War Dance 

Stravinsky ballet premieres in WC

SAT 9/20

The Bay Area's September dance card has never been so jammed. While New York is only beginning to climb out from under its weird August weather and warm up the dance stages, here the sweat is already flying and the excitement building for a season that has everything from premieres by Mark Morris and Akram Khan to the long-awaited arrival of the Kirov Ballet. With so many must-see out-of-towners on the boards, it's important not to forget the locals, who often work in relative obscurity for a good part of the year in exchange for 120 minutes of stage time over a single weekend or, if they're especially lucky, over a couple of weekends. Among them is one of the few Bay Area chamber ballet troupes, which goes by the very '40s-style name of Company C, almost the same name as Paul Taylor's paean to WWII (Company B). But that's about as far as the shared characteristics go. Charles Anderson's Company C Contemporary Ballet is modeled on the geometric lines and neoclassical elegance of New York City Ballet, where Anderson danced from 1985 to 1993 and, like any neoclassicist worthy of the name, his dances usually make the music their muse. Not this time around. Or not exactly, anyway. For Saturday night's concert at Del Valle Theatre in Walnut Creek (8 p.m., 1963 Tice Valley Blvd., 925-943-7469), Anderson has chosen a 1918 story ballet, The Soldier's Tale , set to a polyphonic score featuring pairs of strings, woodwinds, and brass written by Igor Stravinsky, the composer who helped thrust classical dance into the modern age. The all-too-timely story is a variation on the Faust legend, with the protagonist a soldier who sells his violin, and with it his soul, to the devil (could be called The President's Tale or The Ken Lay Tale). The text is by Swiss-born poet-novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramu (1878-1947), who, like Stravinsky, was isolated in neutral Switzerland during WWI, the "war to end all wars" -- and is narrated on recording by Sting, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ian McKellen. The score, also recorded, is conducted by Kent Nagano and filled with Stravinsky's jazzy colorations and innovative instrumental combinations. Also on the bill is Minneapolis-based guest choreographer James Sewell's "Appalachia Waltz," with music by Edgar Meyer. -- Ann Murphy



Shotgun shack

A woman named Addie lives in a rundown shack in the middle of nowhere, but near her rustic retreat, in fact all around her, her neighbors are gleefully planning theme parks and other despoliations of the land. None of that for Addie. Meanwhile, her friends Skimmer and Weed are trying to finagle her land away from her, and they engage in cruel little games of power involving sex and subterfuge. That's the strange, elliptical synopsis of Shotgun Players' production of The Water Principle, written by Eliza Anderson, starring Kate Sheehan, Ian Petroni, and John Thomas, and directed by John Warren. Previews Thursday and Friday, then opens Saturday through October 19, at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 8th St., Berkeley. 510-704-8210 or ShotgunPlayers.org -- Kelly Vance


Greek to Thee

Pull on your peplos or your himation and reserve a seat for the National Theatre of Greece's production of Medea. The Greek Theatre, on the UC Berkeley campus, celebrates its centennial with a contemporary production of Euripides' classic tragedy. Live music for trombone, trumpet, and piano will be performed from the stage, while the action takes place below, downstage center, in the semicircular orchestra pit where players did their business in olden times. Tamila Koulieva leads a cast of thirty, performing in modern Greek with English supertitles. Saturday's show starts at 8 p.m., Sunday's at 7. Call 510-642-9988 for tickets and info -- Stefanie Kalem


Murder, She Burped

Most people have eaten mystery meat once or twice in their lives, but at the Gibson House Mystery Performers dinner theater, the whole evening is baffling. Linger too long over the mashed potatoes, or reach down to pick up a fallen napkin, and BANG! -- another character drops dead when you aren't looking. Each Friday-night performance of The Maltese Crow Murder at the Pleasanton Hotel (855 Main St., Pleasanton) includes a three-course gourmet meal as well as the play, and if you solve a murder you may win a prize. Let's see the Berkeley Rep top that! Reservations: 925-846-8106. For more details, visit GibsonHouse.com -- Kelly Vance


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