If you've been waiting for the burlesque revolution to shimmy its way closer to you, then this is your week, toots, when two very different variety spectaculars hit the East Bay: Harlem Shake Burlesque's "Risqué Rhythms" (see "Performance"), and Martha's Scandalous Speakeasy Show and Sexy Cirque Extravaganza. Martha's, at Kimball's East (6005 Shellmound St., near the Emeryville Public Market) through April 11, fancies itself a sexy circus, with acts like aerialist Aloysia (late of Cirque du Soleil), Olaf the Clown, the Hot Pink Feathers putting the you-know-whats into "titillation," the soap-shaping Bubblesmith, acrobatics by studly Eric and Sagiv, ventriloquist act Dot Jones & Peanut, and more. Opening night tickets range from $29-$39; tickets for the rest of the run go as high as $79. Doors open at 6 p.m. for dinner and drinks (not included in ticket price), the entertainment starts at 7, and the big show begins at 8:30. This week, the show plays Friday-Sunday. Visit SFVaudeville.com for complete schedule. -- Stefanie Kalem
Who says a Korean-American novelist can't create a credible white protagonist? Chang-Rae Lee does exactly that, and demonstrates his literary chops all over again, in Aloft, whose Wonder-Bread suburbanite hero is anything but an outsider. Meet Lee at Cody's Southside (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Can't get enough of that Machiavellian stuff? Ex-actress and BBC Radio producer Sarah Dunant reawakens Renaissance Florence in her new historical novel The Birth of Venus, in which the city is up to its old tricks vis-à-vis passion, politics, and -- you'll never guess this one -- art. Meet the author at Rakestraw Books (reservations recommended; call 925-837-7337) (Thu., noon.). ... The Great Depression was a bummer, then they built Boulder Dam. In his debut novel Waterborne, Bruce Murkoff offers a saga of three Boulder-bound sojourners, each with a separate plan. He's at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... Outspoken ex-nun Karen Armstrong claims that angry Catholics have mailed her packages of poop. Now, in an evening sponsored by Cody's Books, the author of many bestsellers about world religions discusses her latest, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness -- a personal account of her own search for God -- at Berkeley's First Congregational Church (2345 Channing Way, entrance on Dana; $10 donation. For details, call 510-845-7852) (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Beat the high price of retail at the Friends of the Dublin Public Library secondhand book sale, all weekend -- then Monday is fill-a-bag-with-books-for-$4 day. The library provides the bags, but they're big (Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 1-5 p.m.; Mon., noon-8 p.m.). ... She explores exotica and erotica with equal sagesse: Meet travel writer and award-winning Oakland novelist Linda Watanabe McFerrin at the Faculty Lounge, Rothwell Center, Mills College (Tue., 5:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
The SF-based (but internationally franchised) Biotic Baking Brigade has pied everyone from Willie Brown to Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, Jean Chrétien to Bill Gates. Now the BBB brings Pie Any Means Necessary: The Biotic Baking Brigade Cookbook to the table, chock-full of recipes, instructions, communiqués, pertinent information and, we're sure, puns. Pick up some tossing tips from editor Agent Apple when he celebrates the book's release at AK Press (674-A 23rd St., Oakland) Thursday at 7 p.m. There will be vegan snacks and live music by the Infernal Noise Brigade. Free. Call 510-208-1700. -- Stefanie Kalem
Ragas? No Sweat
Usher in the gentle spring season with an evening of traditional North Indian music by two world-class musicians. G.S. Sachdev , who lives in San Rafael, is a master of the bansuri (Indian bamboo flute). He is joined onstage Saturday (7:30 sharp) at St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley (2727 College Ave.) by Calcutta-born tabla master Swapan Chaudhuri . Their concert is a benefit for NoSweatshops.org -- Kelly Vance
Steps to Praise
Dance Theater of the Gospel's spiritual movements
Innovation and creativity have cultivated a long and historic reputation when it comes to the expression of black folk. The ongoing chemistry of this artistic relationship continues to push everyday concepts of black culture past the boundaries of our familiars and the standard formats of surrounding influences. Maintaining this tradition, the Dance Theater of the Gospel is a new breed of performing artist dedicated to the glorification of God and the spiritual empowerment of the population, providing us with yet another spin of worship and Christian evangelism in their own version of the ever-growing popular art form and ministry of "praise dance." The praise dance performed by the theater "fuses contemporary modern and African dance to express gratitude toward the creator," says Jetaun DeArman, lead choreographer and founder of the nonprofit dance company. "I like to think that we are taking the concept of God outside the spiritual box ... revealing biblical truths and bringing those lessons to the spiritual battlefield of today's society."
And "outside the box" it is. In action, DTG moves beyond the clichéd genres of spirituals and gospel music, often incorporating contemporary music ranging from Nina Simone to Curtis Mayfield. Contrary to today's PG13 television shows and adult cartoons, DTG is a family production that welcomes all ages and faiths wanting to receive a wholesome spiritual dosage of art and expression.
Dance Theater of the Gospel performs Back to Eden "Genesis to Revelation" Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., at the Golden Gate Academy's Fisher Auditorium, 3800 Nelson Blvd., Oakland. For information, directions, and tickets, call 510-645-9822, visit DTGDance.org, e-mail Jetaun at firstname.lastname@example.org -- K'yinde Marcelous
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