The power of youth 

When it comes to youth performances, whether a high school musical or dance recital, the expectation of witnessing a high-caliber arts experience is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.

Beginning Friday, ODC Dance and the Chitresh Das Dance Company turn that notion on its head with the fifth installment of YouthFest — a three-day showcase of the Bay Area’s next generation of performing arts talent.

Five years ago, the renowned San Francisco-based dance companies joined forces with the shared vision of creating a performing arts production that exhibited not only the talents of a diverse group of up-and-coming youth performers, but also the commitment and drive necessary to achieve a high level of skill and technique.

This year’s YouthFest offers its most diverse lineup to date with a cross-cultural representation of performers that’s truly reflective of the Bay Area’s diversity, ODC Associate Choreographer, School Director and Dance Jam Co-Director Kimi Okada says.

YouthFest’s fifth annual celebration features classical Indian dance from Chitresh Das Dance Company, traditional and contemporary African dances by Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble, rock ’n’ roll from the Nash Brothers, modern dance from ODC Dance Jam and spoken word from Youth Speaks.

"The strength of this year’s festival is the variety of artists. It’s really a great mix," Okada says.

When choosing talent for the festival, Okada explains that all eyes were on youth companies with strong, well-respected parent organizations because the primary intention of YouthFest has been to show the community a first rate representation of youth arts.

"We require a pretty intense level of commitment. These kids aren’t just taking some recreational dance courses," Okada says. "Our hope is to show the baton being passed from one generation of performers to the next."

To give you an idea of just how committed these young performers are, the ODC Dance Jam alone dedicates a few hours each week to rehearsals and requires members to take between four and six dance classes a week.

Beyond displaying the discipline and talents of budding dancers, musicmakers and spoken-word artists, the goal of YouthFest is to light a fire of interest in children about the diversity of arts being performed in the community by their peers.

"Kids love to see other kids perform. They find inspiration when someone their own age develops a skill and shows it off. There’s a great sense of accomplishment and confidence that comes with developing a skill, whether it’s being able to dance, play music or cook a great dinner," Okada says.

"It really gives a kid a sense of confidence and opens up a world of possibility."


Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $14

Contact: (415) 863-9834,

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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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