After seeing Men Think They Are Better Than Grass, I was trying to explain the concept the next afternoon at a barbeque: "It's interpretative dance! About the environment!" As people stared skeptically, I gestured wildly with my Corona, "AND IT'S AWESOME!"
Don't hate them because they tour Europe and have muscles that might be more believable on a mid-level Greek god than on a human. They're still just people - very strong, preternaturally graceful people. Curving and undulating in an otherwordly sort of way, the dancers don't just mark the technique, they've mastered the level of soul and personality that Alonzo King cultivates in his company.
Plowing through your day is so much easier when you don't stop to consider the possibility that you might be accidentally mowed down in a grocery store parking lot and wake up to find yourself immobile in a hospital bed. Lydia Stryck's deftly written script contemplates just such a scenario - and what happens when the man behind the wheel becomes a friend to the woman who can no longer move her arms.
Young love is hard enough without being a gay teenager in Nebraska. But Will and Mike translate the standard boy-meets-girl-and-makes-her-a-mixtape story into something far sweeter. Girlfriend - Berkeley Rep's latest world premiere - blends Matthew Sweet's music into a fresh story about two boys who graduate from high school into a summer of newly-mown grass, drive-in movies, and bottles of rose pulled from the nightstand.
Bobby McFerrin: You probably recognize Bobby McFerrin and his irrepressible grin from "Don't Worry Be Happy" (and you're probably cringing at the memory of the two baggy neon-hued t-shirts you were wearing at the time). But he's not just an '80s hit - Bobby McFerrin joined the noble ranks of Those Who Alter Music History when his nimble vocal chords blasted through what used to be considered the boundaries of the human voice. Sounding in turn like a saxophone, an operatic soprano, or an avian chorus, Mr. McFerrin often performs alone onstage, singing multiple parts in a capella and providing rhythm with his voice or his body.
Dancers soaring across stage in their underwear are never to be missed. Especially when the women strip the men down to the barest of skivvies and redress them in haute couture created on the spot with masking tape, butcher paper, and tissue. Inspired by a manual on correct female conduct written in 1963, the world premiere of A Guide To Elegance features dancers moving to the sounds of Pamela Z's original score and a voiceover intoning the themes of the manual.
The problem with seeing an amazing show is having to turn around and describe said amazing show. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is apparently indescribable, as I've been sitting here for an hour trying to think of ways to adequately convey the sharp mastery of Revelations or the Dr. Seuss-like appeal of a dude in blue spandex with a tall blue feather on his head. Company auditions must screen for men with coiled springs instead of muscles and women who swing through combinations with a dynamic grace, because that's precisely what you get. Toss them onstage with choreography by artistic director Judith Jamison and Ailey himself, and you get dance that moves toward the sublime.
Trying to describe Brecht is like trying to follow your Great Uncle Milton as he waxes philosophical over a glass of Hendrick's - undoubtedly important but you're never quite sure where he's going to end up. Nonetheless, here's a brief plot synopsis (you're welcome): A servant girl saves a baby abandoned in war-time. At the end of a journey including soldiers, treacherous mountain passes, and marriage to a dying man, their fate is left in the hands of a cantankerous judge and his chalk circle. Also, there's singing and the occasional violin.
In an interview, 25-year-old playwright Chinaka Hodge called her world premiere "a hilarious jaunt through racism and lynchings." Turns out, she wasn't kidding. Mirrors in Every Corner is a deeply funny (I had to clap my hand over my mouth a few times to stifle the hyena-like snorts), genre-twisting story of a family just like any other family - three squabbling siblings, a harried mother, and a baby sister with strawberry blonde curls and green eyes.
Lisa Bielawa's Kafka Songs
Described by The New York Times as "ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart", Lisa Bielawa's music often draws from literary inspirations - this time from the more introspective of Franz Kafka's writings. Seven songs for violin and vocals (all performed by Carla Kihlstedt) comprise the aptly named Kafka Songs, in a program that also includes selections from Jürg Frey and Chou Wen-chung.
Jewish Community Center, 3200 California Street. March 4. Info at www.jccsf.org.
Sarah Chang in Recital