Dance is the most primal of art forms, an embodied channel for human ideas from ritual, to classicism, to abstraction. Experience all those and more during a season that encompasses dramatic dance theater, a barroom free-for-all, and up-close showings that will bring you inside the art form.
The 96th Ritual (for Anna Halprin)
Gallery performances have a way of upending perceptions of dance, introducing muscle and motion into spaces where art is expected to be static. Mills College Art Museum (5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland) will offer three opportunities to examine your own notions of dance when it presents San Francisco choreographer and physical-theater artist Shinichi Iova-Koga on September 14, October 12, and November 2. The setting is The 96th Ritual (for Anna Halprin), a multimedia installation that archives Iova-Koga's recent performances at Hyde Street Pier in celebration of dance legend Halprin's 95th birthday. In September, Iova-Koga performs with musician Edward Shocker at a dual opening reception for Root Connection: 20 Years of the Patti Smith Collection. In October, Mari Osanai and Dana Iova-Koga dance with instrument builder Dan Gottwald. And Mills music professor Chris Brown joins in for November. The exhibitions run concurrently, through December 11. (Mcam.mills.edu.)
In environmental parlance, "king tide" refers to extremely high or low coastal waters. But in the world of Oakland's Nina Haft and Company, King Tide is an exploration of humanity's relationship with the natural world, both harmonious and harmful. Haft consulted almanacs and tide charts while creating the hour-long postmodern work, in which the superb cast of Sarah Chenoweth, Rebecca Johnson, Peiling Kao, Edmer Lazaro, Rogelio Lopez, and Frances Sedayao plumb water, gravity, and time. The work-in-progress got a site-specific showing at the Hayward Shoreline in May, but the piece premieres in its entirety at Joe Goode Performance Annex (401 Alabama St., San Francisco) Friday through Sunday, September 22-24. (NinaHaftAndCompany.com.)
Notorious for violence, Oakland's black-nationalist Black Panther Party gets less recognition for its humanitarian efforts, such as free breakfast for schoolkids and no-cost health clinics. October 15, Dimensions Dance Theater honors these achievements with Project Panther, a dance-theater work created to commemorate the movement's fiftieth anniversary. Artistic director Deborah Vaughan brings a rare perspective to the subject: Founded six years after the Panthers, her company has outlived them by more than three decades and become a prime mover in African-American dance as well as social justice. The one-night-only performance takes place at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts (1428 Alice St., Oakland) with accompaniment by actor Ulysses Cooperwood, singer Tossie Long, and a jazz quartet playing Glen Pearson's original score. (DimensionsDance.org.)
Randee Paufve knows there's nothing like drinking and dancing to uncork pre-holiday stress. So every November, the Berkeley choreographer invites revelers to The Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) for 8x8x8, a showcase where local contemporary dancers perform and the rest of us drink it all in while knocking back a few rounds. This year, there's even more reason to raise a glass, as it's Paufve's tenth anniversary of blending raucous fun with cutting-edge performance. The eight varied artists on the November 17, bill — for a mere $8 cover — include Byb Chanel Bibene, Amy Lewis, Jiten Daiko, Deborah Slater Dance Theater, and Fog Beast. Consider arriving at happy hour, because 8x8x8 always sells out and tickets are available only at the door; 21 and over. (PaufveDance.org.)
You don't have to be an impresario to influence the next generation of dance makers; two hours and $40 is all it takes, thanks to Luna Dance Institute's CHOREOFUND showcase. Thirty audience members contribute to the kitty, and six local choreographers give pitches and perform excerpts from works in progress. After an audience vote, the winner collects the $1,200 cash stipend and twelve hours of studio time to develop their work, and everyone celebrates over refreshments. Past honorees include leading contemporary, postmodern, and performance-art talents Gabriel Mata, Nol Simonse, and Nichele Van Portfleet; this season's candidates will make their case on December 8, at the Institute (605 Addison St., Berkeley). (LunaDanceInstitute.org.)
Body and Soul
Rub elbows and exchange ideas with the dancers of Diablo Ballet after its winter performance, Body and Soul, which includes a post-show Q&A and dessert reception. Dedicated to classical, neoclassical, and contemporary ballet for 23 seasons, the always ambitious troupe will dance the lively Act II pas de deux from Don Quixote and an excerpt from Christopher Wheeldon's Mercurial Manoeuvres. Plus, there will be premieres by Bay Area dance makers Sonya Delwaide and Robert Dekkers. The works are sure to be dispatched with style by talented dancers like Jackie McConnell, Christian Squires, and Raymond Tilton, who perform at the Del Valle Theater (1963 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek) on February 3 and 4. (DiabloBallet.org).
Playwright Jonathan Young fell into a chasm of grief after his 14-year-old daughter died in a fire, and it took creating a new work to give purpose to his despair. He joined forces with contemporary choreographer Crystal Pite, and together they created Betroffenheit, an unsettling, even disturbing, dance-theater spectacle performed by their combined troupes, Electric Company Theatre and Kidd Pivot. In a coup for Cal Performances, the renowned Vancouver, Canada, artists make their Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley campus) debut on March 10 and 11. Blurring fact and fiction, Young himself plays the central role of a man tormented by anguish and grappling with addiction; in a nightmarish show-within-the-show, the dancers manifest emotions that defy words. (CalPerformances.org.)