Dance: Embrace the Tutu, Respect the Trolley

Smuin Ballet 2013-2014 Season

XXtremes, Oct. 4-March 29, 2014, Palace of Fine Arts

XXmas, Nov. 22-Dec. 28, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, smuinballet.org

San Francisco's homegrown and self styled "American ballet company" prepares for its 20th season with a renewed sense of vigor and purpose. It brings us stories of loss, desire, and paradox with XXtremes, and its traditional holiday production, XXmas.

Highbrow: This is ballet. Art form of the Italian Renaissance, favorite of royals, snobs, and pushy moms the world over. If the brow gets any higher it will take a ladder to reach.

Lowbrow: The company's emphasis on American culture creates work that speaks to everyday life, and sometimes leads to a casual esthetic. XXtremes, for example, features a piece set to the music of country star Patsy Cline, and XXmas explores the sexier, wilder side of the holidays.

San Francisco International Hip-Hop Dancefest

Nov. 15-17, Palace of Fine Arts, sfhiphopdancefest.com

There is a lot more to hip-hop dance than headspins or the robot, and the San Francisco International Hip-Hop Dancefest has been proving that for 15 years. It was the world's first festival dedicated strictly to hip-hop and street dance, and is an annual rite for the local hip-hop community.

Highbrow: Dancefest founder Micaya brings a curatorial focus to this improvisational art form. Groups are auditioned months in advance, with bonus points for incorporating spoken word, theater, or other performance styles into their hip-hop swagger. The festival's setting in the Palace of Fine Arts helps drive home its artistic ambitions.

Lowbrow: The program runs on hip-hop time, and tends to kick off with a "soul train"-style dance circle. And any show where the crowd screams out their area codes before half the numbers can't be all that fancy.

After the Tone

Sept. 14, 15, and 20, Exit Theater, theexit.org

Cara Rose DeFabio's After the Tone takes a critical look at how digital technology is changing society, but avoids becoming another rant from a neo-Luddite. The play incorporates the same tools it critiques into the show, which is conducted entirely through cellphones and Snapchats.

Highbrow: This is definitely theater for the millennial generation. It should appeal to the well-heeled Twitterati, or anyone who absolutely must have the latest Android/iPhone-in-gold techno toy.

Lowbrow: DeFabio isn't afraid to break barriers. The play involves coarse language and nudity, and participants will be encouraged to download and use Snapchat during the show — not your typical theater etiquette.

Dimensions Dance Theater: Fierce, Feisty, Forty

Oct. 5, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, dimensionsdance.org

Dimensions focuses on African and African-American dance styles, but also incorporates a broad range of arts from those populations. It celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with a showcase of previous works, and the premiere of Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line.

Highbrow: While it doesn't always get the credit it deserves, African dance is a legitimate style of technical dance, and takes years of training to master. Many of the techniques seen in modern, jazz, contemporary and, of course, hip-hop dance, have their roots in African styles of movement.

Lowbrow: Dimension's work tells stories of class, struggle, and history. It explored racial tension between communities in a collaboration with the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company, and told the real story behind the often-misunderstood Black Panther Party in Project Panther/Phase 1: All Power to the People. Artistic Director Deborah Vaughan's travels in Congo inspired Rhythms of Life, which traces Congolese music from Africa to Brazil, and then on to North America via New Orleans.

Trolley Dances

Oct. 19-20, tours begin at the Market St. Railway Museum, epiphanydance.org

Now an established tradition of the San Francisco dance scene, Trolley Dances celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Created by Epiphany Production's Kim Epifano, it features a series of contemporary dance performances at Muni stops and on rail lines.

Highbrow: The show books some of the best dancers and performers in the Bay Area. This year has regulars Inkboat and Epiphany Productions returning, and past years have featured members of Sweet Can Circus, the all-female hip-hop troupe Mix'd Ingrdnts, and the Joe Goode Performance Group.

Lowbrow: The only cost for Trolley Dances is a Muni ticket. That makes it accessible to average folks, rich and poor "start-up bros," and even that naked BART guy.

 
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