Barroom Dance 

One for the dilettantes

THU 2/24

There's something about modern dance that makes ordinarily intelligent, perceptive people dissolve into bumbling dimwits. While the same folks could easily extract the meaning of a poetic passage or endlessly debate the subtleties of a Pavement song, they come up empty-handed when asked about dance. Could it be the absence of dialogue? Perhaps its lack of linear narrative? Maybe its idiosyncratic, graceful movements remind the audience that they certainly couldn't get their legs to akimbo quite so fetchingly. Oakland-based choreographer Randee Paufve and Paufve Dance Company aren't so easily dissuaded by these obstacles. Their performance, 8x8x8, works on the premise that if audience members can enjoy a band, even if they can't decipher a single, mumbled lyric, then they can also enjoy a modern-dance performance. Though the full meaning might not be entirely communicated, the gestures, emotion, and impetus behind the movement still come through. And it's especially well communicated when the dance pieces are performed in a familiar pub -- like the Starry Plough in Berkeley, this year's venue.

8x8x8 is searching for a different modern-dance audience -- the kind that's more likely to be found on a stool at the bar, peering out from behind a pint, than sitting with perfect posture in a darkened theater, Capezios gracefully crossed. The performance targets potential aficionados who've been curious about modern dance, but haven't been sure where to begin the quest for enlightenment. And if you can't bring the audience to the dance, you bring the dance to the audience.

The Plough's usual schedule of ceilidhs and poetry slams will be interrupted for a curated evening of cutting-edge choreography this Thursday. Eight choreographers -- Josie Alvite, Doyle Avant, Nina Haft, Jezebel Kuono'ono Lee, Megan Opel, Randee Paufve, Jill Holman Randall, and Lisa Townsend -- have designed performance pieces appropriate for an eight-by-eight-foot (or similarly small) space. And even if you're not sure what to expect from a modern-dance performance, you can count on seeing an eclectic array of work tonight. The choreographers in this year's 8x8x8 have a range of different styles -- from sinewy, athletic modern dance to theatrical performance art to butoh-based movement.

Doors open at 8 p.m., with the show starting at 8:30. Tickets are $8 at the door and please, since there will be drinks to hide behind, be over 21. For more information, visit StarryPloughPub.com or PaufveDance.org, or call 510-841-2082. – Elka Karl

3/1-4/3

To Kill ...

... or not to kill

Part of being a revolutionary is in knowing what role you will play; will you write manifestos, or carry a bomb? That's part of the central conflict in Albert Camus' The Just (Les Justes), wherein a band of five plot the assassination of the tsar's uncle in 1905 Russia. Some -- like the fierce Dora -- are more than willing to kill (and even die) for their cause. Others, not so much. See a preview of Shotgun Players' forthcoming production this Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage. For more info: ShotgunPlayers.org, 510-841-6500. – Stefanie Kalem

2/25-2/26

If the Shoe Fits ...

Poor Albert. He's got a homophobic stepmother and a pair of bitchier-than-thou sisters. How will he ever win the heart of Prince, adopted (and freshly questioning) son of the Castro's reigning queens? Yeah, you know the drill -- enter a golden-hearted vision in glitter and smoke (in this case, a drag star of a godmother) and voilá! You have Ron Lytle's gay-as-all-get-out musical Cinderella story, Oh My Godmother!, playing this weekend only at the Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda. This is a staged concert, which is basically a fully staged reading, with songs performed off-book. Shows are at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $10, available at Altarena.org, 510-523-1553. -- Stefanie Kalem

2/25-3/6

Giants to Hayward

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical Into the Woods, with its fairy-tale characters and its mild skepticism about them, has been around since it opened on Broadway in 1987. It's populated by Cinderella, Prince Charming, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, a giant that makes a "boom-squish" sound as he flattens the forest on his morning walks -- and, perhaps, you. The Cal State East Bay production of Into the Woods, directed by Kelly Ground, with musical direction by Marianna Wolf and choreography by Eric Kupers, opens Friday (8 p.m.) for five performances only through March 6, at the university theater, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward. Tix: $8-$14 from 510-885-3261. -- Kelly Vance

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