The guys who settled Boston didn't like dance because they thought the expressive body was as dangerous as the devil himself. Their contemporary cronies, like our man Ashcroft, probably don't like it much better. But wiser cultures than ours have looked upon dance as the quintessential bridge between the sacred and the profane. For Hawaiians, the dancing body passes on their history and lore, while for Hindus it links sex and the divine. Sometimes it's even been endowed with the power to stop the grossest evils, as it does for the Balinese in this weekend's return engagement of Kawit Legong: Prince Karna's Dream by the mesmerizing music and dance troupe, Gamelan Sekar Jaya, under the direction of Wayne Vitale, together with some of Bali's greatest artists. Kawit Legong is the story of Prince Karna, who is facing the imminent death of his father the king. When the king dies, the bereaved Karna goes to a temple to meditate and stirs up supernatural forces that try to divert his concentration. He proves his meditative powers can't be shaken, so he's allowed to witness a divine vision: a dance by two animated stone nymphs that is celestial and beautiful in the extreme. When he brings the dance to his people, and dancers learn it, the divine speaks through one of them to tell the prince that demons are spreading an epidemic in part of the kingdom under the influence of the witch Rangda. A ferocious battle breaks out, and the voice tells Karna that only dance, music, and ceremony will counter Rangda. The Kawit Legong dance becomes Karna's divine surface-to-air missile that slays all the demons and brings peace back to his land. The production is made magical by gigantic shadow puppetry and the hypnotic sound cloud that only a gamelan orchestra casts. Go see Kawit Legong, and then let's start dancing. Maybe we can slay some national demons of our own.
Performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22, with a pre-performance talk by director Vitale at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets ($18, $24, $30) from 510-642-9988 or from www.calperfs.berkeley.edu -- Ann Murphy
No War Today, Thanks
No one should be surprised that legendary Beat poet and North Beach seer Lawrence Ferlinghetti is vehemently opposed to the gathering war storm. He's been proclaiming his solidarity with "nutless Nagasaki survivors" ever since the glory days of the Beatniks in the '50s. But Ferlinghetti won't be alone when Words Not Wars: The Arts of Diplomacy and Dissent takes the stage Tuesday night at the Unitarian Universalists' Hall (1924 Cedar St., Berkeley). The spoken-word/music/slide show/political rally features protest photos, live original music by an acoustic trio, readings by poets including Ferlinghetti, speeches by human rights advocate Rita Maran and others, and plenty of Bay Area outrage. It begins at 5:30 p.m. Info: 510-632-8530. -- Kelly Vance
The Impossible Dream
If you've ever pondered the meaning of the phrase "tilting at windmills," simply sit down to coffee with an ex-dot-commer. But, since you're going to be picking up the check anyway, you may as well lay out thirty bucks or so and see Dale Wasserman's delusion-within-a-play-within-a-play, Man of La Mancha, at the Willows Theatre (1975 Diamond Blvd. in the Willows Shopping Center, Concord). The rape of Aldonza makes it adult fare, but the musical, philosophical, and comic elements make the Tony award-winner a classic. There's a preview performance Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., or attend opening night Friday at 8. Check out www.willowstheatre.org or call 925-798-1300. -- Stefanie Kalem
Michael Jackson paid a witch doctor some exorbitant sum to hex Steven Spielberg for not casting him as Peter Pan in Hook. Well, at least Pinocchio is still sacred enough to retain its innocence through modern mutation (even in the hands of goofy Roberto Benigni). In Hey Ho, Pinocchio, Eleanor and Ray Harder's musical adaptation of the Carlo Collodi fairy tale, the Blue Fairy and a certain hipster cricket help our wooden hero past temptation and trouble, teaching him to be honest and careful of others on his way to real boyhood. East Bay Children's Theatre presents it at the Oakland Museum's James Moore Theatre (1000 Oak St.) at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets cost $6. 510-655-7285. -- Stefanie Kalem