music in the park san jose

.All the Right Moves

music in the park san jose

Everybody is dancing in the Bay Area this season

Increasingly—and at long, long, last—bodies of every shade and size are dancing everywhere. Thankfully, here in the Bay Area the four-and-a-half months remaining in this calendar year offer a bevy of opportunities for audiences to be the “deciders” about the future of dance. From intimate access to rehearsals to classic favorites—yes, some people never tire of The Nutcracker—to Broadway musicals to a huge dance party in celebration of a music venue and dance hall in the heart of West Berkeley, the fall 2023 dance menu is bountiful and growing. Best news beyond that fact alone? Dance events promised in 2024 offer indication the “everybody is dancing” movement will continue. This trend might just have legs.

While in no way comprehensive—new shows pop up all the time—the following is a roundup of dance highlights from today through the end of 2023.


The Tina Turner Musical ran through Aug. 27 at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre but can still be experienced from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3 at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts. While the show is directed by Tony Award-nominee Phyllida Lloyd, Tony Award-nominee Anthony van Laast’s choreography sets the just-under-3-hour show afire. Naomi Rodgers (Frozen) and Zurin Villanueva (The Lion King, Mean Girls, Shuffle Along, The Book of Mormon) lead the cast and share the role of Tina Turner. Also starring are Garrett Turner as Ike Turner, Roz White as Zelma Bullock, Ann Nesby as Gran Georgeanna and Lael Van Keuren as Rhonda.

The musical telling the life story of the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll originally opened on Broadway in 2019 and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The production reopened on Broadway in 2021, following the 18-month, industrywide pandemic shutdown. Although more big names are associated with the show, what audiences will remember long after the curtain drops are those legs and the music that sets them in motion.


Oakland Ballet Company and Life In Motion Productions proudly present the Oakland premiere of Flower, starring and produced by Misty Copeland. The one-night engagement Sept. 29 at Oakland’s downtown Paramount Theatre offers the film-and-dance performance in two acts. Act I showcases Babatunji Johnson, Krow, Angela Watson, Destiny Arts and Oakland Ballet Company artists. Act II is a live performance by Oakland-based TURF dancers and the screening of Flower, introduced by Misty Copeland.

Flower, produced by Copeland and Emmy-winning writer-producer Leyla Fayyaz of Life in Motion Productions, and directed by Lauren Finerman with music by Raphael Saadiq, stars Misty Copeland, Babatunji Johnson and Christina Johnson, with choreography by Alonzo King and Rich + Tone Talauega ft. TURF dancers.

Set in Oakland and created with artists from the Bay Area community, this homage to 1920s Black silent films tells the story of a young woman who has put her dreams on hold to care for her ailing mother, who lives with dementia. The film addresses themes well known to Bay Area communities—housing affordability, neighborhood decay, mental health crises—but moves to an enlightened dream of hope through the power of community and unity. Flower debuted at the 2023 Tribeca Festival and is an official selection of the upcoming Hollyshorts Film Festival and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, both OSCAR-qualifying festivals in the Short Film category.

The Radium Runway series of live performance events at Alameda Point reaches a climax Oct. 15 with the five-hour TURFInc Dance Battle. The Oakland-based turf dance company hits the East Bay island from noon to 5pm with a full day of high-energy athletic competition. Led by founder Johnny Anthony Lopez, TURF takes the dance form made powerful on urban streets to stages, concert halls, amphitheaters and other venues. Excitement is guaranteed, and celebrity and street TURF dancers will thrill the crowd gathered to watch, admire … and vote for the best of show!

Smuin Contemporary Ballet bridges October and November with a series that bounces to three locations in the Bay Area, arriving Sept. 15-16 in Walnut Creek, Sept. 21-24 in Mountain View and Sept. 29 to Oct. 7 in San Francisco. This year’s 30th Anniversary Season is the last planned by outgoing Artistic Director Celia Fushille, who was a principal dancer with the company for more than 12 years and has led the organization since 2007. Before former-Smuin Associate Artistic Director and Choreographer Amy Seiwert steps up during the 2024/25 season as her successor, the Dance Series 1 program offers evidence of Fushille’s deft curatorial hand with  Choreographer James Kudelka’s The Man in Black, a vibrant piece set to cover songs recorded by Johnny Cash; Val Caniparoli’s Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink), an engaging ballet; and Salsa ’til Dawn, a world premiere by ballet and Broadway choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie that at last reaches the stage with an original Cuban jazz score by composer Charles Fox.


