While major Bay Area dance companies like the San Francisco Ballet and Ballet San Jose don't start new seasons until after their annual "Nutcracker" productions in December, the fall dance season still offers an opulent and varied array of performances. Here are five of the most anticipated.

  • Nederlands Dans Theater: The heralded company's Cal Performances shows were a highlight of the 2011 season, and expectations are equally high for the company's return, which again showcases works by NDT resident choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol León. The program includes two West Coast premieres: the surreal "Sehnsucht," set to Beethoven, and the playful "Schmetterling," which unleashes the dancers' personalities to a score by the indie pop band the Magnetic Fields. 8 p.m. Oct. 23-24, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, $30-$92, www.calperformances.org.

    COURTESY DIMENSIONS DANCE THEATREMembers of Oakland’s Dimensions Dance Theatre appear in ìRhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line.î
    COURTESY DIMENSIONS DANCE THEATRE Members of Oakland's Dimensions Dance Theatre appear in ìRhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line.î (Evol Knight Photography)

  • Bay Area Flamenco Festival: The event is an essential conduit bringing Spain's greatest flamenco artists to Northern California, and the eighth annual edition kicks off with the riveting Concha Vargas. Since her debut at the Gypsy flamenco festival El Gazpacho de Morón at age 11, she has collaborated with the art form's most formidable figures and became a full-fledged star in her own right through a featured role in the flamenco opera "Camelamos Naquerar." She'll be joined by a group of musicians and dancers from Spain. 8 p.m. Sept. 21, La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, $30-$50, www.lapena.org; and Sept. 22, 8 p.m., Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Sant Cruz, $30/$50. www.kuumbwajazz.org. The festival runs through Oct. 6 with performances at La Pena, Kuumbwa and Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. More information is at www.bayareaflamencofestival.org

  • Dimensions Dance Theater: Founded in 1973 by Elendar Barnes and Deborah Vaughan, Oakland's Dimensions Dance Theater has long been the Bay Area's premiere forum exploring the nexus between African and African-American dance. The company celebrates its 40th anniversary with a retrospective featuring more than 30 artists and excerpts from several of the company's most enduring works. The evening's centerpiece is the world premiere of the four-part work "Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line," which vividly connects the legacy of Congolese dance in Brazil, Cuba, and New Orleans. 8 p.m. Oct. 5, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, $25-$30, www.dimensionsdance.org.

    CAL PERFORMANCESMembers of Nederlands Dans Theater perform "Sehnsucht," a work that will be spotlights when the company comes to UC Berkeley in
    CAL PERFORMANCES Members of Nederlands Dans Theater perform "Sehnsucht," a work that will be spotlights when the company comes to UC Berkeley in October. (cp)

  • Bill T. Jones: The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company celebrates its 30th anniversary with a series of events in San Francisco, starting with "/Time: Study I," a site-specific collaboration with composer, musician, and intermedia artist Ted Coffey created at the San Francisco arts center CounterPULSE. Inspired by John Cage, the company will employ chance procedures to create a new collage of dance and music. Later in the week, Jones teams up with Anne Bogart's SITI Company for "A Rite," a major new dance-theater work celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky's groundbreaking modernist masterpiece, "The Rite of Spring." The West Coast premiere features a libretto drawn from World War I diaries, Stravinsky's score, the writings of physicist Brian Greene, and many other sources. "/Time: Study I," 8 p.m. Oct. 8—9, CounterPULSE, $50, www.counterpulse.org; "A Rite," 8 p.m. Oct. 11—12, 3 p.m. Oct. 13, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, $35-$40, www.ybca.org.

  • Diablo Ballet: The Walnut Creek company kicks off its 20th season in style with a new edition of Sean Kelly's "A Swingin' Holiday," the Broadway choreographer's well-received swing dance production set to hits by Ellington, Glenn Miller, and Nat King Cole. The program also features Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada's "Our Waltzes Trilogy," set to Teresa Carreño's piano score performed by Bay Area concert pianist Roy Bogas, and the West Coast premiere of "Compulsive" by Mário Radacovský, artistic director of the Slovak National Theatre and former principal dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater. 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 9, Smith Center at Ohlone College, Oakland, $43-$48, 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 16, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, $45/$50, www.diabloballet.org.

    Contact Andrew Gilbert at jazzscribe@aol.com.