Space Cowboys In the four years since experimental jazz guru Sun Ra officially left this planet -- he always said he was just visiting from Saturn anyway -- members of his band, the 20-piece ever-evolving Arkestra, have carried on without him, bringing the choral chanting, mesmerizing light shows, elaborate costumes, unusual instruments, and intergalactic perspective to appreciative international audiences. The Deep Space Posse, a new quartet comprised of Arkestra alumni, has deep roots in musical eclecticism. Theremin and keyboard player Mike Powell has played with Meat Beat Manifesto and done studio remixes for the Butthole Surfers and Pete Townshend. Bassist George Cremaski has played with Cecil Taylor and Eugene Chadbourne. Drummer Kamau Seitu's Arkestra membership dates back to 1979, and trombonist Tyrone Hill, who has taken time off as the Arkestra's brass leader to tour with NRBQ, began his stint way back in 1971. The Posse will be playing the Starry Plough in Berkeley Thursday and the Justice League on Divisadero on Friday; tonight's concert of duet and quartet pieces begins at 8 p.m. at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10; call 454-1025.
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.