For those of you who have dreamed of tripping the light fantastic, yet still trip over two left feet: Pull up a seat and study the masters at Bay Area Celebrates National Dance Week. Inaugurated in 1998, the weeklong celebration draws attention to the myriad movements -- ballet to belly dance, aerial to African -- practiced in what happens to be the largest per capita dance center in the nation. Sponsored by 300-plus artists and organizations as varied as Ballet San Francisco, Fat Chance Belly Dance, and Queer Jitterbugs, the hundreds of dance events promise to keep audiences of all ages and experience levels on pointe (or at least entertained) with classes, rehearsals, studio open houses, and performances. A highlight of the festival is the Bay Area Dance Awards (including the famous Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, aka the Izzies, April 26) honoring the region's top performers. The festival begins Friday (and continues through May 1) with a schedule including GlitterGirl and Temple of Poi Fire Dancers at 9 p.m. at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St. (at Townsend), S.F. Admission is free; call 561-1433 or visit www.bacndw.org.
-- Josh Rotter
Speaking verse to power
Righteous rhyme and rational reason, the sweet edge of childhood and the street beat of the city, the sass of poetic assonance and the razor wire of competitive sport: Worlds collide this weekend as Youth Speaks, a major local presenter of spoken-word performance, hosts Brave New Voices, an international youth poetry slam festival. Exploding on numerous local stages -- including Intersection for the Arts, ODC Theater, Theater Artaud, and Cell Space -- this multicultural, teenage-centered battle of the word is anchored by the revered Marc Bamuthi Joseph and includes performances by dead prez, O-Maya, Saul Williams, HBO Def Poetry Jam stars, Aya de León, and Danny Hoch. Get set for four days of spoken word, music, and slam poetry by hundreds of young poets from across the country. Wanna learn to play the game? Take a workshop with some of the big cats, then go and watch the kittens vie for the winning title. Admission to events is free-$25; call 255-9035 or visit www.youthspeaks.org.
-- Karen Macklin
The old song and dance
Legends and stories from Mexico's cultural history are celebrated in song and dance at "Noche de Cabaret: Canasta de Cuentos Mexicanos." One such episode is Los del 41, a modern dance piece inspired by injustices suffered by cross-dressers in 1901; another is the life of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 19th-century lesbian nun poet whose work will be read. A drag performance to the music of Astrid Hadad brings things into this century, but no matter the vintage, organizers (members of the Latino gay and bi men's group Aguilas) promise "a night of raw passion," beginning at 8 at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.sfaguilas.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
How can the human voice turn knees to jelly and send chills up spines? Investigate the vocal cords' limitless boundaries at "The Human Voice Explored," featuring human beat-box Kid Beyond, Tuvan throat-singer Seth Augustus, and avant-garde chanteuse Aurora Josephson. The concert ends with Organum, a multimedia game in which the singers' voices act as audio joysticks. It all begins at 8 p.m. at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $6-8; visit www.newlangtonarts.org.
-- Jane Tunks