The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Freebie of the week: If you haven’t yet visited Salesforce Park, the 5.4-acre marvel atop the Transbay Joint Powers Authority building in San Francisco’s SOMA district, this weekend offers another reason to do so. RAWdance, the Bay Area contemporary dance troupe, is hosting the second of its “Step/Song Story” events in the stunning urban park.
Conceived and choreographed by RAWdance co-artistic director Katie Wong, the performance incorporates dance, music and spoken word into a story that will emerge across the park. Performing on Sunday will be RAWdance company dancers including Wong, Nick Wagner and Stacey Yuen; R&B duo Cocoa Keys (part of the Women of Color Bay Area musicians’ collective) and spoken word artists Jamey Williams, Bri Blue, and youth artist Kai Heartlife.
What exactly the performance will entail is TBA, but it’s hard to go wrong when your venue is a stunning rooftop urban oasis with amazing views of the city, rolling lawns, redwood and bamboo groves, 13 gardens with all manner of plants and designs, a children’s play area and a 1,200-foot “Bus Fountain” art installation that explodes in water with each bus arrival. There’s a lovely trail that circles the park and plenty of room for picnics.
“Step/Song/Story” will be performed at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday. Performances are free and no reservations are needed. The park is located at 425 Mission St., the suggested entrance is via the escalators or elevators in the Salesforce Transit Center on 1st Street between Mission and Howard streets. More information is at rawdance.org
A showcase for Yuja: The only thing more attention-grabbing about Beijing-born piano whiz Yuja Wang than her flamboyant sense of fashion is her phenomenal command of the keyboard. So look beyond the flash of her attire this weekend in San Francisco’s Davies Hall when she throws herself into the world premiere of a work expressly written for her.
Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a commission from fellow Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony, was inspired, the composer says, with Wang’s virtuosic skills in mind. “When I began working on this concerto, I decided to tailor everything for her,” Lindberg said in an interview. “I wanted to make it something that would attach to her world.”
Wang will perform the piece on three outings on a program, conducted by Salonen, that also includes Carl Nielsen’s “Helios” Overture and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets, $40-$209, are available at www.sfsymphony.org or by calling 415-864-6000.
A violin virtuoso: Returning to Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley for Cal Performances for the first time in 15 years is the Russian-born Israeli Maxim Vengerov, a violinist who showed such an amazing early talent that he began recording more than three decades ago at the age of 10. He counts both the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim among his musical mentors and has taken up conducting both opera and orchestral music himself.
In the company of pianist Polina Osetinskaya, Vengerov will play the Bach Violin Sonata in B minor, the Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata (in A Major), Ten Preludes by Shostakovich (as arranged by Dmitri Tziganov) and two violin works by Tchaikovsky. Performance time is 8 p.m. Friday, and tickets, $36-$110, are available at 510-642-9988 or at calperformances.org.
The legend continues: Chitresh Das was already a phenomenon in the Indian dance world by the time he relocated to the United States in the early 1970s. His parents founded an influential dance school in Kolkata, and he had garnered national attention as a dance prodigy before he was a teenager. Das settled in San Francisco in the 1970s and eventually founded the Chitresh Das Institute here.
The school, along with Das’s teachings, choreography and performances, became arguably the world’s leading proponent of the Kathak style of dance – known for its intricate footwork and storytelling nature – and is credited with helping Northern India dance, music and culture gain a mainstream following in the U.S. and elsewhere. Das died in 2015 but his institute is continuing its journey, now under the artistic direction of Charlotte Moraga, who began studying under Das at an early age and performed in several of his works beginning in 1996. She’s also an acclaimed choreographer who this weekend presents the world premiere of her latest work, “Invoking the River.”
The piece, featuring a score composed by Utsav Lal and multimedia presentation by Alka Raghuram, explores traditional Kathak themes as well as ecological conditions that imperil some of India’s holiest rivers. With live music accompaniment, “Invoking the River” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at ODC Dance Theatre, 3153 17th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $20-$45; go to https://odc.dance.
A deep ‘Breath’: In 2014, a middle-aged Black New Yorker named Eric Garner who had a history of run-ins with the police encountered one more – only it would be his last. During his arrest in Staten Island — reportedly, for illegally selling cigarettes – he was swarmed by several officers including one who placed him in a prohibited choke-hold that proved to be fatal.
Garner’s final words included the desperate plea, “I can’t breathe,” which has become something of a metaphor for the dispiriting number of black men who have died at the hands of police. Garner’s death has inspired a book, a film, a jazz album by Terence Blanchard and now a musical production to be performed this weekend at Stanford University. Described as part offering, part opera and part protest, “The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist” was created by Stanford composer and professor of music Jonathan Berger and Dartmouth painter and professor Enrico Riley, with a libretto by Vievee Francis. The production features 6 musicians, soprano Neema Bickersteth and a chorus, visual and text elements and choreography – all led by famed New York stage director Niegel Smith.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University. Tickets are $15-$64. Those attending Friday’s performance are invited to take part in a “procession of breath” at 5:30 p.m. leading from Black House to the concert hall. More information is at live.stanford.edu.