The Weekly Wire: This Week's Recommended Events

THURSDAY 11/15

Dance: Endowment Envy?

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet has been the topic of some high-level speculation in the dance world, since it breaks almost every convention that a ballet company usually embodies. Its dancers have a repertory drawn from the latest hybridized European sources; then there's its peripatetic touring schedule (even a film appearance in 2011's The Adjustment Bureau), all bankrolled by a singular donor, Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie. Cedar Lake gets close attention before the curtain goes up—and when it does, it's on a program like the one they're bringing here, with three new works by choreographers Alexander Ekman, Hofesh Shechter, and Seattle favorite Crystal Pite. Cedar Lake may sound like a calm vacation spot, but it's one of the hottest dance tickets going. (Through Sat.) Meany Hall, UW campus, 543-4880, meany.org. $39–$43. 8 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ

FRIDAY 11/16

Stage: A Taste for the Felt

If you can't wait for The Book of Mormon to arrive in January, head over to Balagan Theatre's staging of Avenue Q, which opens tonight. It's the 2003 Sesame Street-for-adults puppet musical that won the same big Tony Awards that Mormon would take eight years later (Best Musical, Book, and Original Score), but it's far sweeter, funnier, and more tuneful than its cheerfully blasphemous descendant. And the show presents a special challenge for Balagan's actors: How to give performances without upstaging . . . themselves. Or rather, the furry monsters they're bringing to life. Some of the puppets require two people to manipulate, but it's often a one-person task, which the ensemble had about seven weeks of rehearsal to master. "They've come in with vastly different backgrounds when it comes to working with puppets," says assistant director Doug Willott, who himself has 13 years of puppetry experience. "Some have used them in shows, some are big fans of the Muppets, and some are getting their first real taste for the felt. Fortunately, they're all very dedicated." Though co-composer and -lyricist Robert Lopez, who also co-created Mormon, cited the South Park movie as a major influence, the irreverence of Avenue Q feels more, well, necessary. How better to get an audience full of jaded grown-ups to absorb life's complexities than to send them out singing, "Everyone's a little bit racist, all right?/Bigotry has never been exclusively whi-i-iiiite"? (Through Dec. 15.) Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., 329-1050, balagantheatre.org. $20–$25. 8 p.m. STEVE WIECKING

Books: No End in Sight

Now that the election is over and won, there's the matter of two long, bloody, unfunded wars to end. Pulitzer-winning journalist Thomas E. Ricks has had much to say on those conflicts in his highly critical (and highly praised) Fiasco and The Gamble. His latest effort has a longer historical reach: The Generals: American Military Command From World War II to the Present (Penguin, $32.95). Still, in discussing Eisenhower and his khaki company, present context counts for a lot. Ike was the exceptional leader who achieved greatness in uniform and out; it was he who warned against the military-industrial complex, how the Cold War would become a self-perpetuating sinkhole for tax dollars better spent on social programs. Fifty years after that famous White House farewell speech, we're still trying to balance those priorities, to pay the war bills that W and the neocons would not. In his new book, Ricks describes the cost of keeping bad generals at their command (think Douglas MacArthur), both in terms of blood and money. If you're not willing to change military leaders, he argues, expensive wars drag on forever. Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., 386-4636, spl.org. Free. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Dance: Dancing About Politics

Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded in 1969, not long after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., but went into a self-imposed hiatus in 2004. The company is back just in time for some pointed conversations in the dance world about the dearth of black performers in major ballet companies. Founder Arthur Mitchell, himself a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, was bent on proving that African-Americans can dance ballet. Current director Virginia Johnson has to balance that mission with the demands of defining ballet itself in a changing cultural landscape. Tonight's three-part program includes a new work, Contested Space, by Spectrum Dance Theater director Donald Byrd, no stranger to controversial topics. The Moore, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $25–$73. 8 p.m. (Repeats Sat.) SANDRA KURTZ

Film: Native Sprecher

Fleeing the Nazis, Billy Wilder arrived in the U.S. in 1933 speaking hardly a word of English; today he's considered one of the greats of postwar American cinema. His 1950 classic Sunset Blvd. shows just how well he adjusted to the vernacular of his adopted country, boasting more great lines than an average yearful of movies. Co-written with Charles Brackett, the film is a black, venomously funny take on Hollywood—its dreams, delusions, and deceits—and probably the best movie ever made about that industry town. In it, jaded screenwriter William Holden becomes the gigolo to former silent-era star Gloria Swanson, who embodies Hollywood's faded glory. Though filled with memorable quotes ("I am big. It's the pictures that got small"), some of the movie's best bits are wordless: Holden's look of disgust as he beds Swanson; his corpse floating in the pool. Then there's the famous "waxworks" card-playing scene in which Buster Keaton speaks one of his very few lines of dialogue. Wilder gave him only one word—"Pass"—which Keaton utters with lemon-lipped disgust at the fallen state of Hollywood. (Through Wed.) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $6–$8. 7 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

Film: Winter Soldiers

Stuck in the middle of Flow State, the annual Warren Miller ski movie, is a welcome little history chapter on the 10th Mountain Division, whose troops learned to ski on Mt. Rainier and near Vail, Colo., where vintage color footage shows GIs training before Pearl Harbor. Their white camouflage rucksacks are bulging and they carry heavy rifles, yet some manage surprisingly graceful turns. After the war, these storied vets would create the modern ski industry—and a few of these octogenarians are still skiing, as they testify here. Then a grandson heads into the mountains with 1940s equipment—bear-trap bindings, narrow wood skis, screw-on edges, climbing skins made of real sealskin—and discovers how tough those old soldiers really were. "The skis just don't want to turn!" he exclaims after repeatedly crashing. How much easier the sport is now with modern gear, as documented in the rest of the snowy compendium, which travels from Japan to the Alps and Alaska. Virtually every skier now has a GoPro camera mounted on their helmet, and the modern ski arsenal also typically includes an iPhone, a GPS, and an avalanche transceiver. Still, the simple pleasure of schussing remains the same even if, in the film's final Norway segment, winter itself is under assault. Global warming is belatedly addressed, and Flow State asks, "If the Arctic ice is going, could the snow be next?" Not this season, we hope. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), warrenmiller.com. $22.50. 8 p.m. (Repeats Sat.) BRIAN MILLER

 
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