Sproing! Once you adjust to the notion that very fit people are supposed to be bouncing off the walls and flying into your face, you can relax and let Scott Wells & Dancers do their thing, which is an electrifying style of contact improv where every breath and grunt is audible, and every muscle contraction and bead of sweat is visible. Wells uses the walls and floor of 848's modest space to bring working dancers and audiences closer together, a fun little introduction to the partnered rolling, launching, and catching of bodies specific to the form. The show, which features music by Swiss folk group Seimmhorm, begins at 8:30 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at 848 Community Space, 848 Divisadero (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-3340.
Sheep Shot Look for the stuffed sheep when cartoonist Keith Knight autographs his new anthology Dances With Sheep: A K Chronicles Compendium at a book-release party, but don't expect the real thing unless Knight defies a number of city ordinances. The evening's regular entertainment includes a screening of German filmmaker Tom Kimmig's short film Jetzt Kommt ein Karton (And Now a Cartoon), which is based on three of Knight's comics, and performances by Uncle Ray, Stark Raving Brad, and Knight's own band, the Marginal Prophets, which won this year's WAMMIE Award in the hip hop category. K Chronicles, which began as a zine and now appears locally and in papers nationwide, is based on the San Francisco adventures of the artist/author, whose personable narratives have a distinctly local comic appeal, like his strip about trying to hide the pot plants, the bakehead roommate ("Hide me with the pot, please"), and the porn magazines littering his apartment when his dad flies into town for a visit. The book includes more than 120 unedited strips that Knight says papers turned down for content. That just means more fun, and more sheep, for everyone else. The party begins at 8 p.m. at the Chameleon, 853 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $3 (people dressed as sheep or bearing blow-up sheep are eligible for discounts); call 821-1891.
Jangle Belles Christmas music doesn't have to be unbearable, despite what seems like a conspiracy to make it so. Throw out traditional carols, which have been played beyond reason; toss all the insipid covers, Muzak versions, and advertising rewrites of same; ditch the faux traditional, like Mannheim Steamroller; dispense with cutesy novelty numbers and syrupy modern odes; and what's left over is sweet without being saccharine, or just off enough to be interesting (or groovy enough that KROQ fossil Rodney Bingenheimer will play it on his annual holiday radio show). Jane Siberry and Deanna Kirk, who perform at a release party for Siberry's CD Child -- Music for the Christmas Season, wouldn't sound entirely out of place on one of those "lite jazz" stations, but each singer throws us something unexpected just when we might have considered settling down for a long winter's nap. Kirk offers only one Christmas song on her new release, Where Are You Now: a cover of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which merits mention for good taste if not for the thumping bass and soaring horns of its cabaret styling. The Canadian Siberry, who has a storyteller's sense of humor and a backup band that can swing from Cajun to club jazz to klezmer, goes traditional with covers of "O Holy Night" and "What Child Is This?" but when she sings about the joys of hockey or breaks into the Hebrew shepherd's lament "Shir Amami," the soporific lull lifts. The shows begin at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $19; call 885-0750.
Cinderevelation As it turns out, things didn't get better for the world's most famous stepchild after she wed the prince, at least not in Cinderella, A Tale of Survival, the Dance Brigade's satiric sequel to the famous fairy tale. In this version, the abuse of Cinderella merely transfers hands, from her mean stepsisters to her new husband, a royal wife beater. The hapless Cindy winds up in a battered women's shelter, where she relives the cycle of abuse in a series of flashbacks. This may seem like heavy baggage to hang on a kids story, but choreographer Krissy Keefer maintains a sense of humor with a trio of renegade fairy godmothers, who appear swinging from trapezes, knitting the hole in the ravaged ozone layer, and offering Cinderella some kind of hope for a better tomorrow. Playwright Toni Press contributes the script and composer Ferron accompanies the piece live. Cinderella begins at 8 p.m. (also 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m. Sunday) at the Oakland Ensemble Theater in the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice (at 14th Street), Oakland. Admission is $16.50-18; call (510) 652-0752.
It's Kosher If Cirque du Soleil was too expensive and Big Top 23 was too weird and Ringling Brothers was too normal, there's still the New Pickle Circus, a home-grown institution with a new holiday show The Big Bang ... and other rude noises! in the works. Accompanied live by the Pickle Jazz Band, this animal-free one-ring show spins traditional circus acts, drama, dance, and comedy into a story about circus performers suddenly catapulted into space, where they encounter aliens and heroes, and get a glimpse at the Earth's past and future. Lu Yi of China's Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe designed this year's acrobatics, which include a performance by juggling Chinese acrobat Wang Hong. Canadian trick cyclist Sylvain Dubois, of Quebec's Cirque Eloise, and aerialist Aloysia Gavre-Wareham foray into this new universe accompanied by slack-wire artist Jamie Adkins, clowns Stephanie Thompson and Joe Krienke, and a colorful Pickle cast. The show previews at 7:30 p.m. (and continues through Jan. 4) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Preview admission is $7-18 through Dec. 18; regular admission is $12-22. Call 441-3687.
