Bay Area Dance Week: A smorgasbord of offerings for all

A dancer from the Upswing Aerial Dance Company, one of the many groups participating in Bay Area Dance xxx. Photo: UDC
A dancer from Berkeley’s Upswing Aerial Dance Company, one of the many groups participating in Bay Area Dance Week. Photo: UADC

From shoulders shimmying at Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center on San Pablo to couples tautly tangoing at Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue — Bay Area Dance Week (April 25-May 4) is an opportunity to get moving.

With over 600 classes, demonstrations, open rehearsals and performances throughout the greater Bay Area, events in Berkeley offer a small United Nations of dance experiences.

The ten-day festival is an invitation to drop the body barrier and banish the protest: “I’m not a dancer!”

Offering judgement- and entry fee-free exploration, everyday folks can test their affinity for traditional forms, like classical Indian, ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop and tap — or brave the lesser-known waters of belly, aerial, fire, improvisation and other dance genres.


Open houses at Bay Area schools and performance venues allow an inside glimpse of prominent troupes like Smuin Ballet, ODC and the LINES Ballet Training Program students, but also, of hidden gems, like Amy Seiwert’s Imagery and Terrain Performance Collective’s three-hour showcase of East Bay choreographers. For the full rundown of free events, visit Bay Area Dance Week online.

Unsurprisingly, the most democratic action of the festival happens in Bay Area public spaces. From the opening kick-off in Union Square, where Rhythm & Motion leads hundreds of participants, en masse, through a dozen different dance styles, to World Dance Fusion’s closing day Mermaid Rebellion on the walkway at Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House in San Francisco, BADW often gets outside.

In Berkeley, perhaps because a plethora of venues makes it possible, festival participants will perform their pirouettes mostly indoors. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to travel to distant lands. Within the confines of four walls, a participant can visit India (classical Indian Kathak dance class, Sunday April 27, 11:30 a.m., Mahea Uchiyama Center of Int’l Dance, 729 Heinz Ave, or Bhangra Instruction, Saturday April 26, 9:00 a.m. at Ashekenaz Dance & Music Community center, 1317 San Pablo Avenue).

People unwilling to go international — but not afraid to climb the heights or plunge into their ancestral souls — can indulge by watching UpSwing Aerial Dance & Company’s What’s Up Aerial Performance (Saturday April 26, 7:00 p.m., Studio 12, 2525 Eighth Street), or learn Authentic Movement for Women (Friday April 25, 6:00 p.m., Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St Suite #13A).

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Berkeley-based Big Moves, seen here in a production of Jazz Hams, is offering a half day of “dance for dancers of all sizes” on Sunday April 27. Photo: Lisa J. Ellis

The best aspect of BADW is an inclusive spirit that doesn’t often happen in an art form relegated to proscenium stages and performed in front of stage lights. Big Moves, billing their half-day smorgasbord as a “Day of Dance for Dancers of All Sizes” (Sunday April 27, 12:00 p.m., The Beat, 2560 9th St.) is a joyful, wheelchair-accessible workshop. Beginner-level classes in a variety of styles culminate in a mini-showcase of Big Move’s performing troupe, emFATic DANCE.


Soul Sanctuary Dance’s midday Freestyle Community Dance, happening every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. since 2003, doesn’t plug its hip hop-reggae-pop-blues-rock outpouring during the festival. Instead, it’s all about being free: free expression, free parking, scent-free, shoe-free… and pesticide-free fruit for all, after the dance (Sunday April 27, 11:00 a.m., Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center).

National Dance Week began in 1981 as a way to highlight dance as a cornerstone of national culture. Beginning in 1998, BADW has been presented by Dancers’ Group, a dance service organization based in San Francisco. With one of the country’s most active dance communities, the area’s enthusiastic movers — both the famous and the not-so-famous, equalling over 2,500 artists and 20,000 attendees — flock to the festival.

This year’s Dancers Choice award, given to an individual or organization impacting the Bay Area dance community, is Flamenco and Spanish Dance artist Danica Sena, a choreographer and faculty member at ODC School and the USF Dance Department in San Francisco. Debby Kajiyama, an interdisciplinary choreographer/performer and half of Navarrete x Kajiyama’s Naka Dance Theater, will receive the Della Davidson award.

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