Two distinctly different dance programs in early November at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive demonstrate the never-ending diversity of dance in the Bay Area. A series of open rehearsals Nov. 1-4 with dance artists Ivanie Aubin-Malo and Ceinwen Gobert, and led by artist/choreographer Tanya Lukin Linklater, open a window into the creative process. The work, Ewako ôma askiy. This then is the earth, is grounded in a response to the cyclical, seasonal, affective and formal qualities of selected works in Duane Linklater: mymothersside, a large project work involving primarily the historical exclusion of Indigenous content in museums and cultural institutions. Linklater is the co-sponsoring Art Research Center’s Fall 2023 artist-in-residence.

A live performance Nov. 8 at BAMPFA of The Founding of the World is held in conjunction with the museum’s “Kenneth Tam / MATRIX 281: The Founding of the World.” The performance features Kenneth Tam and choreographer Juri Onuk, who collaborated with UC Berkeley students to create the piece. The BAMPFA website says the work “explores the ways desire for identity and belonging have intersected with the history of student-led organizations and movements on UC Berkeley’s campus.”

Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center has for 50 years acted as a bulwark against exclusivity in dance and exists as a multicultural workhorse on the East Bay dance scene. Celebrating Nov. 4 with the Ashkenaz Golden Anniversary Gala, it’s a no-brainer that guests can expect the venue’s history to be highlighted and homage paid to the artists who have brought to Berkeley the folk music and dance of Southern Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil, India and other countries. The center, for many people, is like a second home where classes range from Bachata to ballet to Capoeira to drum circles and Latin Rhythm Swing. Those who love Ashkenaz can support its continued longevity by attending the gala, but shouldn’t overlook the full calendar with engaging events like Body Music Jam led by the legendary Keith Terry on numerous dates or Ann Savoy & the Raggedy Ann Dance Band joined by Laurie Lewis on Aug. 24.

The Paramount Theatre again plays host to Oakland Ballet Nov. 3-4 with two performances of the company’s popular Luna Mexicana. The lavish and inclusive Dia de los Muertos event blends dance, music, colorful costumes, flowers, candles and food in a wonderful celebration of family. This year’s program has audiences heralding the return of “Viva la Vida.” The ballet, inspired by the life and spirit of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, is co-choreographed by Martín Romero—of Ballet Folklórico México Danza—and Oakland Ballet Artistic Director Graham Lustig. The annual performances of Luna Mexicana always include guest artists and in 2023 Oakland Ballet will be joined by Ballet Folklórico México Danza, presenting traditional Mexican Folkloric dance and special mariachi musicians.

For stalwart ballet fans or newcomers to the “pointe shoe” scene looking to place their bets and hard-earned dollars on a sure-to-satisfy, family-friendly show, nothing pleases like Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker. Presented in three shows Nov. 16-17 at the gorgeous Paramount Theatre, expect toy soldiers, mice, rat royalty, snowflake blizzards, waltzing flowers, gigantic sweet treats and other fun stuff to prevail. The Oakland Symphony and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir perform Tchaikovsky’s much-loved score, making this event a rare opportunity to see live dance accompanied by an orchestra and choir. Artistic Director Graham Lustig’s choreography holds few surprises, which might be exactly the kind of stress-reduction outing needed during the busy holiday season.

People who enjoyed Smuin Ballet’s Dance Series 1 can catch round two when the company returns with The Christmas Ballet. This much-adored annual Nutcracker alternative boasts four stops on the local tour circuit, playing Nov. 18-19 in Walnut Creek, Dec. 1-2 in Carmel, Dec. 7-10 in Mountain View and Dec. 14-24 in San Francisco. Billed as the ultimate “holiday extravaganza,” the program always includes new dances, iconic favorites and loads of ballet, tap, Broadway-style jazz—and the sensual and frolicsome choreography of Michael Smuin, the company’s late founder.

It’s tough, if not impossible, to best Disney’s The Lion King, coming Nov. 22 to Dec. 30 to BroadwaySF’s Orpheum Theatre. Pirouette across the Bay Bridge and catch the show the production boasts has been seen by more than 100 million people around the world. The eternally cherished musical is the winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Award-winning director Julie Taymor turned the dance-and-music theater upside down with this upbeat musical that melds adventure, blazingly impressive visuals, brilliant dance and song, jaw-dropping costumes and more. The music, by Elton John and Tim Rice, could be considered creme de la creme, but for dance folks it’s all about Taymor and the dancers’ astonishing physical momentum.

Wrapping the fall dance events into a bustling bundle at press time, several dance companies had yet to publish their fall seasons. Be sure to check for new shows and updates from these companies and venues, along with others, such as Oakland-based Axis Dance, Bandaloop and Ballet22, among others. And one more tip: plan ahead. Cal Performances, for example, really kicks dance into high gear in 2024, with Pina Baussch’s Rite of Spring and Les Ballet’s Trockadero de Monte Carlo in January, Batsheve Dance Company and the Joffrey Ballet arriving in March, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Mark Morris Dance Group in April.


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