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Merce Cunningham Dance Company's Final Bay Area Performance

If you want to see the revolutionary Merce Cunningham Dance Company do its thing, this weekend is your last chance. The company hit the road for a final two year tour after avant garde dance pioneer Merce Cunningham’s death in 2009. The company will disband at the end of 2011. 

After rolling into Berkeley in a Volkswagen bus for its first performance here in 1962, the company went on to perform 26 seasons locally. For the company’s final Bay Area performance, they’ll perform pieces from various eras of Cunningham’s incomparable 70 year career.

Ready, Set, Ballet

Sure, Nutcracker is nice—for kids, nostalgia buffs, and balletophobes especially. But this weekend, ballet season begins in earnest when SF Ballet gears up for 2011 with the full-length classic Giselle (though Feb. 12). Premiered in 1841 and restaged here by artistic director Helgi Tomasson in 1999, the two-act ballet is romance personified: Man’s betrayal does girlfriend in, but girlfriend forgives him from the great beyond. If you want something more modern, wait for Program 2 (Feb.

Jess Curtis/Gravity: Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies

After only one performance by Jess Curtis/Gravity, you'll understand that he's a rare breed. Last year's Symmetry Project stripped its performers of cover and pretension, literally, as two naked bodies moved around each other and the room for hours as the audience contemplated the meaning of it all. On a whole other level above exhibitionism, the performance raised important questions about the body in its most vulnerable form, and it was entrancing.

The Riley Project/Aura Fischbeck Dance at Counterpulse

Postulating that the body has a mind of its own - to which everyone who’s ever had a violent bout of stomach flu can attest - dancers portray the peculiarities, outbursts, and general awkwardness of the meat suits we all clomp around in. From broken to virtuosic, our bodies are amazing - and dance is an excellent medium for that particular message.

The Riley Project and Aura Fischbeck Dance bring their physically dynamic brands of movement to Counterpulse this weekend to investigate the weirdness of the body, the weirdness of love, the madness of crowds, and the occasional pratfall.

Local Performance Groups Combine Forces with Gush

Last year I discovered choreographer Joe Goode for the first time. His company's performance of Traveling Light rocked my world. Heavy, humorous, and deep with meaning, his works offer food for thought as his dancers play perfectly off one another onstage. This month, he's back with a new project featuring two local performance groups: Ledoh and AXIS Dance Company.

Women on the Way Festival

Luring entertainment-seekers into the rabbit hole of fringe theater for over a decade, the Women on the Way festival is back again with innovative theater, multimedia dance, comedy, music, and yes, boobs. 

Forever Tango: A Leg-Wrapping Argentine Joy-Ride with DWTS' Cheryl Burke

Watching expertly executed tango will make you wish you had the coordination to whip effortlessly around the floor while gazing into the eyes of a dude with creative sideburns. Since you probably don’t (neither do I) (how sad for us), Forever Tango will fill that gaping rent in your soul.

How women can flick their legs so quickly in such high stilettos while remaining so sultry is one of tango’s great mysteries. Solved in part by svelte tango vixens like Victoria Galoto, formerly of Alvin Ailey, and Bay Area native Cheryl Burke, of Dancing with the Stars fame. Forever Tango is a leg-wrapping Argentine joy-ride celebrating the sounds and movement of tango, from turn-of-the-century brothels to upper class soirees. A spectacle of tapping feet and arching backs, the momentum builds steadily from low-gliding seduction to impressively technical lifts.

Smuin's Christmas Ballet: It's Like the Holidays Gone 'Glee'

If you prefer deceased rock legends to nut-cracking soldiers and vixens to fairies, hit up Smuin’s Christmas Ballet for this year’s dose of athletic holiday cheer. Blue Christmas-crooning Elvis catches shrieking blondes and hoists them over his head while his hips gyrate wildly. A mini-skirted flirt bats her lashes for diamonds and a line of stool-wielding vamps oust the Sugar Plum Fairy. Drooping evergreens get the chainsaw and a woman eludes her very persistent date.

Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie

If the standard Nutcracker spectacle strikes you as insipid or expensive or just too darn reminiscent of enforced family outings, try Dance Brigade’s Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie. Krissy Keefer’s refreshing version of the nut-cracking holiday confection turns Clara into an undocumented worker for a wealthy family and Drosselmeyer into the pink Mohawked gay son, who presents Clara with a freedom-fighting South African nutcracker.

Encounters: New Moon Silk Road

Inspired by the fabled Silk Road (the western world’s first connection with east, now symbolizing cross-fertilization of everything from music to spice racks), Ballet Afsaneh spent the past year orchestrating a collaboration with acclaimed local artists from the Central and South Asian diaspora. This impressive year-long exercise culminates in a performance blending dance, music, and text from the historic trade routes of Eurasia.

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