I’m in Asheville, North Carolina for my graduate school residency in the Warren Wilson College writing program all week. Meanwhile, my list of dance performances to look forward to in the first half of 2008 is in tomorrow’s SF Chronicle. Here’s a sampling:

Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Jan. 25-26, Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium): The 87-year-old maverick – who revolutionized dance’s relationship to time, space and sound – is astonishingly au courant. Along with Cunningham classics, Stanford Lively Arts’ two programs will include “eyeSpace,” in which each audience member experiences his or her own soundtrack while listening to an iPod set to “shuffle.”

Shen Wei Dance Arts (March 6-8, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts): Chinese-born Shen Wei has attracted a lot of attention here in recent years, and for good reason. His large-scale visions, which draw upon his background in Peking Opera and as a painter, are overwhelming sensory experiences. His company will bring “Re,” which transforms the stage into a giant Buddhist mandala.

inkBoat (April 24-26, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts): Next wave butoh maverick Shinichi Iova-Koga bases his international collaborative in both the Bay Area and Berlin, creating theater experiences that are absurd and haunting, tender and demented. His newest, “c(H)ord,” features music from the director of Seattle’s Degenerate Art Ensemble, and – as always – surreal visual design.

The Oakland Ballet Company (April 12, Paramount Theatre): Founding Artistic Director Ronn Guidi continues the resurrection of his plucky company with two performances of his ballet “The Secret Garden,” set to Elgar; Michael Morgan will conduct the Oakland East Bay Symphony.

ODC Theater Festivals (April 24-May 10 and June 5-28, Project Artaud Theater): The indispensable ODC Theater is going dark for a major rebuilding and expansion in 2008, but director Rob Bailis is hardly sitting idle. Instead, he’s moving the shows a few blocks over to Project Artaud, where ODC will produce four major festivals. The first, “For the Record: Dancers Debate the Body Politic,” features new work by aerialist Jo Kreiter, butoh artist Ledoh and others; the second, “The Big Picture: ODC Hosts Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Philadelphia,” brings cutting-edge multidisciplinary work from those cities. Later festivals in July and October will challenge our ideas of “traditional” dance, and team with the literary festival Litquake to investigate “Stories That Move.”

For my other five picks, click here.

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