Grave Scenes 

Nina Haft tiptoes through the tombstones.

Mountain View Cemetery means different things to different people. It's a graveyard, to be sure, but it's also a stunning park, a goth teenager's dream, a hot spot for rough trade (we hear), and a bucolic lesson in local history. But for choreographer and longtime Oakland resident Nina Haft, Mountain View is an ideal place for a dance production contemplating and celebrating life force and the human body, Mountain Views: Still/Life with Dancing, the latest in her series of "Dance in Unexpected Places." Says Haft, "In theaters, the invisible fourth wall places viewers in a dark, stationary chair, and underscores the idea that dance is for special people or by invitation only." Previous installations have occurred at a synagogue, a children's library, and on the dock of the ARTSHIP in Oakland. So far her favorite performance has been one her company did in front of Oakland City Hall. "Passersby became part of the choreography, and then had a most unusual lunch hour!"

Mountain Views, featuring 38 dancers and musicians, is presented as a journey through the chakras, from an opening meditation to a piece regarding "the crown of the head and wisdom that is distilled through loss, endurance, and larger perspective." There will be live musical accompaniment by Accordion Works, playing a piece by Arvo Pärt arranged for eight accordions; and by the Dreamscape Arts youth ensemble, performing a composition by their conductor, Kevin Cato. Haft describes the musical pieces as warm and lively, respectively, and that's apt since the audience should dress cozily and be prepared to stand and walk to several locations throughout the cemetery, including up the hill. An alternate viewing route will be available for people who need it, and rain cancels.

"I hope that viewers will feel like they went on a very special tour of the cemetery," Haft says, "where extraordinary things revealed themselves and then disappeared again." Mountain View Cemetery is located at 5000 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. The free performances, on May 1 and 2 at 7 p.m. and May 8 at 4 p.m., begin promptly, so please arrive early. Info: 510-595-8388.


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