Dance giants vie for attention 

Dance lovers, you are in luck. Double luck even, because next weekend you can experience simultaneous dance premieres by two international giants, Trisha Brown Dance Company and Richard Alston Dance Company.

To what do you owe this exquisite double pleasure? To the eternal rivalry between Berkeley and Stanford, which spurs these great institutions to bring the best of the art world to our shores.

Brown’s modern company of nine dancers, created by the legendary choreographer in 1970, returns to Berkeley’s Cal Performances Friday and Jan. 27 with two West Coast premieres and a classic from its repertoire. Brown’s newest work, "I love my robots," is set to music by Laurie Anderson, with whom she has collaborated over the last two decades, and the stage set designed by well-known Japanese artist and architect Kenjiro Okazaki.

The New York-based company is also bringing "how long does the subject linger on the edge of the volume," an innovative piece that uses motion-capture technology to create a relationship between dancers, music and moving graphics. The score and the images were recorded during the dance’s premiere in 2005. The third work, "Geometry of Quiet," is set to avant-garde composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s music for one flute. The sets — two white sails — were created by Brown herself.

Is it possible to beat such a dazzling program? Well, Stanford thinks it can.

For its part, Stanford Lively Arts is presenting a two-night (Friday and Jan. 27) introduction to Richard Alston Dance Company, a famous British troupe that has never been seen in the Bay Area. Alston, who studied with Merce Cunningham and choreographed for the London School of Contemporary Dance, created his dance company in 1994.

"What drew me to his company was actually the music," explains Stanford Lively Arts’ artistic director, Jenny Bilfield. "He has tackled some very dramatic and very outstanding music whereas a number of other choreographers look for a more neutral score. He picks music that’s as strong as his choreography."

Alston describes his work as "lyrical dancing that’s very much about the music rather than drama." The choreographer calls his company "dancey" because his works contain a lot of movement and a lot of steps.

The company is showing three exciting works: Heiner Goebbels’ "Red Run," commissioned for the Holland Dance Festival; "Volumina," which features an organ score; and his latest work, "The Devil in the Detail," set to a live performance of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music.

Alston is looking forward to his trip here. "The Bay Area has a lot of dance and it’s very cultured," he says on the phone from Philadelphia. "It’s a part of the country I am very happy to visit." Not only for dance, he adds, but also for the wine.

Trisha Brown Dance Company

Presented by: Cal Performances

Where: Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft Way at Telegraph Avenue, UC Berkeley campus

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 26-27

Tickets: $26 to $46

Contact: (510) 642-9988 or

Richard Alston Dance Company

Presented by: Stanford Lively Arts

Where: Memorial Auditorium, 551 Serra Mall, Stanford University

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 26-27

Tickets: $26 to $44

Contact: (650) 725-2787 or

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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