Dreaming Is Destiny 

Destiny Arts tackles big social issues in its 20th anniversary performance.

Kids who want to dance with Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company have to go through an intense vetting process, starting with a four-hour audition that requires them to learn one monologue and two choreographed dance pieces on the spot, and culminating after seven months of rigorous training. In the end, Destiny winds up with a pretty stellar group of performers and a multidisciplinary dance piece. This year's piece, called Dreaming Awake: excerpts from a lucid mind, mixes hip-hop, modern, and aerial dance with video and spoken word, all hewn around an original storyline. Artistic directors Sarah Crowell and Simón Hanukai describe it as an elaborate work with some elemental social messages.

Dreaming Awake opens at Emeryville's Bay Street Mall, where a girl named Milah (played by sixteen-year-old Arianna Butler) is shopping with her family. As we later find out, Milah is a modern-day Cassandra, cursed with prophecies that no one wants to hear. While the rest of her family window-shops, she's paralyzed by visions of people coming up from the ground. They turn out to be members of the Ohlone tribe who emerged to protest the new shopping mall, which lies on top of their sacred shellmound. Since Milah is the only person who can see them, the Ohlone try to use her as an emissary — which results in Milah getting carted off to some type of institution. But she keeps visioning: about inequities in the health-care system, about efforts to stem the production of electric cars, about the unsustainable practices of mega-corporations. With the help of a few spiritual guides she's able to withstand all the naysayers and become her own lady of rage.

The high-school-age members of Destiny Arts wrote the script together, using several recent documentaries (e.g., Michael Moore's Sicko, Chris Paine's Who Killed the Electric Car?, Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff, and Andrés Cediel's Shellmound) as inspiration. Crowell and Hanukai said their writing process began with a series of roundtable discussions about what issues affect youth today. They put the story together piecemeal, choreographing several dances before creating the principal characters, and chipping away at the storyline until it had a beginning, middle, and end. Dreaming Awake runs March 27 through April 5 at Laney College Theater (900 Fallon St., Oakland). $12-$20. Benefit gala Saturday, Mar. 28 includes reception, dinner, and performance ($100). 510-597-1619 ext. 108, or DestinyArts.org

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