San Francisco Performances (SFP) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) are birds of a feather that fly together, but sometimes their feathers flutter in different ways.

Both SF-based non-profits present world-renowned performing artists. SFP tends to lean towards the classical and jazz, at least in music, and YBCA focuses each year’s dance, theater, film, and exhibition programming around “Big Ideas,” initiatives meant to drive thought-provoking discussion and sharing. YBCA also has its own venues, including the Novellus Theater, while SFP rents space at several theaters throughout the city like the Herbst Theater, Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall, and YBCA’s Novellus Theater. It’s this last place where SFP and YBCA cross paths–in their dance programming– leveraging each others’ strengths to put well-deserving dance artists on the stage who otherwise might not schedule a stop in the Bay Area.

What: Akram Khan Company presents bahok

Where: Novellus Theater at YBCA, 700 Howard Street, San Francisco

When: February 18-20, 8PM

Tickets: $39/$27; online via SFP or YBCA, 415.978.2787, or in person at the YBCA Box Office at 701 Mission

About partnerships like these, Karen Hershenson, director of public relations and publications at San Francisco Performances, says that SFP, “has a fantastic Dance Series thanks to these partnerships with other arts organizations, especially YBCA, with whom we’ve already co-presented DV8 Physical Theatre, and now we have Akram Khan Company. SFP also participated in a three-way collaboration to present Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company — with Stanford Lively Arts, Mondavi Center at UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures.”

Hershenson points out that “co-presenting is a way to share all the costs and therefore mitigate each organization’s risk”; the two organizations can double the marketing efforts that one of them would undertake alone, allowing them to reach out to the other’s audience base. And Ruth Felt, SFP’s president, adds, “I believe in co-presenting with colleague organizations and especially so in economically difficult times because it allows us to present great companies.”

Kimberly Harding, public relations manager at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, concurs, stating, “Angela Mattox, YBCA’s Performing Arts Curator, welcomes working with fantastic Bay Area presenters such as San Francisco Performances because it enables us to combine our resources to bring amazing work to audiences, even during challenging economic times.”

Harding also brings to light several other benefits of collaborations like this one. “We’ve had the pleasure of co-presenting work with San Francisco Performances in the past and twice this year – with DV8 and with Akram Khan. Both of these internationally respected groups bring new artistic styles and voices to the Bay Area arts scene. Not only do audiences benefit, but we hear from artists as well who appreciate the opportunity to see new works at the forefront of their fields without having to travel. Infusing the local performing arts scene – which is thriving and healthy – with new international and national works contributes to the ecology of our arts community and ends up benefiting all involved.” YBCA partners with other organizations as well, like YouthSpeaks, CounterPULSE, and Headlands Center for the Arts.

This week, SFP and YBCA co-present the Akram Khan Company, led by Bangladeshi-British choreographer Akram Khan. Khan’s name is familiar to many in the dance community–he’s worked with Gumby-like dancer Sylvia Guillem, Juliette Binoche, and Kylie Minogue–and his roots reach wide, into Kathak and contemporary dance, as well as theater.

Here for three nights, Khan’s company will present bahok (named after a Bengali word meaning “carrier”), which is an evening-length dance piece exploring “the ways in which the body carries national identity and belonging.” The company’s eight dancers come from varying cultures and background, and in bahok, “they try to communicate, to exchange their stories, their memories of home.” Khan has said, “The dancers are the writers of the show. They are the ones who bring the source material. We search for the little stories that they bring with them and exploring these short stories of each individual, we find a bigger story. That’s what fascinates me, to explore these personal stories of these individuals on stage, in order to discover and reveal a more universal one.”

Originally created as a collaboration between Khan’s company and the National Ballet of China, Khan’s company performs bahok worldwide, and with the partnership between San Francisco Performances and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, this includes San Francisco.

the author

Becca Klarin writes about dance. Her first stage role was at the age of four, where she dressed in a brightly colored bumble bee tutu and black patent leather taps shoes. She remembers bright lights and spinning in circles with her eleven other bees, but nothing more. Becca also has an affinity for things beginning with the letter "P", including Pizzetta 211, Fort Point, pilates, parsvakonasana, and plies.

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