Dance, Dance, Dance Hey kids, it's numbers time: With 46 dance companies representing 36 different nationalities, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival is bigger than ever this year. Spreading three programs over as many weekends, the event's 17th season begins with "The Pacific Islands in Dance, Chant and Music," featuring artists from Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Rarotonga and Melanesia. Hula and Maori dances, chants and songs and music for steel guitar and didgeridoo are just part of the overall performance. The festivities begin Fri-Sat June 1-2 at 8 p.m.; Sun June 3 at 2 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts, Bay & Lyon, S.F. Tickets are $15-23; call 392-4400.
Stephen Pelton Dance Company The life and art of New Zealand author Janet Frame has already been translated to film, in Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table. Now Frame provides the source material for a piece by the Stephen Pelton Dance Company. Scored by Robert Maggio, Waltzes for the Dayroom uses the title dance to focus on the elusive distinctions between madness and sanity, reality and fantasy. Two other works -- Troubadour/
Trobairitz and Boat Song -- round out this performance, a benefit for Project Inform. Part of the Bay Area Dance Series, Waltzes for the Dayroom plays Thurs-Sun June 1-4 at 8 p.m. at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Benefit tickets are $35, regular tickets are $12.50-14.50; call 241-0111 or 621-7797.
Gay and Lesbian Self-Defense Free to Fight is the name of a super new CD/book "interactive project" designed to teach women and gay men self-defense. It has rock music and hip hop, it has essays and stories, it has comics and it has verbal instruction. The only thing Free to Fight doesn't have is actual in-person demonstrations; thankfully, the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Martial Artists fills this void with two days of programs at the Central YMCA. Hosted by Allen Wood, the seminar's first day focuses on first steps, public and private defense, controlling opponents and defending against knife attacks; the second day (only open to martial artists) addresses tae kwon do, aiki-ju-jutsu and judo. Classes run Sat June 3 10 a.m.-noon, Sun June 4 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at 220 Golden Gate, S.F. Tickets are $5-35; call 563-1655.
Nadine Strossen In the recently published Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights, Nadine Strossen gives plentiful examples of the Dworkin/MacKinnon school's talent for silencing views they don't agree with, not just in "pornographic" realms, but in other areas -- a thoroughly researched women's health guide, praised by the likes of Barbara Ehrenreich, for example. "The Original Contract With America: The Bill of Rights" is the title of a new lecture by the ACLU president. Those who choose to do so can hear it at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin, S.F. Free; call 979-6699.
YouthTime The S.F. probation budget for teen-agers is five times the size of the recreational budget. While 81 percent of S.F. teens believe youth crime would be reduced if they had safe places to go, over 80 percent seldom or never participate in after-school activities. Why? Because after-school activities are inadequately funded, ineffective or they simply don't exist. YouthTime, a program by Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, aims to change this. Hear how and offer your own suggestions at a 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. pancake breakfast and forum at Center for the Arts, Yerba Buena Gardens, 41 Mission, S.F. Free; call 641-4362.
Dead Can Dance Back in the 1980s, Dead Can Dance were huge with the big-hair-and-black-eyeliner brigade, but in recent years, they've escaped the gloomy, gothic corridors of their youth for a sound that fuses Celtic folk, Middle Eastern percussion and otherworldly vocals. Directed by Mark Madgison, Toward the Within features live footage of the seven-member ensemble, interspersed with brief interviews of core members Brendan Perry and Elsa Lanchester-look-alike Lisa Gerard. It plays with Anima Mundi, a half-hour visual collage of natural environments from the creators of Koyaanisqatsi, set to music by Philip Glass. Catch the last day of the program's four-day run at the Red Vic at 2, 4, 7:15 and 9:20 p.m. 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.
Reynolds Price In 1962, Reynolds Price received the William Faulkner Award for his debut novel, A Long and Happy Life. Since then, he has published more than two dozen books, including Kate Vaiden, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1986. In the recently published A Whole New Life, Price gives a nonfiction account of his battle with spinal cancer; like Fenton Johnson's excellent Scissors, Paper, Rock, Price's latest fictional work -- The Promise of Rest -- focuses on loyalty and mortality within a Southern family. Hear Price read from Rest, the third panel of his trilogy A Great Circle, at 7 p.m. at Borders Books and Music, 400 Post, S.F. Free; call 399-1633.
Jewish Lit and Jewish Wit Edited by Alan Kaufman and published by Danny Shot, It's the Jews! A Celebration of New Jewish Visions contains musings on culture and identity by a varied cast of figures: George Segal, Larry Rivers, Adrienne Rich, Luis J. Rodriguez and more. Join some of the journal's West Coast cast of contributors -- including Josh Kornbluth, David Meltzer, Jack Hirschman, Alan Kaufman, Julia Vinograd and Vampyre Mike Kassel -- for a reception and reading. The performance/party begins at 8 p.m. at Place Pigalle, 520 Hayes, S.F. Free; call 567-6689.