Several Dancers Core's inaugural Fringe Festival of Contemporary Dance and Performance Art is based on a concept that began in Atlanta earlier this decade. In theory, the "lottery-based" fest is all about democracy -- or luck; the idea behind it is to depoliticize the process of selecting participating artists. How? According to SDC's Joy Ann LeVelle, by (literally) drawing applicants' names from a hat. So good fortune smiled on all of this year's selectees? "Well, no," admits LeVelle. "All of the applicants made it; it's only the first year." The lineup includes Leanna Sparacino & Company Dancers and AlienNation Co. (tonight); the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company and Stillpoint Dance (Friday); the Second Generation Dance Company, City Dance Company and KORO (Saturday); and Amy Ell, Stillpoint Dance, Don Price's Friends & Loved Ones and a group from the Anjali Center for Indian Performing Arts (Sunday). All shows start at 8 p.m. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 223-8346. More info: 520-5530. $10 (proceeds: the Houston Dance Coalition).
Lila York's "Rapture" deals with death and afterlife, the AIDS plague and York's conception of "heaven as a playground." The rising young choreographer wrote the piece in honor of her late friends Clark Tippet and Christopher Gillis. The former was a dancer for the American Ballet Theatre; Gillis was a fellow trouper of York's in the Paul Taylor Dance Company. The piece is set to excerpts from Prokofiev's Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Major, op. 26, and the same composer's Piano Concerto no. 5 in G Major, op. 55; it has its local premiere as part of a Houston Ballet mixed-repertory bill that also includes George Balanchine's "Serenade," a new, untitled pas de trois by HB artistic director Ben Stevenson and Stevenson's pas de deux "End of Time." 7:30 tonight and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Through May 31. The Brown Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $10 to $84 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The swing revival notwithstanding, the revitalized tango is probably the perfect fit for this revisionist decade, in which so many forms we thought lost forever are found again. A product of the Argentinean slums, the tango's become gentrified with the passing of time, but not calcified. It remains one of the world's most lovely, moving and unabashedly passionate dances; it's aggressively romantic, bodycentric and frankly bedroom-eyed, defined by the grand theatrical gesture but still a deeply private public act of connection. That said, check out the Houston Argentine Tango Association's Argentine Tango Weekend Milonga, a dance party/workshop featuring Buenos Aires-born milonguero-bailarin (tango master) Danel and his longtime partner, Italy native Maria. The New York City-based duo performs at tonight's milonga, scheduled for 8 to midnight at Cafe Express, 1800 South Post Oak Boulevard. Danel and Maria lead workshops from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at separate venues on the Rice University campus. Info: 665-3812, 790-9505. $10 (milonga); $40 to $60 (workshops).
Orchestra X includes musicians from the Houston Symphony, Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and the University of Houston's Moores School of Music, and aims to capture the fancy of Gen Xers with its interactive, informal concerts and reinterpretations of repertory staples. Its latest offering is the "X Mix Dance Festival" -- which, the ensemble hopes, will include orchestra-pit moshing to a program that includes Johann Strauss II's "Blue Danube Waltz," Astor Piazzolla's "Revolucionario Tango," Ravel's "Bolero," Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" and John Adams's "Lollapalooza." Also scheduled: a collaboration by the ensemble and DJ Sean Carnahan, a performance by the Weave Dance Company, arts and crafts, puppet and magic shows and cooking demos. 2 p.m. today; 6 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. Monday. TemplO, 5217 Feagan, 802-1828. More info: 225-ORCX. $15 (proceeds: Multi-Cultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts).
Though pricey, the eighth annual "Concert at the Villa" benefits a most worthy cause: the Galveston-Houston Diocesan AIDS Ministry, which serves those with HIV and AIDS, focusing specifically on afflicted women and children. Christoph Eschenbach leads the Houston Symphony Chamber Players in a program that includes Glinka's Trio pathetique in d minor, op. 12, and Faure's Piano Quartet no. 1 in c minor, op. 15. The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. A reception precedes; dinner follows. The Villa de Matel Convent Chapel, 6510 Lawndale. Info: 526-4611. $250 and up.
Here's another worthy fundraiser: the Blues Is a Feeling benefit/book-release party features a signing by Chicago photographer/author James Fraher (The Blues Is a Feeling: Voices & Visions of African-American Blues Musicians), a display of Fraher's stills for the Houston Blues Project and a performance by Houston's Milton Hopkins, the former leader of B.B. King's band. Proceeds go to the Musicians Benevolent Society of Houston. 2 to 5 p.m. Butera's on Montrose, 4621 Montrose, 523-0722.
The Houston Zoological Gardens continues its commendable custom of offering gratis admission on city holidays with today's Memorial Day commemoration. Zoo hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 1513 North MacGregor in Hermann Park, 523-5888.
Michael Frayn's Noises Off is to backstage farce what, say, Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth is to the diabolical thriller -- a sly, knowing, wink-wink/nudge-nudge exercise in genre deconstruction. Well, that makes Noises sound pretentious, which it's not. Frayn's play is fast-paced and fun, a sublimely ridiculous slapstick throwback that offers a behind-the-scenes look at a traveling theater troupe bumbling its way through a "witless sex farce" titled Nothing On. (P.S. The term "noises off" is British theatrical slang for "quiet on the set.") Tonight's show starts at 7:30 (for info about the rest of this week's performances, see page 44). The Large Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 228-9341. $31 to $46.
Salvadoran writer Contreras y Tobar (El Salvador: Light at the End of the Tunnel, the upcoming El Bilinguismo y Pobre el Discriminador) is the featured reader at this month's Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, a Hispanic literary forum scheduled every fourth Wednesday. Tony Diaz (The Aztec Love God), KXLN Channel 45 reporter Antonio Hernandez and journalist Russell Contreras are also scheduled to participate. 7 p.m. Chapultapec, 813 Richmond. Info: 867-8943. Free.