This year, the fest -- which includes about 30 companies -- has a three-week theme: "Beginnings, Journeys, and Transformations." In week one, "Beginnings" offers up dances that invoke a sense of creation and renewal. Alameda-based dancer Nitya Venkateswaran's Southern Indian piece, Shiva Shakti, fits that bill. Performed in the classical, religious style of bharata natyam, this fast-paced work evokes images of the goddess Shakti, the divine feminine force who inspired creation. Also this week, Dimensions Dance Theater pays homage to the African diaspora with Rhythm Harvest, which combines traditional African dance with contemporary choreography to take us across the Atlantic, from Africa to the Americas; and Hearan Chung's Korean "creation dance," titled Bi Chun Mu and inspired by ancient Buddhist and Shamanic teachings, portrays the revolving cycle of death and rebirth through images of birds and flight.
One sample from "Journeys," week two, is the Jubilee American Dance Theatre's Cajun A Fais Do Do, which incorporates influences from Louisiana's early settlers: black Creoles, North American Indians, German Jews, and other Europeans. Using good home-cooked storytelling, it starts with a gathering of locals at the social hall followed by the communal singing of a lullaby to put the babies to sleep. Then a waltz, an upbeat contra, and a Cajun two-step.
In the third week, "Transformations," the San Jose-based Chinese Performing Artists of America hit home with Moon Courting. Though marriage was traditionally arranged in China, certain minority cultures allowed kids some say in the matter. Riffing on old courting rituals, this work depicts scenes of eligible bachelors vying for the hand of a sweet young thing who keeps them all at arm's (and leg's) length. At one point, a young guy gets tossed into a room with too many cuties and can't figure out how to pick only one. Some themes, it seems, defy the passage of time.