The Rights of Spring Amnesty International's monthlong Human Rights Arts Festival kicked off with the painting and drawing exhibit "Unthinkable Tenderness: The Art of Human Rights" at S.F. State, and will culminate in author Alice Walker's address on the relationship between creative endeavors and human rights, which she'll deliver to delegates at Amnesty's general meeting March 21 at the Cathedral Hill Hotel. At Labayen Dance/S.F. in Concert, the first performing arts program of the festival, Eastern and Western influences assert themselves in the repertory of choreographer Enrico Labayen, whose awareness of human rights abuses began when he lived under martial law in the Marcos regime-era Philippines. Labayen studied ballet and modern dance after immigrating to the States in 1971, but immersed himself in Filipino history, politics, and culture on a return trip to his country in 1988. His dancers, on pointe and in bare feet, perform Damas, a ceremonial women's dance based on an Asian matriarchal ritual, and Quatro, which invokes the pointe shoe-as-weapon in a power play between the sexes. Guest choreographer Fabrice Lemire contributes pas de deux Daphnis and Chloe to the show, which begins at 8 p.m. tonight (and runs through Sunday) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $12.50-20; call 441-3687. Additional festival attractions include Vanessa Redgrave in the one-woman show Planet Without a Visa March 20 at the Herbst Theater and Phil Borges' photo exhibit on tribal cultures, "The Enduring Spirit," opening March 19 at the Studio Gallery; for more information on festival events, call 291-9233.
Fine Folk The lusty spirit of Carnaval spills over with a visit from Bale Folclorico da Bahia, Brazil's only professional folk dance company. West African cultural influences, drawn from the West African slaves the Portuguese brought into Brazil, materialize in dances that doubled as self-defense: capoeira, a kind of gymnastic martial art filled with cartwheeling and spinning kicks; and maculeé, ostensibly a harvest dance done on sugar cane plantations by dancers wielding cane stalks and machetes. There are celebratory dances, too, like the Puxada de Rede (Fisherman's Dance), with women swimming like fish into the hoop-skirted net of the goddess of the sea, and the Samba Reggae, which, with its raucous dance beat, may remind viewers of Carnaval revels past. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-30; call (510) 642-9988.
Give a Man a Fish Everybody loves radical thinkers, later, after they're dead, and the two-day lecture and performance festival Darwin's Menagerie: Victorians, Sociobiologists, and Other Threatened Species will celebrate one of the most admired and despised thinkers of any age. Before Charles Darwin offered his evolutionary theory in The Origin of the Species in 1859, natural history was the study of species created by God. Humanities West brings together scholars who trace the evolution of Darwin's thinking and its popularity (in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Degler's lecture "The Rise and Decline of Darwinism in American Social Thought 1859-1935"), coupled with performances like ACT veteran Peter Donat's one-man show on Darwin's controversial perspective, A Somewhat Eccentric Contribution to the Proceedings. The event begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday at 10 a.m.) at Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $20-30; call 391-9700.
Ceilidh Me Softly With Their Songs The seven-piece band KiLA, from Dublin, sings most of its songs in Gaelic, but the music has a surprisingly international flavor. Maybe the language barrier for non-Gaelic-speaking audiences focuses extra attention on the infectious, percussive rhythms, the swoop of slide bodhran and the rattle of shakers punctuating the pounding bass drum and soaring horn refrain on "in Taobh Tuathail Amach," or the teasing lilt of fiddle, mandolins, and bouzouki in the Gypsy-ish "Rusty Nails." KiLA make their second U.S. appearance at the Celtic Music and Arts Festival, a two-day cultural event where Celtic goes traditional with the jigs and reels of concertina player Mary MacNamara, and gets adventuresome with the Lahawns, Galway's "MTV Ceilli band," so described for the way they infuse ancient music with a funk backbeat. Other highlights include Irish music pioneer and Elvis Costello producer Donal Lunny and his all-star band, a series of music workshops, folk dancing with the Kennelly Dancers, and a Celtic marketplace. Activities begin at noon (also Sunday) at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$20; call 392-4400. If that isn't enough to satisfy yearnings for all things Irish, there's always Irish Poetry Night, a reading with Jon Greene, Frank Holt, Joe Kelly, and Nancy Keane, plus Irish dancing and a limerick contest, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Keane's 3300 Club, 3300 Mission (at 29th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 333-3494.
