Dance festival forges ahead

WestWave Dance Festival, which begins tonight at Project Artaud Theater, has become a staple of San Francisco’s summer arts season. Now in its 16th year, the two-week long festival brings together so many choreographers, dancers and live musicians that Florida Street, where it takes place, may as well be renamed Dance Avenue.

This year, the program is divided into two parts — 4×4, which dedicates one evening to showcasing several works by a single choreographer, and UniForm, where several companies working in one style present world premieres.

The festival has long transgressed its local boundaries, as 4×4, which features three out of four New York-based choreographers, clearly shows.

Monica Bill Barnes returns to her native Bay Area on Saturday to perform a short piece created in 1989 and a 40-minute premiere, “Suddenly Summer Somewhere,” set to music by Las Vegas’ Rat Pack.

Barnes’ duet begins with two dancers positioned on top of a dining room table (which her parents graciously loaned for the show). Around them, amateur local couples of all ages dance to a familiar tune. As they file off stage, the two main dancers carefully carry each other over the corners of the dish-set table, beginning an exploration of what it means to collectively experience the passing of time.

Barnes explains that the duet was inspired by her recent celebration of her 10-year wedding anniversary.

“That decade had gone by incredibly quickly,” she says. “I was thinking of being side by side through the same moment in time and how that affects you similarly or differently.”

On Sunday, Amy Seiwert, a local choreographer who was a principal dancer for Sacramento Ballet, will showcase five works, including pieces she created for Smuin Ballet and American Repertory Ballet. Her big premiere, performed to Kevin Volan’s “White Man Sleeps” and based on Pablo Neruda’s “I’m tired of being a man,” talks about letting go of societal conventions.

For Seiwert, WestWave is not just any festival; it’s where she first introduced herself as a promising choreographer to the Bay Area and to Michael Smuin.

“Everyone was choreographing and it was hard to get people interested in my choreography,” she says. “WestWave was a great opportunity to show my work.”

For 2007 Fulbright award recipient Mark Foehringer, whose San Francisco-based company is performing in UniForm’s evening of ballet premieres, WestWave is a chance to see what his colleagues are doing.

Foehringer, who has been invited to choreograph for Peru’s National Ballet in the fall, is especially curious to see one of his former dancers, Marina Fukushima, who is showing her modern choreography at the festival’s closing night.

“It’s a unique opportunity to see other choreographers’ work,” says Foehringer. “This is a real homecoming.”

WestWave Dance Festival

Where: Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; closes July 29

Tickets: $18 to $20

Contact: (415) 863-9834 or www.westwavedancefestival.org

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