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I Wanna See You Bali Dance

The new UCSC Arts & Lectures season brings a world's worth of culture to the city on a hill

By Mike Connor

IT DOESN'T HAVE the sexiest name. "Arts" is blandly vague, and most students get enough "lectures" to last for three socially conscious and politically active lifetimes.

And yet, it rocks. That is, the USCS Arts & Lectures program is bringing consistently interesting world-class performances to our pokey little town, and this season's lineup is no exception. Starting out with Master Dancers of Bali, the program meanders through the realms of dance; classical, world and folk music; theater; and David Sedaris. It's like we get our own little private boat ride through some of the world's greatest manifestations of culture, but without that annoying song.

An aside for students: A&L is not like Burning Man; you can't just sneak in. But (insert used car salesman grin here) you do get the best deal in town, paying less than half the price that the rest of us do, so take it all in while you have the chance, or suffer through your twilight years with only memories of drunken debauchery from your college career.

OK, maybe not, but indulge me while I pontificate about the Master Dancers of Bali, who will kick off this season with their first performance outside of Bali ever. When I popped in the preview tape of the dancers performing on their island, I expected to see the screen filled with elaborately ornate outfits shimmering glorious white-pink-purple-gold in the Balinese sun. I was surprised instead to find the Balinese equivalent of my family members after Thanksgiving dinner dancing alone in hallways, living rooms and street corners. Without all the beautiful distraction of their exotic costumes, makeup, and the hype and commentary of press releases, I found my attention focused on their every movement in an effort to actually discern the "internal beauty, power and wisdom" of these dancers.

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Arts & Lectures Season Schedule

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The director of the Bali Art Center in Denpasar declared the Master Dancers of Bali "a group of extraordinary cultural value and artistic ability. Performing together internationally, they create a rare and historic event." While dance is certainly an expression of a particular set of cultural circumstances, sometimes dancers transcend the form and emote something deeper than impressive athleticism. Indeed, unlike the overloaded choreography of, say, Paula Abdul--which might consist of 20 half-naked people dry-humping each other in cages--the spirited dance of the Master Dancers of Bali is subtle, joyous and dignified; dancers ranging in age from 30 to 80 years old can express more with a fan and a smile than Abdul's whole oily, artificially sexed-up crew. Not that anyone said Paula Abdul was world-class, but the lesson is still in there ... somewhere.

There's a lot more cool stuff coming up in this year's A&L series, far too much to mention it all here. But a couple heads-up for names you might not recognize: when the boat comes round, don't miss the Rennie Harris Puremovement dance group's blend of Japanese, African, Brazilian and B-boy styles in Facing Mekka on April 14 and 15. The Imago Theater's production of Frogz is a mind-bending voyage into the fantastically absurd, where the combination of mime, acrobatics and elaborate costumes warps conventional theater into something straight out of the looking glass.


For more info about upcoming performances, visit the Arts & Lectures website at www.events.ucsc.edu.

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From the September 25-October 2, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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