Truth Be Told Since so many people from here aren't from here, Rodney O'Neal Austin's exhibit "Now Entering Beavercreek, Ohio" ought to ring true for viewers who've toyed with dual identities and conflicting allegiances, geographical and otherwise. With a visual diary of photos, writings, video, and self-portrait faux animation cels, Austin offers a travelogue through his hometown and a portrait of the people and places that helped shape who he is today: a self-described "gender illusionary" and the singer for queer country-punk band Minnie Pearl Necklace. Illusion also figures into the group show "To Be Real," with Mark Bennet's literal blueprints of fictional places like the houses of I Love Lucy and Happy Days, which people might think of as real after seeing them for so many years on TV. Conceptual artist Roxy Paine, meanwhile, reduces the larger-than-life reputations of famous despots by setting tables of their favorite meals. "To Be Real" and "Beavercreek" show with Scott Williams' large-scale installation on a futuristic San Francisco landscape, done in stencils, found objects, and recycled newspaper images, and Hunter Reynolds' photoweavings and the Memorial Dress worn by his alter ego, Patina du Prey, to commemorate World AIDS Day. The exhibits officially open today at 11 a.m. (accompanied by a discussion series and the film and video series "It's All True!") at the Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 978-ARTS. "It's All True!" an opening/preview party featuring a karaoke lounge and performance by Austin, is held at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at the center. Admission is $10; call 978-ARTS.
Old-Time Religion The archival exhibit "Sacred Art and Books of Tibet" represents 1,000 years' worth of Buddhist religious tradition and the changes wrought by China's 1950 invasion and subsequent occupation of Tibet, which prompted fleeing refugees to spirit much of the work out of the country on their backs. Berkeley's Dharma Publishing has reprinted mandalas, selected texts, and sacred art in over 775 atlas-size, hand-bound, illustrated volumes over the last 25 years in an effort to salvage Tibetan Buddhist history and tradition. An exhibit of selections from those volumes opens with a reception at 2 p.m. (and is up through Jan. 31) in the Latino-Hispanic Community Meeting Room, New Main Library, 100 Larkin (at Market), S.F. Admission is free. Lectures related to the exhibit follow in the next few weeks; call 557-4282 for more information.
Clubland Christmas If the holidays sound more palatable with a drink in hand and a crowd gathered 'round, consider these options, which ought to make even a school night bright: Cafe Du Nord celebrates Christmas kitsch when "downhear Lounge" cabaret regulars the Tiki Torches perform at an employee party open to the public. DJ IJ spins and employees rub elbows with regular folk at this shindig, which begins at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is a $5 donation or a gift of a toy or canned goods; call 861-5016. As far as Sista Monica is concerned, Christmas means the blues, and she can't be the only one who feels that way. The "Christmas Blues/CD Release Party" for her self-titled recording offers seasonal cheer with songs like "Stop Talkin' 'Bout Me Stalkin' You" and "I'm Unhappy You're Unhappy With Me," capped by the "Amazing Grace/Motherless Child" medley done in soulful gospel a cappella. The release party begins at 8 p.m. at Yoshi's, Jack London Square, 510 Embarcadero West (at Washington), Oakland. Admission is $10; call (510) 238-9200.
Marshall Stacks Photographer Jim Marshall wasn't one of those kids who hopped a VW van and made an interstate pilgrimage to San Francisco's Summer of Love; he had already grown up in the Fillmore and honed his technique taking natural-light shots of resident artists in the North Beach coffeehouses where he loved to hang out. By the time the acid-rock revolution did hit, he'd already developed a rapport with some of its main players, and it shows in his candid shots of Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix, and in the lone shot of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin together, although he's also taken pictures of jazz giants like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He was the principal photographer at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, and the only photographer granted backstage access at the Beatles' last concert. His duo-tone photos of musicians ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Muddy Waters appear in the forthcoming book Not Fade Away; an exhibit of photos from the book opens with a reception at 6 p.m. (and is up through Dec. 31) at the Serge Sorokko Gallery, 231 Grant (at Post), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-7770.