Berkeley's often overlooked contribution to the Bay Area dance scene comes to the foreground this week as we offer a sad farewell to a rising creative force and a hearty welcome to a returning master.

First, the bad news: Berkeley-based choreographer and dancer Daria Kaufman, who has taught classes for several years at the Subterranean Arthouse, is moving to Portugal at the end of the summer. But before departing, she's presenting "In her tower" on Friday and Saturday at the Joe Goode Annex in San Francisco, a dance theater program that explores the performative nature of gender and dance, her abiding interests as a dancemaker.

The program features her popular satire of female-centric marketing, 2013's "Product" and two premieres, the ensemble work "In her tower," which is set to Cathy Berberian's soaring, operatic vocals, and "Restless Myth," a solo performed by Kaufman to a kinetic, polyphonic score by UC Berkeley music professor Ken Ueno. The show features performers Bianca Brzezinski, Rebecca Chun, Aura Fischbeck and Karla Quintero. Though different in texture and mood, the pieces all drill down into the construction of femininity in Western culture.

"When I'm reflecting on my work and what I've been interested in, one theme that continually pops up is female archetypes and how we perform female myths, how we perform gender and how that feeds into being a female dancer onstage," Kaufman says. "There are all these codes, not just gender, but performance codes, and I'm deconstructing and forcing you to look at them."


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Raised in Southern California, Kaufman moved up to the Bay Area in 2006 to study at Mills College, where she earned an MFA in dance. As a blossoming choreographer and expressive dancer who has become an essential part of the local scene, she had no plans to leave the Bay Area, but her husband, a neuroscientist, was offered a three-year position in Lisbon.

She decided to take the opportunity to explore continental opportunities after a scouting visit to Portugal convinced her that despite the economic crisis, "the European contemporary dance is really thriving," Kaufman says. "Arts funding has suffered, and Portugal was hit hard, but it is getting better. There are so many festivals, and it's so easy to get around Europe. I'm really interested in presenting some of my solos that I'm showing in this performance."

While bidding adieu to Kaufman, let's welcome Berkeley native Arianne MacBean back to the Bay Area. She presents the Bay Area debut of her Big Show Co. with two signature works at ODC Theater, Thursday through Saturday. With a brief discussion in between, she's presenting her company in 2012's "The People Go Where the Chairs Are," and the world premiere of a new work, "present tense," both featuring original jazz scores by composer Ivan Johnson.

Given her deep commitment to writing -- she's published fiction, dance criticism and a recent children's book, "The Backyard Fairies" -- it's not surprising that MacBean draws much of her inspiration from text. "The People Go" was inspired by the notes that Thornton Wilder wrote to himself while writing the iconic play "Our Town." In much the same way, "present tense" draws on the short stories of Lydia Davis.

"He (Wilder) used these two chairs on the empty stage to symbolize the world," says MacBean, who was recently awarded the yearlong CHIME Mentorship Grant, produced by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. "I took the idea of using chairs to examine what is dance in my work.

"The new piece is very different than 'The People,' more a poetic collage, a little more abstract. We develop our movement material and text material simultaneously. We don't start with a script or vice versa."

In addition to her work as a writer and choreographer, MacBean founded the dance program at Oakwood School, a private school in North Hollywood with a highly respected arts program. She modeled it after the dance program at Berkeley High, where she graduated in 1990.

"One of my biggest influences was my high school dance teacher, Marsha Singman," MacBean says. "She introduced me to modern dance while I was taking ballet at Berkeley Ballet Theater. I was so lucky that Berkeley High had such a fantastic program, where students were encouraged to choreograph. I modeled the Oakwood program on Berkeley High. We pride ourselves on teaching kids how to dance and how to make dances."

Details: Daria Kaufman's "In her tower," 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Joe Goode Annex, 401 Alabama St., San Francisco; $20; www.joegoode.org.

Arianne MacBean & The Big Show Co., 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco; $23/$28; 415-863-9834, www.odctheater.org.

Contact Andrew Gilbert at jazzscribe@aol.com.

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