That's Entertainment Tonight's "Sounds of San Francisco" triple-header isn't just any old jam; it's A Tribute to Paul Weller, the genius behind the Jam and their sometimes acid, sometimes bittersweet brew of British pop and blue-eyed soul. Mod Lang recording artists the Kinetics, formerly the Supernaturals, and the Loved Ones before that, are naturals for this gig -- a quintet who love Mersey Beat and vintage pop, equipped with keyboard and horns and known for instigating impromptu dance parties by slipping into '60s-style R&B grooves midway through a hummable melody. Tom, Dick, & Harry take a similar route, invoking Curtis Mayfield and the English Beat. Helium Angel share the bill, during which all the bands will play selections from the Jam, Style Council, and solo Weller songbooks. DJs Kirk and Kitty English spin between sets at the show, which begins at 9 p.m. at 330 Ritch, 330 Ritch (at Townsend), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 541-9574.
Dead Man Squawking In Sam Shepard's musical mystery Suicide in B-Flat, two detectives investigating a death are haunted by the ghost of an improvisational jazz musician. The show played to sell-out crowds at the Justice League, where it debuted, and now the local talent who imbued Suicide with such cool comic appeal -- including percussionist Josh Jones, singer Scheherazade Stone, bassist Marcus Shelby, and actors Sean San Jose, Kelvin Han Yee, and John Robb -- give a little something back at a return engagement, which opens with a Benefit for UC Berkeley's Young Musicians Program. The YMP Young Lions Jazz Combo and the Berkeley High School Jazz Combo demonstrate the benefits of the program, which serves talented low-income youngsters, with sets before the show, and the Bay Area Jazz All-Stars, including Dimitri Matheny and Will Bernard, cap off the evening's entertainment. It all begins at 7 p.m. (Suicide in B-Flat continues through March 25) at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $25-50; call 255-0333.
The Last Word Former prima ballerina Maria Tallchief, a Kennedy Center honoree, spent most of her life onstage and has continued to find herself there long after her 1965 retirement. Separating her professional career from her personal life is tempting but nigh impossible, as her appearance at Words on Dance should prove. Beginning with the cultural influences she absorbed on the Oklahoman Osage Indian reservation where she spent her childhood, Tallchief's dancing has been shaped by a whirlwind of outside forces: her family's move to L.A., where she became a Nijinska protege; her stint at MGM; her teen-age performances with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in Europe, where she was treated as an exotic attraction; her duty-bound marriage to New York City Ballet's George Balanchine, who made her his third wife and muse; her affair with a young Nureyev; and ballets like Firebird and Allegro Brillante, which still bear her leggy, dazzling imprint. Tallchief and 22-year San Francisco Ballet veteran Evelyn Cisneros, who's danced many of the same roles, swap stories and compare notes on rare film clips of Tallchief partnered by Nureyev and others. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $12-35; call 978-ARTS.
Chopin Goes Cha-Cha-Cha Baseball players aren't the only Cuban stars to have sidestepped America's no-travel policy through the intervention of prominent Americans: When pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba applied for a visa so that he and his band could play Lincoln Center and the Grammys two years ago, Dizzy Gillespie's widow, Wynton Marsalis, and Bill Cosby threw the considerable collective weight of their celebrity behind his request. The band was denied access but Rubalcaba was granted entry, and he played solo at both shows, giving Americans a live taste of his range, which spans Afro-Cuban and Caribbean dance rhythms, elements of romantic classical music, and American bebop and modern jazz. Bassist Jeff Chambers and former Gillespie drummer Ignacio Berroa back up Rubalcaba at a live local show beginning at 8 p.m. (the trio's run continues through March 15) at Yoshi's, Jack London Square, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Admission is $5-15; call (510) 238-9200.