New York City may be the world's dance capital, but San Francisco has the Big Apple's best ballet company on loan this week, along with so many other performances on the horizon that the Bay Area is looking like a serious contender. Homegrown company shows include the second week of Lines Contemporary Ballet, along with Oakland Ballet's season opener, featuring the company premiere of The Emperor and the Nightingale, based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale; Berkeley City Ballet, meanwhile, revives modern dance innovator Charles Weidman's Brahms Waltzes. Then there's Le Ballet National du Senegal, a dazzlingly costumed West African dance company whose show Pangols adapts the griot's art of storytelling to movement and music -- provided here by a live ensemble of drums and traditional instruments.
As a kind of primer for the Paul Taylor Dance Company's performances later this season, its training ensemble Taylor 2 performs company standards like Company B and Profiles in a show with modern dance iconoclast Molissa Fenley. And to celebrate the 50th anniversary of New York City Ballet, former principal dancers Merrill Ashley and Peter Martins, now the company's director, offer Balanchine anecdotes and discuss the history of the company and of ballet at "Words on Dance," which features film clips of the pair dancing singly and as partners. NYCB will stage work by Balanchine (Agon), Robbins (The Concert), and Martins (Fearful Symmetries), the successor to that formidable choreographic legacy. Oakland Ballet opens 8 p.m. Friday at Valley Center for the Performing Arts, Holy Names College, 3500 Mountain, Oakland. Admission is $11-39; call (510) 286-8914. Berkeley City Ballet opens 8 p.m Friday at Berkeley Arts/On Stage!, 1800 Dwight, Berkeley. Admission is $7.50-25; call (510) 841-8921. Le Ballet National du Senegal opens 8 p.m Saturday at the Marin Center, Civic Center (at North San Pedro), Marin. Admission is $16-28; call 472-3500. Taylor 2 and Molissa Fenley open 8 p.m. Saturday at the Haas Pavilion, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur, Oakland. Admission is free-$12; call (510) 430-2175. "Words on Dance" begins 8 p.m. Monday at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $15-30; call 392-4400. New York City Ballet opens 8 p.m. Tuesday at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $34-60; call (510) 642-9988.
-- Heather Wisner