegraph, Berk. (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu
The Live Billboard Project Site-specific specialist (and Guardian Goldie winner) Jo Kreiter knows how to create a dynamic, innovative image. This time she’s doing so at the wild intersection of 24th and Mission streets (near Dance Mission, no doubt). A 10th anniversary production by Kreiter’s Flyaway company, Live Billboard Project will feature her signature aerial choreography.
Oct. 4–8. 24th St. and Mission, SF. (415) 333-8302, www.flyawayproductions.com
The Miles Davis Suite Savage Jazz Dance Company and Miles Davis is a match made in dance heaven — or whatever sphere Davis’s music reaches and thus wherever Reginald Savage’s choreography manages to follow it. If any choreographer is well suited to the late, great Davis, it’s Savage — the real question is what compositions and recordings Savage will mine.
Oct. 12–15. ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., SF. (415) 863-9834, www.odctheater.org
Daughters of Haumea Patrick Makuakane and Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu pay tribute to the women of ancient Hawaii. Both hula kahiko and hula mua will figure in Goldie winner Makuakane’s adaptation of a new book by Lucia Tarallo Jensen that is devoted to fisherwoman, female warriors, and high priestesses.
Oct. 21–29. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF. (415) 392-4400, www.naleihulu.org
Kagemi — Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors The visual splendor within the title only hints at what the classical-, modern-, and Butoh-trained Sankai Juku company might present in this performance; raves for the mind-bending talents of artistic director Ushio Amagatsu, and the still photos alone make this event a must-see.
Nov. 14–15. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.performances.org
“San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Fest” You can count on Micaya to not only showcase the best hip-hop dance in the Bay Area but also to bring some of the world’s best hip-hop troupes to Bay Area stages. This year Flo-Ology, Soulsector, Funkanometry SF, and Loose Change will be representing the Bay Area, and Sanrancune/O’Trip House will be traveling all the way from Paris.
Nov. 17–19. Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon, SF. (415) 392-4400, www.sfhiphopdancefest.com
Dimi (Women’s Sorrow) The all-female, Ivory Coast–based Compagnie Tché Tché is renowned for pushing dance into realms that are both visually awe-inducing and physically explosive. This piece, overseen by artistic director Beatrice Kombé, entwines the stories of four dancers.
Dec. 1–2. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org SFBG