THIS fall, dance lovers can get a renewed spring in their step. While fusion has long been a theme, especially in the Bay Area, the season is notable for forays into world music.
East Asian themes predominate this year, especially Japanese productions commemorating the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan peace treaty, signed in San Francisco.
Bay Area stalwarts such as the Oakland Ballet have been prolific as always, creating new works that premiere in upcoming months.
Pavilion Dance Festival, 1 p.m. Monday, Chronicle Pavilion at Concord, 2000 Kirker Pass Road, free, 925-798-6800, www.pavilionassociates.org.
A global kaleidoscope spotlights the best of Bay Area dance companies at an extraordinary price free. Notably, the Oakland Ballet makes a rare Contra Costa County appearance, while Axis Dance Company brings its exceptional, award-winning repertory that incorporates its disabled dancers’ equipment. Also appearing in the lineup are ODC/San Francisco, Moving Arts Dance Collective, Moore’s Irish Dance, Na Mamo No’Eau, Carlos Morenos Ballet Folklorico Mexicano and Kalanjali.
“Chinoise Flower,” Kota Yamazaki Rosy CO, Thursday-Sept. 8, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., $28/$35, 415-392-4400, www.sfperformances.org.
Rosy CO launches the San Francisco Performances season, but more than that signals the artistic product arising from the US-Japan 21st Century Project. Fifty years have passed since the United States and Japan signed their peace treaty. Choreographer Kota Yamazaki has created a hybrid of butoh, with its darkly modern consciousness born from the war, French modern dance and tales from medieval Japan to create “Chinoise Flower.” A mesmerizing shower of blood-red flower petals.
“Past, Present, and Future Wishing Moon,” Sept. 7, Japan Town Peace Plaza, Post and Buchanan streets, S.F.; Sept. 8, Yerba Buena Gardens, Third and Mission streets, S.F.; Sept. 9 Hakone Gardens, 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, free, 415-357-1817, www.duncandance.org/wishingmoon.
Like the San Francisco Performances program, the presentation hosted by Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dancing is part of the US-Japan 21st Century Project. The collaboration reflects the tremendous cross-cultural influences within East Asian movement. Sano is a third-generation Duncan dancer, while fellow San Francisco company Rokushige Fujima Dancers practices the traditions of classical Japanese dance. The foundation of the Hosenko Dance Company, which joins them from Tokyo, is rooted in modern Chinese dance.
“Dance, the Spirit of Cambodia,” Sept. 8-9, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft and Telegraph avenues, Berkeley, $20/$26/$32, 415-642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
The regime under Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge lasted just four years. That was almost enough time to eradicate Cambodia. The staggering death toll is an estimated 1 to 2 million and with them almost died the country’s heritage of dance, condemned as a royal institution, and music, accused as political propaganda. From the Royal University in Phnom Penh are 41 dancers and musicians, both students and survivors intent on reviving and restoring Cambodia’s dance past to its rightful place in world arts.
Oakland Ballet, Sept. 14-16, Oct. 12-14, Nov. 16-18, Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, $10-$45, 510-452-9288, www.oaklandballet.org.
Karen Brown, former principal ballerina of Dance Theatre of Harlem, begins her first full season as the company’s artistic director. Five premieres herald this, the first of which is a work by Robert Henry Johnson to accompaniment from African-Belgian group Zap Mama. The second program in October features two Oakland Ballet premieres, “Like a Samba” and “Dark Light,” and the November program comes with two world premieres accompanied by live music: “Faux Pas” by Reginald Ray-Savage of Savage Jazz Dance Company with music by George Gershwin, performed by Marcus Shelby and ensemble, and “Bamboo” by Michael Lowe with music by Melody of China.
American Ballet Theatre, Sept. 19-23, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft and Telegraph avenues, $36/$48/$64, 510-642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
Observers describe the company’s current resurgence in innovation as a golden era that began under artistic director Kevin McKenzie. The first program (Sept. 19-20) stages two Bay Area premieres Mark Morris’ Indonesian-inspired “Gong” and Paul Taylor’s 1930s musicals salute “Black Tuesday” plus a return of Natalie Weir’s “Jabula.” The second program beginning Sept. 21 brings the 1841 ballet masterpiece tragedy “Giselle.”
“Plate,” Mark Morris Dance Group, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, Oct. 3, 5-6, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft and Telegraph avenues, $40/$60/$94, 510-642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu.
A frog in drag merits a repeat performance. The tale of a conceited yet decidedly unlovely queen of the swamp who sets her sights on the god-king Jupiter is an update of Jean Philippe Rameau’s 18th-century work. Originally an American premiere at the 1988 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, the dizzying amphibious spectacle testifies to Mark Morris’ trademark innovation. The Mark Morris Dance Group returns Oct. 4 and 7 ($34/$44/$52) for its annual Bay Area presentation.
Nancy Karp + Dancers and Deborah Slater Dance Theater, Sept. 20-22, ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F., $16/$35, 415-863-9834, www.odcdance.org.
Two Bay Area powerhouses become partners in this season’s venture. With opposing movements, choreographer Nancy Karp and Deborah Slater balance each other out with works such as “Il Mercato,” inspired by Sicilian bazaars, and “Grace Floats,” about a woman contending with the loss of her spouse.
Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, Oct. 19-28, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Mission and Third streets, $20/$35/$50, 415-978-ARTS, 415-863-1248, www.linesballet.org
Dance projects can sometimes resemble cultural anthropological expeditions. The ballet company makes its ambitious inroads with “The People of the Forest Project,” and has brought back an amazing collaboration with Aka Pygmy musicians from Central Africa. Nzamba Lela is 16 musicians hailing from the Ituri Forest. The cross-cultural exchange promises to be thrilling, with the sometimes elusive timbre of authenticity sure to resonate.
Diablo Ballet, through Nov. 2-3, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., S.F., $30/$35, 415-978-ARTS (2787), www.diabloballet.org.
It’s not a sly striptease, but a shedding of conventions in “Fluctuating Hemlines,” a West Coast premiere presented by Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre. The ballet group takes advantage of other talents such as ODC/San Francisco co-artistic director KT Nelson, who presents a world premiere. The company’s own associate artistic director Nikolai Kabaniaev brings back his crowd-pleasing “No Title.”