Bay Area National Dance Week: Your Chance to Dance

Bay Area National Dance Week: Your Chance to Dance

If you’ve ever wondered if tango really does live in your blood, you’ll want to attend the 16th annual Bay Area Dance Week to find out. Over the course of ten days, (Friday, April 25 through Sunday, May 4th) sample more than 600 free dance classes, workshops, performances, open rehearsals and lectures offered throughout the entire Bay Area. Whether your passion is hip-hop or hula, aerial or African, dance lovers of all ages, styles and experience can benefit.

“Bay Area Dance Week is a chance to showcase and celebrate the diversity of dance in the Bay Area… to have the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal or take a class in a different style,even if you’re not a dancer. Come experience the creative process in a different way through movement,” says Carmen Carnes, choreographer and dancer for the Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble. Carnes also witnessed history in the making; she worked for one of the sponsors who worked with Dancer’s Group to create BADW.
The event kickoff happens Friday April 25th at noon in Union Square with the wildly popular One Dance, featuring a variety of dance groups and schools performing to the same music in an array of styles then dancing in unison for the finale. The week closes with a plethora of free classes, workshops and performances.

Learn the moves for One Dance here if you want to participate:

In the past,  program highlights have included a fire dancing expo, a rare open rehearsal from LINES Ballet and a contemporary dance/meditation workshop offered by Carnes in her Petaluma studio. “I am exploring contemporary movement infused with Eastern dance’s attention to detail,” she explains. “This festival puts the North Bay on the map. Dance is happening everywhere, not just in the city.”
BANDW is the most extensive and best attended dance festival in the country, originally created in 1988 by Dancer’s Group to increase the visibility and viability of dance in the community. Each year, over 100 dance organizations and artists present events during Bay Area Dance Week, involving more than 2,500 artists and 20,000 attendees. “As I’ve matured as an artist and a mother I’ve been wanting to do more community-based work,” says Carnes. “I want to build community with teachers, choreographers and dancers alike. This opens the door.”

Program highlights include:


  • A screening of A History of Dance on Screen, featuring dance legends from Maya Plisetskaya to Rudolf Nureyev to Pina Bausch; Saturday, April 26 at the San Francisco Public Library.
  • An introduction to Kathak, a class presented by the Chitresh Das Dance Company, Sunday, April 27 in Mountain View
  • A day of dance for dancers of all sizes, presented by Big Moves, Sunday, April 27, in Berkeley
  • Everyone can dance, a class for people with and without physical disabilities, presented by AXIS Dance Company, Monday April 27, in Oakland


  • Dancing in the Park, an outdoor event featuring dance companies from around the Bay Area and sample dance classes, Saturday, April 26 in Golden Gate Park
  • Festival of the Silk Road, featuring dance, music and poetry, Sunday, April 27 in San Jose
  • Story Time Dance Along, a class of ballet fundamentals at Ballet San Jose School, Tuesday, April 29 in San Jose
  • An introduction to Korean Three Drum Dance, geared to beginners of all ages, Saturday, May 3 in San Francisco


  • A workshop of International Folk dance by the Stanford International Dancers, Friday April 25 in Palo Alto
  • A Tahitian dance class presented by Mahea Uchiyama Center for International Dance, Sunday April 27 in Berkeley
  • A Congolese dance class presented by Cultural Arts of GOLD, Sunday, April 27, in Oakland
  • A Bhangra dance class presented by Dholrhythms Dance Co., Tuesday, April 29 in San Francisco


  • A Cardio Barre Class fast paced, fun and addictive workout, Friday, April 25 in San Francisco
  • Healthy Mind and Body: Preparing for a Long Career in Dance, a lecture demonstration, Wednesday, April 30 in Walnut Creek
  • Feldenkrais for Dance, Wednesday, April 30 in San Francisco
  • Bellydance Cardio and Combos, Friday, May 2 in San Jose



  • An aerial performance by UpSwing Aerial Dance & Company, Saturday, April 26 in Berkeley
  • Teen Dancer Day, featuring a hip-hop dance class and performance by the ODC Dance Jam, Sunday, April 27 in San Francisco
  • An Open Rehearsal of Katharine Hawthorne’s The Escapement, Wednesday, April 30 in San Francisco
  • An Open Rehearsal of Cal State East Bay Dance Touring Company, Wednesday, April 30 in Hayward



  • A co-ed Power Pole class led by Poletential, Saturday, April 26 in Redwood City
  • Move to the Now, an evening of dance featuring performances by Imagery, Post:Ballet, ODC/Dance, Dance Through Time and others, Saturday, April 26 in San Francisco
  • Carnaval Showgirl Awakening dance technique, a class led by the Hot Pink Feathers, Monday, April 28 in San Francisco
  • Crystal Ball Tricks: Beginning/Intermediate Contact Juggling, led by Richard Hartnell, Wednesday, April 30 in Oakland
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New Perspectives on Dance

New Perspectives on Dance

April has long been one of my favorite months because the entire Bay Area celebrates dance with National Dance Week (this year from April 25-May 4th). This month there will be dancing in the streets, tons of free dance classes and performances and open studio rehearsals. It’s a great month to share dance and explore new territory. Meanwhile, in the spirit of exploration, I’ve found some exciting ways dance is being promoted from new and different perspectives.

