The San Francisco International Arts Festival Offers a Global View of Dance and Music

Lou Fancher on May 16, 2017
LEVYdance appears at the S.F. International Arts Festival | Credit: Mark Jenkin

Rattle imagination’s cage, accept risk or even failure to find reward, witness internal and external forces as they yank apart, crush, and celebrate the space within or between bodies, stretch the psyche and sound parameters like rubber bands and you too can become a collaborative element of the 2017 San Francisco International Arts Festival. The only painful part will be deciding between the two-week festival’s plethora of dance, music, theater, performance art, readings, classes, workshops, parties, and family activities.

SFAIF brings the world, clustered May 25 though June 4, to Fort Mason, the converted military installation now arts center and national park site on San Francisco’s northern waterfront. Every year since 2003, a global community of artists and Bay Area audiences ignore all talk or idea of walls between countries and cultures; except in the way that walls are excellent for describing space, balancing upon, decorating, bouncing or containing sound, and — if wide enough to be elevated walkways — connecting one island of ideas to another.

Eve Mutso | Credit: Maria Falconer

Zooming in on a sliver of this year’s action, for example, shows Eve Mutso (some will recognize the former Scottish National Ballet principle dancer from Cal Performances’ May 10–12 presentation of the company’s A Streetcar Named Desire) performing on a shared bill with local companies LEVYdance and Alyce Finwall Dance Theater.

Mutso will vanquish safety — or at least, dive headfirst into uncertainty and risk — in the solo work, Unknown (2016). French choreographer Garance Marneur’s premier, Pull Me Closer, investigates with LEVYdance’s dynamic, always memorable dancers the physical architecture of individual and corporate skew, torque, linearity, flock, and gather. Finwall’s work, Almost Human, is likely to include sumptuous phrasing, toned nuance, deep theatrical content, and contemporary references and almost anything allowed in dance — or not allowed for that matter.

Audiences can get extra bang for their dance bucks by participating in Mutso’s master class (at Lines Dance Center, May 25), a LEVYdance movement mapping and practice workshop (Lines, May 26), and the three choreographers’ appearance (along with three female colleagues) on a six-women panel moderated by dance writer Rita Felciano (May 27, free). And all this tracks just one slender channel of festival offerings.

Explore the full schedule and details about events and artists at SFAIF’s surprisingly streamlined website. A map of world culture isn’t impossible to grasp after all. You just have to knock down a few walls to see it all.