National Dance Week is upon us. To mark it, the Chronicle?s Sunday Pink section asked me to serve up some tips for those who are new to watching concert dance:

?Dance can be mysterious, mystifying, intimidating. Dance is nonverbal. You can’t reduce what you’ve seen to a plot; you can’t recite the lines. It’s ephemeral. It vanishes before you’re quite sure what you’ve seen. And at its best, dance says things no other art form can, and you feel it in your muscles and your breath, and you walk out wondering if you can communicate what you’ve just experienced to another person.

Or wondering if you got it.

The fact is, each of us is a dance person. We’ve each swayed to music at a rock concert, or appreciated the curvature of a finely trained physique, or felt the rush of another person’s rhythms vicariously in our own limbs. Dance is elemental, like music, and like music it takes an astonishing number of forms.

It’s easier to discover this in some places than in others, and in the Bay Area we are blessed. As the organizers behind Bay Area Celebrates National Dance Week — which launches Friday — like to tout, the Bay Area is first in dance activity per capita in the United States. The San Francisco Ballet, ever on the rise, has put us on the international map. But ballet is just the beginning of what dance can mean in this town. We’ve got the Chitresh Das Dance Company’s Indian Kathak to hold you spellbound and Fua Dia Congo’s Congolese stamping to raise the roof. We’ve got the cool sophistication of the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and the hot sexiness of ODC Dance. We’ve got butoh masters who writhe like primordial ooze and aerial artists who take to the skies like shooting stars.?

Click for the article to read my pointers. The one I?m most passionate about is this:

?Don’t be afraid to say you’re bored — or thrilled. If you went to a bad movie, you’d complain about why you didn’t like it. You wouldn’t decide that you don’t like movies. But often with dance, viewers stop trusting their guts. They’ve been told this is art. Something must be wrong with them, not with the dance itself. It’s healthy to realize no one has the final say on whether a work is good, but it’s folly to deny how you really felt about the dance in the moment. Be honest with yourself about your emotional response to the dancing, and you’ll be all the more moved when you find that performance that makes you say, this is for me.?

I was also asked to write about my unlikely return to taking dance via a hip-hop class at my gym. All I can say is the instructor, Darnell Carroll, is the bomb.

Bay Area Celebrates National Dance Week is offering hundreds of free performances, open rehearsals, and demonstrations. Click here to learn more, and get out there and dance!

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