Recently there has been a flurry of media attention about the plight of aging dancers. There comes a time when all dancers have to ask themselves the big questions: when is it time to move on and how do I start life over? Jayce and Tiffany Bartok’s film Fall To Rise examines these issues as it follows Lauren Drake (Katherine Crockett), a famous principal dancer who is let go of her company after an injury. Feeling domesticity was forced upon her after the birth of her first child, Lauren realizes she must do whatever it takes to reclaim her identity as the company’s star.

The film premieres at the First Time Fest film festival, April 5th in New York City.


Hailing from Kansas City, Quixotic Dance Company combines aerial acrobatics, dance, theater, high fashion, film, original music and visual effects, the coolest of which is fusing dance with light.The company was founded in 2005 by renowned graphic designer, percussionist, and artistic director Anthony Magliano and joined a year later by award-winning lighting and theater technology guru Mica Thomas.

The New York TImes branded Quixotic as an “innovative circus [company].” This ultra-modern, multi-sensory experience shatters antiquated notions of “a night at the ballet.” The dancers and choreography blend equally with progressive acts in the burgeoning electronic music scene (Dave Tipper and Shpongle, among others) and the Kansas City Symphony against the surreal environments that are their trademark.

For those of you who love a good series, Sarah Jessica Parker enters the ballet arena as executive director of her new project “city.ballet“, a behind-the-scenes docudrama about performing with New York City Ballet. Parker interviews dancers at all levels of NYCB, from apprentices through principals, up to and including Artistic Director Peter Martins. The series accurately portrays NYCB dancers’ day-to-day life and the thoughts running through their minds as they push themselves to stay ahead of the curve in one of the most notable and competitive ballet companies in the world.


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Choreographers Discuss Their Inspirations

Choreographers Discuss Their Inspirations

Have you ever wondered where choreographers find inspiration? How they keep coming up with new ideas and new work? Each of the creative people profiled here have a unique entry point, a personal process of keeping their creative fires alive. There are some common threads… and some surprising responses.

Val Canniperoli, Choreographer, San Francisco Ballet

Val Canniperoli the longtime and much-beloved resident choreographer for San Francisco Ballet has choreographed ballets for many other companies across the United States and others as far North as Royal Winnipeg Ballet and as far East as Singapore Ballet. Canniperoli’s inspiration comes from his dancers. “I choose dancers who really want to be there,” he says.” They are not always the most technically proficient dancers or the favorites of the company. When I was a dancer I wasn’t always picked, so I tend to notice the person in the back. My dancers are always musical, and I can see a kind of inner fire in each of them.” He elaborates further here:

Larry Keigwin, Artistic director, Keigwin + Company, NYC

I have such a great time selecting music. I call it my security blanket because it’s something I can always go back to. I try to use music that I have a love and respect for. Recently we did a series of six duets titled Love Songs that uses Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond and Nina Simone. When choreographing new work, we all bring our iPods in and we’ll try out the choreography to 10 different pieces of music. We may generate movement vocabulary to techno music and realize it works best to a French love song. What gets us moving is one thing and what helps the choreography is another thing.

Alan Obuzor, founder and artistic director, Texture Ballet

Music also speaks to Mr. Obuzor, who was inspired by Philip Glass’ second violin concerto for soloist and strings.  ”I loved the quality of the string instruments — they’re touching and moving, almost like a person’s voice,” he says. “And I love the way the music is layered and builds on itself. The rich, thick nature of it all lends itself to many interpretations. It’s music where you can put 45 steps in half a second or you can do absolutely nothing for a minute.” Obuzor’s musical inspirations range from Classical to Meeting of Important People and even…. punk rock.

Garrett + Moulton

Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton are candidly optimistic as they share the baseline philosophies that influenced them. “Charles and I both have very playful and exuberant tendencies in our choreography and our lives,” states Garrett. “We [humans] have the capacity in any moment… through our minds and the messages that we send to ourselves and put forward into the world… to create thoughts, messages and energies of hopefulness and possibility and capability of things,” she affirms. “It’s almost like flipping a switch in the mind. We have the potential as human beings to alter how we choose to perceive and to focus our mental energy, therefore our physical, emotional and spiritual energies.”

