Art Collab

Depending on whom you ask, the Bay Area art world is either a major world center for creative innovation or a self-referential backwater prone to tunnel vision. If it’s possible for it to be both simultaneously, the multidisciplinary San Francisco International Arts Festival is well poised to address the dichotomy. Not content to simply import international touring artists for limited local engagements, founder Andrew Wood wants to get local and international artists collaborating on projects. This year's fest, the fifth, features theater, music, dance, and visual artists from 25 countries appearing alongside their Bay Area counterparts in nine venues throughout the city.

At the heart of the festival are 15 days of free lunchtime concerts in Union Square. This week you can catch AscenDance Project, a group of dancers/mountaineers out to prove that climbing can be as thrilling to watch as it is to practice, apparently as much for reasons of sheer imperilment as aesthetic appeal — no ropes on this set. Also on the dance slate is Speaking Chinese from Shanghai company Reckless Moments and Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater, along with Madrid’s Compania Y in a multilingual number called Oust, created in partnership with the local freewheeling Dandelion Dance Theater. You’ll be much less annoyed if you come to the latter prepared to be “displaced” from your seat throughout the evening; the company’s goal is to give audiences a taste of what war refugees experience. Opera fans will want to check out Mordake, a one-man premiere created by S.F. composer Erling Wold and German computer engineer Frieder Weiss and starring tenor John Duykers, about a man plagued by a voice coming from a woman’s face on the back of his head. On the music front, Han Rae Sook, South Korea’s rising prodigy of the kayageum (12-string zither), makes her U.S. debut.

Today's events begin at noon with AscenDance Project's Levitate at Union Square (Geary and Stockton), S.F. Admission is free.
May 21-June 8, 2008

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