Note: this is an extended version of an article in this week'sGuardian.
The crowd outside the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Oakland was hopping. Fidgeting, really. Almost imperceptibly at first, while above it a bulging moon hung in the temperate June sky, just itching to go super as it would the following night. But soon enough bodies were bouncing and flailing, until finally the scrum of dancers packed shoulder-to-front-to-back on the sidewalk morphed their collective way through the front door.
We followed the dancers (choreographed by Abby Crain) inside, swept along by their momentum, and were deposited around the perimeter of the main reading room like dust mice by a strong breeze. On that same floor, a few hours later, choreographer Ronja Ver would be sending her supine audience into dreamland with a couple of Finnish lullabies. Before that, a bowl of liquid nitrogen would send a delicate fog creeping over its wooden surface as the spectators (temporarily wrapped in reflective emergency blankets) braced themselves for a performance by Daniel Stadulis that was part science experiment, part detailed meditation on the fragility of the body.