Joe Goode, Joe Good Performance Group

JGPG uses their innovative form of dance theater, a blend of text, voice and movement to create a transformational experience. “We sing, we tell stories, we dance. There are so many points of entry to seduce the viewer to coming in and having an experience with us. For me, that’s what it’s all about. I’m always looking for that magic carpet ride- for myself, for the performers… but also for my community,” Goode explains. “If it’s not transformational – where we get transported to a place where we can see ourselves in some new way – then it’s really not worth doing for me.” He’s an amazing person to talk to, as demonstrated from his TED Talk:


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5 Best Places to Dance

5 Best Places to Dance

I’ve danced in a lot of different places over the past four decades… some of them memorable because they were magnificent, others… not so much. But being one of those people who prefer to focus on the positive, I give you a list of my favorite spots to dance (at least for now… I reserve the right to update the list over time if I find a new fave), in no particular order:

Sweet’s Ballroom. I have a thing for historic buildings, particularly those with architectural details that showcase true craftsmanship. Whenever I’m in an old building I like to imagine what it was like long ago. It’s as if the walls still whisper echoes of secrets. Back in the Big Band era of WWII, Sweet’s was the go-to venue in Downtown Oakland. Today this vintage gem is the venue for Ecstatic Dance in Oakland. William Sweet, a former agriculture professor, opened the nightclub in 1920, and over the years it hosted such performers as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Tito Puente and Willie Bobo.

Sweet’s Then

The interior looks much the same now as it did then, with a sweepingly gorgeous wood floor, huge, light-filled windows and an ornate wrought-iron balcony that overlooks the dance floor. The old wood bar still stands, although its mirrored shelves are empty. The dance space is quite large, which is good, because it’s often packed with people.

The djs at Ecstatic Dance put together an eclectic mix of layered sound; there’s some serious mixing going on here and the quality of music is usually incredible.

Given the beauty of the environment and the superb music, Sweet’s is still the go-to venue of Oakland… at least for me.

The gym at MLK elementary school. Okay, okay. I know this sounds weird… After all,  most people associate school gyms with sweat and pungeunt odors… maybe a floor sticky with layers of unidentified substances from years of events and parties. But I swear to you this is not the case with this particular gym. I’m not sure why. This is the chosen spot for Sunday’s 5Rhythms ”Sweat Your Prayers“, an open forum where people show up and dance for two hours to what’s known in 5Rhythms lingo as a “wave” of music (songs played from each of the 5 classifications of music or Rhythms). The music begins with a slower tempo and gradually works it way up from there.

photo by Moving Center

The space is huge, bright and airy, with a wood floor that feels really good to dance on barefoot. Early Sunday mornings are quite peaceful here. As I dance I often see clouds and flocks of birds float by (the windows are way up near the ceiling).

Perfect spot for a serene Sunday dance experience.

Café Cocomo. Located in San Francisco’s Potrero District, Cafe Cocomo is housed in a converted warehouse. This is one of the most popular clubs for salsa dancers in San Francisco. While it has many of the same elements as other nightclubs (a big dance floor, multiple bars, laser lights) i’s the little artistic touches that separate it from other clubs: sculptural lighting, a cozy outdoor courtyard that’s hidden away from the street, and my favorite spot:

Cafe Cocomo

The polished metalwork and mood lighting make it a great place to hang out. For all salseros and salseras, Cafe Cocomo always has fantastic live music from many of the top Bay Area (and beyond) Latin bands, including Julio Bravo, Orquesta Borinquen, and Mazacote. If you like to salsa, this might be your place… and they have free dance lessons at the beginning of every evening.

Spooner Lake, Nevada State Park, Lake Tahoe. This was the site of Trails and Vistas 2012. It was my first time performing outdoors and I’m not sure anything else will ever compare. We were surrounded by gusts of wind rustling through the golden leaves of Quaking Aspens, spectacular vistas, and the serenely mystical blue lake.

photo by Always thinking Photo

While most people flock to the Tahoe area during ski season, I prefer summer because it is truly spectacular up there–like living in a postcard, as one of my Tahoe friends says.

photo by Lachlan Forsyth

School of American Ballet studios. I’ve danced in a lot of studios over the course of my life and I have yet to see any that are nicer than those at SAB. When George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein built the school they put together an incredible place to dance.

Each studio is large and bright with meticulously clean, gleaming floors, burnished wooden barres, and a black, high-gloss baby grand piano in the corner where a live pianist accompanies every class. The first time I entered one of these studios (during my first audition when I was 12) I was stunned… and I never wanted to leave.

Instead I will leave you with this final image, taken at the School of American Ballet in 1981 (!!!) by my classmate, Maggie Cohen Goldberger. I am in the top row, second from the right:


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