I?m in the Chronicle today, writing about a surprise celebration of Bay Area dance:

?You’d expect a socialite to fete her 50th birthday with dinner and dancing, but former cookie magnate and professional dancer Linda Rawlings has decided to do that formula one better.

“I thought, ‘How can I give myself a birthday present?,’ ” Rawlings said last week from Toronto, where she was attending a wedding. “I was ruminating on turning 50 and missing the Bay Area and the dance scene there.” So last month Rawlings called haute event designer and former San Francisco Arts Commission President Stanlee Gatti, who was already planning her Saturday birthday bash, and asked him to pencil in a second event.

At “A Celebration of Dance and Music,” taking over the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason on Monday night, revelers will dance in the lobby and up the aisles, but most importantly on the stage, with representatives from 10 Bay Area groups each giving five-minute performances before letting loose to the sounds of Los Angeles’ Durell Coleman Band and munching savories from McCall Catering. The program includes delegates from small companies like Run for Your Life and Tantrum, alongside major players like Smuin Ballet, ODC/SF and Diablo Ballet. Children from Cal Performances’ Ailey Camp will take part, and, for a flashy finale, members of Ballet Counterpointe Rep will model togs by Hong Kong designer Barney Cheng.

The free extravaganza is not a fund-raiser — “I’m asked for money all the time too,” she said — and it’s not just another chance for the in-crowd to rub elbows. Rawlings has set aside a block of tickets to distribute among dancers and choreographers through local studios.?

Rawlings now sits on the boards of the Mark Morris Dance Group and UC Berkeley?s Cal Performances, and wins my admiration for earning three college degrees, leading a busy career, and raising four children. It?s still not at all clear to me how she?ll distribute the tickets set aside for members of the dance community. But if you?ve heard rumors that Mark Morris was going to perform and a big marching band was going to take over the Cowell, now you have the real scoop.

My favorite quote in the piece is from ODC/SF artistic director Brenda Way:

“How fantastic that someone would mark a milestone birthday with dancing, ” Way said. “It’s a wonderful statement that to celebrate major moments, we dance.”

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