Critics' Picks: Dancers spin visions of angst and beauty

The Whirling Dervishes of Turkey mesmerize with their ritualistic tribute to Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet and mystic.

The city's hottest choreographers step boldly into a new season, serving up everything from intimate studies to crash-and-burn innovation.

The dance calendar has never offered such a vivid reflection of Vancouver's cosmopolitan makeup. This season's roster has its purely exotic draws: the Dance Allsorts series continues to present everything from Middle Eastern to Bollywood forms at the Roundhouse Community Centre; Comfort Ero presents her colourful African dance-drama Izabobo at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in October; and touring troupes like the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey land at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in November. But some of the most exciting shows spotlight modern fusions, including a multimedia work about the struggles of early Chinese immigrants, a choreographer who sets Asian-inflected dance to a new electronic riff on The Four Seasons, and a troupe that offers a metaphorical look at a First Nations artist who took Paris by storm a century ago. All that, and an homage to Johnny Cash. Read on.

TIME LAPSE (September 14, 15, 19, 21, and 22 at EDAM Studio Theatre) In this eclectic EDAM presentation, three wildly different choreographers command the intimate stage: veteran contact improvisationist Peter Bingham; emerging talent Jennifer Clarke; and fast-rising Ballet B.C. star Simone Orlando. The Draw: Orlando's new tribute to the Man in Black, Studies of Cash, might make you want to shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Target Audience: Curiosity seekers and those who like both kinds of music: country and western.

TRIASPORA (September 21 and 22 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts) Moving Dragon choreographer-dancers (and husband and wife) Chengxin Wei and Jessica Jone join forces with the Orchid Ensemble and media artists Kenneth Newby and Aleksandra Dulic to create a multisensory exploration of the Chinese Canadian experience. The work is based on interviews with descendants of head-tax payers, railway workers, and early Chinatown settlers. The Draw: This is an all-star list of collaborators, from the acclaimed music ensemble to Wei himself, consistently one of the most watchable stars in the Ballet B.C. corps. Target Audience: Culture vultures who want the full bang of music, visuals, and movement for their dance buck.

EVENING IN PARIS (September 26 to 29 at the Firehall Arts Centre) Raven Spirit Dance's Michelle Olson melds contemporary and ancient styles in a solo about Molly Spotted Elk. The early-20th-century American First Nations artist took traditional Native performance from New York vaudeville houses to Hollywood films to the City of Lights. The show is also a meditation on cultural identity and the legacy of Olson's own grandmother. The Draw: The chance to discover the story of the pioneering Elk, whose experiences stretched from mingling with Europe's cultural elite to fleeing France's Nazi occupation. Target Audience: Modern-dance-minded history majors with a minor in women's studies.

THE VISION IMPURE (October 2 to 6 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) Noam Gagnon, one half of the dance scene's rockin'-est dance duo, the Holy Body Tattoo, unveils his new endeavour: Co. Vision Selective. Gagnon has already proven he can hold his own, with a riveting, convulsive solo in 2004's HBT Running Wild program. Now he and cocreator Nigel Charnock crank up their choreography with film to explore the ways that seeing and being seen affect human relationships. The Draw: The series of solos and duets promises to be as close to Euro-cool avant-garde as you can get without jetting to Berlin. Target Audience: Angst-wracked urbanites and art-house scenesters.

THREE SIX FIVE (October 16 to 20 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) Wen Wei Dance's Wen Wei Wang explores movement via six dancers and an electronic score by Vancouver New Music's Giorgio Magnanensi. The composer was inspired by The Four Seasons, playing classical European styles off traditional eastern ones–much the way Chinese-born Ballet B.C. alumnus Wang does through choreography. The Draw: Last year's sexually urgent Unbound, also by Wang, was the hottest, most exciting show on the calendar; the Vancouver choreographer could be on a roll. Target Audience: Westerners with a taste for Far Eastern art forms; Far Easterners with a taste for western art forms.

MIXED MOVEMENTS (November 22 to 24 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre) Ballet B.C. offers the Canadian premiere of American choreographer Lar Lubovitch's Elemental Brubeck, a piece that sets everything from bebop to Broadway styles to the Dave Brubeck Quartet's 1960s jazz classics. From this light note, the corps goes darker with Serge Bennathan's acclaimed meditation on the Warsaw ghetto, In and Around Kozla Street. And Simone Orlando premieres another piece (see Time Lapse above), only this time without the twang: her New Work features a live chamber ensemble. The Draw: You can't go wrong with any of these three, but it's the Brubeck number that will yank in the crowds and get them snapping their fingers like it's 1963. Target Audience: New-ballet fans with a taste for retro jazz.

THE WHIRLING DERVISHES OF TURKEY (November 24 at the Chan Centre's Chan Shun Concert Hall) Okay, so it's not exactly La La La Human Steps. But if you've never had the chance to witness this "How in the”¦?" form, now's your chance: the unearthly spinning isn't just mesmerizing, it's a physical feat that ranks up there with any crash-and-burn dancing. The Draw: When's the next time you plan to fork out airfare to Istanbul? Target Audience: Lonely Planet disciples who aren't prone to motion sickness.

LOST ACTION (November 27 to December 1 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) Kidd Pivot's Crystal Pite remounts her sometimes violent and often smartly choreographed Lost Action for seven performers. The Draw: The work's sheer athletic beauty, fed by a quartet of strong male dancers. Target Audience: Anyone who thinks that what they see on Hockey Night in Canada or at the Wimbledon tennis finals is the epitome of physical prowess.

GLOW (February 1 to 3 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre) Australia's Chunky Move performs its ghostly Glow as a copresentation of the Dance Centre and the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Dancer-composer Luke Smiles's body movements trigger the animation in the luminescent, video-generated world that surrounds him. The resulting kaleidoscopic creatures are so surreal they'll make you wonder what was in your pre-show drink. The Draw: The centre and fest's multimedia dance offering last year, Scarface, was bizarre and boundary-busting in the best possible way. Target Audience: Dance audiences craving the rare chance to see what's cutting-edge in other countries.

THE FOUR SEASONS (February 14 to 16 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre) Ballet B.C. artistic director John Alleyne reinterprets Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with live accompaniment by the reliably tight Vancouver Opera Orchestra. The Draw: If anyone can put a clean, modern spin on a sparkling standard, it's Alleyne. Target Audience: Balletomanes who keep Baroque Favourites on heavy rotation.