Best Bets: Spring dance, Arod Quartet, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration

Calpulli Tonalehqueh of San Jose will kick off Spring Dance Fest at noon April 29 with a demonstration of ancient Aztec dance and drumming. (Photo courtesy Calpulli Tonalehqueh)

Freebie of the week: Every year (when possible, of course) sjDANCEco serves up a colorful and high-flying bonanza for Bay Area dance fans of all types with the Spring Dance Fest, which returns Saturday and Sunday to the Eastridge Center in San Jose. The free event offers five nonstop hours of dancing and dance classes each day. Featuring a dozen companies and schools, Spring Dance Fest offers a half-hour professional-level performance each hour on the half-hour (12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., etc.).

These continue in tandem with half-hour dance classes, which take place every hour on the hour (1 p.m., 2 p.m. etc.). That’s a lot of dancing, and there’s variety to boot, from traditional and contemporary ballet to classical Indian, to Mexican folk dancing to African to pole dancing.

Groups taking part are sjDANCEco, Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose,  Los Lupeños de San José, Aboriginouls, Magnetic Pole Fit, Diablo Ballet, Samba Colorado, N’fungola Sibo African Dance and Drum, Hermosura Dance Productions, Agua Doce Dance, Cat Machines Dance and Tachíria Flamenco’s Dance Music Theatre.

Kicking off the festival at noon Saturday will be a special demonstration by Calpulli Tonalehqueh, an outfit that specializes in ancient Aztec dance and drumming. The event runs noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the shopping center’s Festival Stage. More information is available at

While Spring Dance Festival stands on its own, it is also part of the Bay Area Dance Week, which offers free performances, demonstrations, classes and other events at locales throughout the Bay Area through Sunday. More information on that is at

Smuin Contemporary Ballet dancers Erin Yarbrough-Powell and Jonathan Mangosing perform in “Swipe,” a Val Caniparoli work being revived for the company’s new program. (Keith Sutter/Smuin Contemporary Ballet)

Smuin’s fab Pink collab: Smuin Contemporary Ballet and Pink Martini seem perfectly suited for each other. The San Francisco contemporary ballet company and the Portland, Oregon classical/jazz/pop/Latin band both deliver plenty of sass and sizzle and are brimming with talent.

Excitingly, someone has brought them together. That someone is acclaimed Bay Area choreographer Amy Seiwert, a former Smuin dancer who recently was named the company’s associate artistic director. (She’ll assume the post at the onset of the troupe’s 2023-24 season.)

In a new program that begins this week and concludes Smuin’s season, Seiwert will introduce her latest work, “French Kiss.” The “French” in the title is more than titillation; Seiwert has reportedly imbued the work with a gallic motif and set the choreography to a mix of Pink Martini’s French pop-cabaret tunes, which include vocals by cabaret star Meow Meow and Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and August von Trapp.

“French Kiss” is on a bill with the company premiere of Polish choreographer Katarzyna (Kate) Skarpetowska’s whimsical “Sextette,” which the company was originally slated to premiere in 2021; Val Caniparoli’s “Swipe,” marking a revival of the first ballet Smuin performed by the renowned choreographer; and late company founder Michael Smuin’s romantic classic “Dream,” being performed for the first time in more than 20 years.

The program debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Future performances are May 5-14 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and May 25-28 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are 25-$84; go to

Paloma Maia Aisenberg is Natasha and Jared Lee is Anatole in San Jose Playhouse’s “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.” (Photo courtesy Scott Donschikowski/San Jose Playhouse)

The ‘Comet” is ablaze: It seems theater companies can’t get enough of “War and Peace” these days—or at least a 70-page nugget of it. We’re talking about “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” a sung-through musical by Dave Malloy that’s adapted, yes, from a 70-page section (Part 8, for those keeping score at home) of Tolstoy’s legendary literary masterpiece.

But even in those 70 pages, there’s enough romantic angst and existential soul-searching to more than equip a clever composer and playwright like Malloy, whose “Comet” adaptation premiered in 2012, opened on Broadway in 2016, and was nominated for an eye-popping 12 Tony Awards. It won two.

“Comet” is flying high here in the Bay Area. It received a successful, well-received production earlier this year by Shotgun Players in Berkeley. Now San Jose Playhouse is taking a stab at the musical (it’s technically termed an “electropop opera”), in a show directed by company chief executive officer Scott Evan Guggenheim.

It runs through May 28 at 3Below Theaters, 288 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets for the 2 ½-hour show run $25-$55; go to

The Arod Quartet from France will play music by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Schubert in three recitals around the Bay area. (Photo courtesy Julien Benhamou)

A trio of quartets: There is some incredibly beautiful music in the offing as the young French ensemble the Arod Quartet (it takes its name from the strong, swift steed that was given to Legolas in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”) arrives in the Bay Area for recitals in three venues.

Winners of the first prize in the string category of Germany’s biggest musical competition, the ARD International, in 2016, the Arod will play Haydn’s Quartet in F minor, the most emotionally intense of the six in the composer’s “Sun” quartets, and follow with the Mendelssohn Quartet in D Major. The concluding performance is one of Franz Schubert’s most famous works, the “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, composed in 1824 when the young composer himself was staring death in the face (recently diagnosed with syphilis, he was dead four years later at 31).

Arod’s first of the three recitals sponsored by Chamber Music San Francisco takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, followed by a 2:30 p.m. Sunday performance in Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts and a 7:30 p.m. Monday appearance at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. Find tickets, $48-$60, at

Dedicated in 1948, the 36-foot-tall Warsaw Monument was erected in a portion of the city where Jews were confined to the ghetto during World War II; a concert commemorating people who resisted is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. (Photo courtesy Rafal Grunt)

Hail to heroes long past: “Rise Up and Resist: A Commemorative Concert on the 80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” is a one-night-only event taking place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Taube Atrium Theater on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco.

On the program are pieces that were performed in defiance of Nazi rule in the ghetto as well as music the Jewish Symphony Orchestra played there and folk music celebrating Jewish and Polish heritage, plus popular cabaret music of the era. Composers represented include Karol Szymanowski, Frederic Chopin, Ernest Bloch and Beethoven (a Yiddish version of his famous “Ode to Joy”).

Among the performers are multiple members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, some participants in San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows program, guitarist David Tannenbaum and accordion player Ron Borelli. The Warsaw uprising, begun on April 19, 1943, was the first armed resistance to Nazi oppression in World War II; the monthlong struggle took the lives of most of the participants and many of their enemies.

Tickets for the concert, one of many held around the world during the four weeks being remembered, are $36, available at (415) 864-3330 and

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