The East Bay is home to dance-world luminaries, world-leading innovators, and world-class venues. An especially rich season is about to get under way, with unique opportunities to see historic companies in big halls, experience avant-garde creativity up close, and meet the legends who live around the block. So limber up and leap in.
The Berkeley Historical Society
Honoring the riches in our midst, the Berkeley Historical Society hosts two events on regional dance history at the Hillside Club (2286 Cedar St., Berkeley). Photographer and historian Margaretta Mitchell leads a presentation on the Temple of Wings (Sept. 6), a Greek Revival structure in the foothills that served as the epicenter of Isadora Duncan-style dance for decades. Afterward, Duncan specialist Lois Flood will perform Duncan dances. Dance critic and Mills College professor Ann Murphy leads longtime Bay Area dancers in a panel discussion on early modern dance in California (Sept. 23). The panelists include two favorite local personalities: Judy Job, who started dancing here in the 1930s, and Frank Shawl, who left a Broadway and television career to cofound Berkeley's Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in 1958. Admission to both events is free, and refreshments follow. 510-848-0181 or BerkeleyHistoricalSociety.org
During the third annual Fall Free for All (Sept. 30), an open house on the UC Berkeley campus, wander among the venues to see dozens of artists, including Chitresh Das Dance Company, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Lily Cai Dance Company, and San Francisco Taiko; the event draws about 10,000 people, so arrive early. Boasting twice as many events as last year, the official Zellerbach Hall (Bancroft Ave. below Telegraph Ave., Berkeley) season begins in spectacular style with the Mariinsky Ballet & Orchestra — still commonly referred to by its Soviet name, the Kirov, and arguably the world's finest classical ballet company — in the full-length Swan Lake (Oct. 10-14). Mark Morris Dance Group rings in the holidays with The Hard Nut (Dec. 14-23), an irreverent twist on The Nutcracker that entails drunken swingers, disco, a drag-queen housekeeper, and copious amounts of confetti snow.
The Joffrey Ballet brings three pieces, including Kurt Jooss' legendary 1932 antiwar protest piece The Green Table (Jan. 26-27), followed by its cross-town cohort Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in a trio of works, including a collaboration with San Francisco's Alonzo King (Feb. 1-2). Trisha Brown Dance Company, led by the legendary postmodern choreographer, performs new and revived works (Mar. 15). Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Apr. 23-28) returns under new Artistic Director Robert Battle, who is already taking the company in exciting new directions. The season wraps up with the West Coast premiere of Rodin, a dance-drama by Russia's theatrical, high-concept Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg (May 10-11).
Though not part of the dance series, three additional events will be of interest to dance fans. Modernists will want to catch Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts (Oct. 26-28) for the choreography that Lucinda Childs developed as cocreator of this opera with Philip Glass and Robert Wilson. The World Stage series presents Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca (Feb. 8), a flamenco company from Madrid. And Mark Morris Dance Group performs as part of the Ojai North! Festival (mid-June), for which Morris is serving as musical director. 510-642-9988 or CalPerformances.org
Contemporary & Experimental Dance
Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (2704 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley) is both host and subject of Move Here (Oct. 19-20 & 27-28). The show marks the choreographic debut of Fog Beast, a collaboration between Andrew Ward and Melecio Estrella, who dance with the Joe Goode Performance Group and Project Bandaloop, with video media artist Jono Brandel. Part of Shawl-Anderson's Dance Up Close/East Bay program, this "movement in context" is both a contemporary dance performance and an immersive journey through the physical and spiritual spaces of the studio.
The Bay Area's longest-running performance series, Works in the Works (Nov. 10-11 & 17-18) invites about two dozen artists to present works in progress at Eighth Street Studio (2525 Eighth St., Berkeley), then discuss their performance with viewers. This season's lineup was not available by press time, but previous years have been moderated by Joan Lazarus, Mo Miner, and Nina Haft and featured Dana Lawton Dances, Ruth Botchan Dance Company, Project Tremolo, and many more, in a different roster each night.
See Megan Nicely, Rowena Ritchie, Violet Juno, Milka Djordjevich, and other contemporary and experimental dancers when contemporary dance-theater artist Mary Armentrout hosts one of her MilkBar salons (Nov. 9) in her performance space at the old Sunshine Biscuit Factory (81st Ave. near San Leandro Ave., Oakland). She's got work of her own to show, as well: Mary Armentrout Dance Company's full-length reveries and elegies will start at the Biscuit Factory and move to a different Bay Area venue for one weekend per month (Nov. 2012-Feb. 2013). An exploration of the fragmentary, ever-changing nature of life, reveries will lose and gain pieces of itself as it moves. MaryArmentroutDanceTheater.com
Hot off its celebratory tenth-anniversary season, Walnut Creek's Company C Contemporary Ballet launches its second decade with one world premiere after another. Artistic Director Charles Anderson cultivates a diverse repertoire of intelligent, athletic, and even humorous dance, and the 2013 winter (Jan. 17-19) and spring (May 9-12) programs at the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek) feature commissions from Yuri Zhukov, Brian Reeder, Patrick Corbin, David Van Ligon, and Anderson. 925-943-SHOW (7469) or CompanyCBallet.org
Intimate, entertaining, and informative, Diablo Ballet's Inside the Dancer's Studio series returns to the Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium (111 N. Wiget Ln., Walnut Creek). True to its signature mix of classical and contemporary dance, the versatile troupe performs the West Coast premiere of Trey McIntyre's The Blue Boy as well as works by George Balanchine, ODC's KT Nelson, and company members Robert Dekkers and David Fonnegra (Mar. 1-2 & May 3-4). Moderated discussion and refreshments follow. 925-943-1775 or DiabloBallet.org
In addition to The Hard Nut (see Cal Performances, above), there's plenty of homegrown merriment to enjoy. Diablo Ballet sets the mood with its first holiday extravaganza (Nov. 16-17), at the Lesher Center; the show includes the Latin flair of Lento a Tempe a Appassionato, by choreographer Vicente Nebrada of Ballet Nacional de Caracas, and the world premiere of A Swingin' Holiday, set to live big-band tunes from the 1930s and '40s; 925-943-1775 or DiabloBallet.org. The Lesher Center is also home to Contra Costa Ballet School's The Story of the Nutcracker (Nov. 29-Dec.1); created for the short-attention-span set, it tells the tale in under one hour, complete with musical highlights, the famous dance sequences, and lavish costumes; 925-943-SHOW (7469) or ContraCostaBallet.org. Oakland Ballet Company wraps up the festivities with the waltzing snowballs, dancing peppermints, and other enchantments of Graham Lustig's The Nutcracker (Dec. 22-24), a full-scale production accompanied by a live orchestra and performed in the glorious Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway, Oakland); 800-745-3000 or OaklandBallet.org.
Visit artist and venue web sites for times, ticket prices, and complete details. And stay tuned — there's much more to come this season.