Bay Area Dance Week? No, Berkeley/Albany Dance Week!

Bay Area Dance Week offers more than a dozen opportunities to experience dance in Berkeley from April 26-May 5. Evie Ladin’s MoToR/dance perform at Bulbfest 2019 at the Albany Bulb by the Water Goddess sculpture. Photo: Edward Grylich

Launched two decades ago to celebrate and showcase the profusion of dance companies, schools and opportunities around the region, Bay Area Dance Week has turned into a terpsichorean juggernaut. It’s so big that it long ago burst out of its namesake temporal confines, and the 21st annual  BADW runs 10 days from April 26 to May 5.

Presented by Dancers’ Group, the sprawling program encompasses more than 400 events, almost all of them free, offering the uncoordinated and nimble alike access to classes, performances, open rehearsals, lecture demonstrations, and a group kick off celebration noon today at Yerba Buena Gardens, where Rhythm & Motion leads One Dance 2019 at noon.

Hannah Young Dancers perform on the Bulb’s construction debris with a backdrop of the San Francisco Bay and Mount Tamalpais. Photo: Hannah Young

Scattered across the region from Santa Clara to Fairfax, BADW events center not surprisingly on San Francisco and Oakland. But a close look at the offerings on tap around northwestern Alameda County suggests that BADW could stand for Berkeley/Albany Dance Week, with more than a dozen opportunities to check out local studios and classes.

Among the local institutions offers free events are the Mahea Uchiyama Center for International Dance, YWCA Berkeley/Oakland, UpSwing Aerial Dance Company, Chhandam School of Kathak, Biodanza-The Dance of Life, Dholrhythms Dance Company, Berkeley Moving Arts, and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center (an essential outpost for contemporary dance for more than six decades). So what does Albany bring to the party?


Presented under the umbrella of BADW but really its own event, Bulbfest 2019: Resilience turns the Albany Bulb into a brimming art zone on May 4-5. Produced by the organization Love the Bulb, the two-day art and dance festival highlights the beautiful, unplanned landscapes on the spit of landfill just north of Golden Gate Fields with 10 new art installations (Saturday May 4, 4-6:30 p.m.) and 11 dance performances (Sunday May 5, noon-4 p.m.).

The diverse roster of dancers encompass contemporary, hip hop, tap, and ethnic styles, and more than a dozen artists are creating outdoor sculptures, paintings, and interactive works. The festival also includes participatory artmaking, storytelling, and facilitated dialogues dealing with climate change and human relationships with nature. While no one will be turned away for lack of funds, attendees are asked to purchase tickets at bulbfest.org.

Love the Bulb presented the first Bulb Fest last September. Susan Moffat, the group’s founder, was inspired after seeing the We Players 2006 production of The Tempest, which made effective use of the outdoor setting. “I started working with dancers at the Bulb because I always felt like dance is a great way of illuminating the landscape,” says Moffat, Bulbfest’s artistic director. “When you put bodies in it, you see the landscape in a new way.”

Many of the dancers and choreographers were already in love with the rugged landscape. Evie Ladin’s all-female percussive dance company MoToR/dance shot a video there, “a really beautifully produced piece,” Moffat says. “Someone showed that to me and I knew we have to get them out for Bulbfest That was a big inspiration, seeing this really great dance group that already loved the Bulb.”

Impromptu No Tutu opens Sunday’s presentations. Featuring a cast of elder women dancers inspired by nature, they invite the audience to mingle and move with the dancers in “Resilience is Us.” The youth hip hop company from Destiny Arts follows up with choreography by Rashidi Omari and Sarah Crowell. Oakland choreographer Sarah Bush, the recipient of this year’s Della Davidson Prize from Dancers’ Group, is known for creating site-specific works,  Other acts include A. Spearman & Co presenting “Terra Femme,” African-American praise dance focusing on female connection to the earth.

Sarah Keeney Dancers. Photo: Sarah Keeney

An Albany resident since 1997, Moffat is the project director for UC Berkeley’s Global Urban Humanities Initiative. She discovered the Bulb a few years after moving to Albany and it quickly became something of an obsession. Her oral history and mapping project, Atlas of the Albany Bulb, collects stories from people who have made the Bulb their own, including artists and homeless people who squatted there before the City of Albany last evicted them in 2014. The Atlas was part of the SOMArts Cultural Center exhibition Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art and Culture Project.

The evictions and the petering out of the spontaneous artmaking that had long enlivened the Bulb was part of why Moffat launched Bulbfest. “We want to continue the artistic tradition of the place,” she says. “It’s a rare space. I’d like to see artist residencies and more organized stuff. Some old timers object but I’m not trying to curate everything. I figure if we do something, more people will come. Our purpose is to save the Bulb.”