The Afsaneh Art and Culture Society presents a collaboration of 20 highly regarded Bay Area dancers and musicians in its production, “Encounters: New Moon on the Silk Road.” The production celebrates the cultural heritage of countries traversed by the Silk Routes, combining traditional dance, music, and poetry with original and contemporary choreography and compositions created for the production.

The Silk Road comprised important paths for cultural, commercial, and technological exchange between merchants and missionaries for almost 3,000 years and extended 4,000 miles across Iran, Afghanistan, India, Tibet, China, and the Mediterranean. Trade along the routes was a significant factor in the development of great civilizations and the spread of knowledge, ideas, and luxury goods.


Sharlyn Sawyer, director of the Ballet Afsaneh, explains the significance of the Silk Road in drawing together the multitude of cultural influences in her company’s repertoire.

“We found in the historic Silk Road a perfect metaphor, both in concept and in the very real ways that our various artistic cultures and disciplines have influenced each other over the millennia along this network,” she says. “What new roads of creativity do we travel together?”

Sawyer is a prolific choreographer and artist, equally renowned for her classical and culturally specific performances as for her contemporary works. Under Sawyer’s expert direction, a multiethnic cast of accomplished dancers and musicians will perform a number of pieces in an uninterrupted flow incorporating dance, poetry, and music from the cultural legacies of India, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Indonesia, the Balkans, Israel, Morocco, and Hungary.

One performer, Antonia Minnecola, is a recognized kathak dancer and has choreographed an original work embodying the expressive gestures of the ancient artform. Minnecola’s performance is set to a modern score composed by renowned Bay Area composer Moses Sedler, and she will be accompanied by Afghan tabla player Salar Nader, who studies under Minnecola’s husband, tabla master Zakir Hussain.

The performances will enhanced by award-winning lighting designer Patty-Ann Farrell who magically transforms the stage with atmospheric and luminous settings.

“Encounters: New Moon on the Silk Road” celebrates the rich cultures of countries with a shared history of cross-cultural exchange. Sawyer hopes that her company’s performances will positively affect audiences with the “sheer creative power of the human spirit and its capacity for connection beyond national borders.”

Saturday, Nov. 20, 8 p.m.; Nov. 21, 3 p.m. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco (Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street entrance). Advance tickets $22 general, $18 student/senior; at the door $25 general, $21 student/senior. Tickets: (415) 345-7575. Parking/directions: