Spin Cycle Over 70 whirling dervishes and musicians from the United States, Canada, and Turkey will step to Allah and surrender themselves to divine love when the Mevlevi Order of America, a spiritual group dedicated to the teaching of Sufi practices, presents the sacred Sema ceremony. The tall felt hats the whirling dervishes wear represent the tombstone of the ego; their long white flaring skirts, called tenures, are meant to be the ego's shroud. Before the dervishes begin whirling, they take off their black cloaks to signify that they are spiritually reborn. The dancing, which isn't usually open to the public, has been done for over 700 hundred years on or near Dec. 17 to commemorate the day of the death of the Middle Eastern poet Rumi, who started the devotional and meditative ritual in Turkey after his encounters with a wandering mystic. Dervishes spin from left to right, toward the heart, and the secret of not getting dizzy or sick is evidently to lead with the heart rather than the head or the gut. Telling, no? The show, which features classical Turkish music, poetry, singing, and whirling, begins at 8 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakland. Admission is $10-15; call (510) 594-4020.
Stocking Stuffers Forget about dancing sugarplums and dueling mice at the Smuin Ballets/S.F. show The Christmas Ballet. Choreographer Michael Smuin forgoes the story ballet for a series of 26 divertissements infused with comic overtones and a jazzy sensibility. Traditionalists get Palestrina and Mozart; balletomanes who like their holiday concerts with a twist get Eartha Kitt and Elvis. This year's edition of the two-part show, which divvies up over two dozen short dances into "The Classical Christmas" and "The Cool Christmas" sections, offers an earful of new music, including the 16th-century Spanish piece "Riu, riu, chiu," the Ray Charles/Betty Carter duet "Baby It's Cold Outside," and Jimmy Durante doing "Frosty the Snowman." The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Dec. 30) at Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $25-30; call 978-2787.
Noh Way Ebenezer Scrooge becomes "Sukurooji Ebizo" (go ahead, sound it out) in Theater of Yugen's Noh Christmas Carol, a revision of the Charles Dickens tale that moves the action from Victorian-era London to rural northern Japan in the 1890s, and uses elements of traditional Japanese theater -- noh, kabuki, kyogen, butoh, Japanese folk dance, puppetry, and masks -- to deliver the essential message of the original. Sukurooji is whisked off on an unnerving journey through his life by three ghosts who show him the pitfalls of avarice and the benefits of compassion through a series of creatively costumed movement-based scenes. Butoh dancer Kinji Hayashi plays the ghost of Mashima Jakubei (Jacob Marley) and Mikio Hirata, who appeared most recently in the Yugen production of Salome, is Sukurooji. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Dec. 28) at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, 620 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $12-22; call 474-8800.
Revival of the Fittest If it is the job of a film festival to screen the best work submitted to it each year, the Multicultural Film and Video Festival takes the process a step further by showing the best of each festival's best. Representatives from Cine Acción, the American Indian Film Institute, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, the Jewish Film Festival, and other local fests handpicked works to represent their festivals at this four-day screening blitz, which is broken down into themed programs like "Love, Death, and the Spaces in Between." A random survey of the contents turns up the following: Two or Three Things But Nothing for Sure, the story of author Dorothy Allison's rough life, and Raymond's Portrait, a documentary on Raymond Hu, a teen-age artist with Down's syndrome who has exhibited his work nationally (both films at 9 p.m. tonight); Sunflowers, a documentary on gay life in a small Filipino farming community (Friday 6:45 p.m.); and Badass SuperMama, a young African-American woman's search for identity set against clips from '70s blaxploitation films (9 p.m. Sunday). The festival begins tonight at 6:45 with the program "Exposing the Negative and Positive," which includes Aaron Woolfolk's Rage, about a young man and a police officer whose fates have reversed since their first meeting, and Blacks and Jews, Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman's documentary on relations between the two groups. Programs begin each night at 6:45 and 9 p.m. through Sunday at the Center for the Arts Media Screening Room, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 978-ARTS. In addition, the festival program "Mixed Matches" begins at 8 p.m. Friday at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Call 824-3890.
Worth the Weight Now that the airlines are limiting holiday travelers to one carry-on item, the Luggage Store Gallery's sixth annual juried exhibit picks up the slack with "Psychic, Spiritual, Physical, and/or Emotional Baggage." The artists of this group show work with all media and a vivid emotional palette to expound on the idea that folks are schlepping more than just a suitcase when they go home to Mom. Expect to find Val Russell's self-portrait with chocolate raspberry syrup, Sandra Ortiz-Taylor's small shopping cart, M.D. Stutz's recycled Budweiser head, and Andrew Phares' mangled rubber duckie. Performances related to the theme will be presented throughout the six-week run, and cash and prizes will be raffled off when the exhibit opens with a reception tonight at 5 p.m. at the Luggage Store, 1007 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 255-5971.