Giant steps: Boulder's annual Colorado Dance Festival, no stranger to the creative-movement vanguard, wraps up this year on a trendsetting note when it presents Ronald K. Brown, a choreographer recently named by the New York Times as one of thirty artists under thirty most likely to have an impact on culture during the next thirty years. Brown and his company, EVIDENCE, combine spoken word, athletic motion, music and social commentary in a dance/theater hybrid, Lessons, to be performed at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Irey Theater, CU-Boulder campus. Admission ranges from $18 to $20; call 449-1343 for tickets.
Good vibes: The great Milt Jackson hardly needs introduction. The polished jazz vibraphonist, a co-founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet and widely considered a pinnacle of his breed, is immediately recognizable to jazz lovers everywhere--he's warm, refined and positively debonair, with impeccable musicality and chops. In other words, "Bags" is a living legend. Jackson and a superb quartet, including drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Paul West and pianist Michael Ledonne, make a rare Denver appearance tonight at 7:15 at the Denver Botanic Gardens outdoor amphitheater, 1005 York St.; admission is $20 ($17 DBG members). Another brand of good times will roll at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder, when Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys perform tonight at 8. Accordionist Simien ("Mallet" refers to his Louisiana hometown, not a percussion instrument) says he's insulted if folks at his shows don't dance, so be prepared to give proper homage; admission is $10.50 and a gallon of sweat. Take your pick: suave jazz or rollicking roots music. To reserve tickets for either show, call 777-3836.
Bench marks: If you've ever wondered how those fancy bus benches parked on the 16th Street Mall or in front of LoDo and Boulder galleries got that way, here's your chance to observe the artful genesis of a brand-new batch. Professional artists from around the region will design and paint up a fresh crop when Art in the Streets--an event first held in 1986 in a vacant lot in Denver's Highland neighborhood--sets up shop today and tomorrow in Boulder's Central Park, across the street from the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th St. By the way, if you take a fancy to a particular pavement pew in progress, they go for $750 apiece; benches can also be commissioned or bought, sight unseen, in advance. Any bench not sold by tomorrow afternoon will be auctioned off beginning at 4; proceeds benefit BMoCA. For details call 443-2122.
Soukous story: As grand old men go, Tabu Ley Rochereau is one of the grandest. A pioneer and veteran of Zaire's happy-go-lucky, rumba-inspired and guitar-heavy soukous music since 1955, his distinctive voice provides the yardstick by which his musical descendants are measured. Rochereau, now residing in the States, brings his eleven-piece L'Orchestre Afrisa International, a total package replete with singers, dancers and musicians, to the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, tonight at 8. Tickets, $14 to $17, can be purchased in advance by calling 1-800-444-SEAT; for information call the Swallow Hill Music Association, 777-1003.
Second bloom: Here's a fine example of backward thinking: The Blue River, choked by decades of dredge mining in the Breckenridge area, has experienced a slow renaissance since a restoration of mountain flora along its banks was instigated in the '80s. The prize-winning project will be officially recognized this weekend during Return of the Wildflowers: A Celebration of Ecological Restoration, a community festival highlighted by tours, seminars and concerts. Revolving around Breckenridge's Riverwalk Center performance facility, itself a project showpiece, daylong events will take place beginning at 9:30 a.m. today and Sunday, followed each evening by live music. Riverwalk is located at 150 W. Adams St.; call 1-970-453-2120 for more information.
Beat 'em to the punch: Abridging gaps seems to be the forte of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a comedy troupe well-versed in, but impatient with, historical strata and classics of world literature. After abbreviating the finer points of American history and the lauded works of William Shakespeare into a series of irrepressible horse laughs, the group, sort of an oral Cliffs Notes of comedy, now gets down to business with one of man's earliest works--The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). The troupe's latest takes on the good book reveal a satiric touch that's nothing short of hysterical. Find out whether or not Adam and Eve had navels or if Moses actually looked like Charlton Heston, tonight at 8 at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder; tickets for the one-night-only performance are $18 general admission or $20.50 to $23 reserved. Call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS.
The buggy man: Think small! Entomologist Mike Weissman has a knack for sharing his microcosmic world--the bug expert, former man-behind-the-wheel of the University of Colorado Bug-Mobile and current curator of Westminster's high-flying Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, is as enthusiastic as he is knowledgeable when it comes to insects. Weissman will share both qualities when he leads an Insect Safari for parents and kids today at 1 at the Denver Botanic Gardens' Chatfield Arboretum. The hands-on class, which takes place in the field, is $9 per child ($8 DBG members; tuition includes one accompanying adult); to register call 370-8020. Chatfield Arboretum is located southwest of Littleton at 8500 Deer Creek Canyon Rd., just off Wadsworth Blvd. and a quarter-mile south of Hwy. C-470.
Free for all: Culture takes to the streets--well, at least to the parks--during Norwest Arts on Stage, being held today at Village Greens Park, Dayton and Union, Greenwood Village, and Wednesday at the Adams County Fairgrounds, 9755 Henderson Rd., Brighton. Families can enjoy performances by the Boulder Philharmonic's Centennial Brass, opera pops selections featuring members of the Central City Opera, and excerpts from the Denver Center Attractions hit Always...Patsy Cline on one stage, or participate in interactive activities sponsored by the Children's Museum of Denver and the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities on another. A main-stage presentation features more opera, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and, depending on the venue, the David Taylor or Cleo Parker Robinson dance troupes. And how much do you suppose it'll cost you to check out all this good stuff? Not a thing, though early arrival is recommended to ensure a good seat. Events begin at 4:30 today and at 5:30 on Wednesday; for information call 893-4000.
All wet: Wash the birdie--and the still life, the landscape, the abstract and the figure. The Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, a celebration of painting's most liquid vehicles, returns with a sparkle for its 23rd annual showing at the Foothills Art Center, 809 15th St., Golden. This year's juried show, featuring 116 works by 104 artists from across the United States, opens today with a public reception from 2 to 4 and remains on view through September 18. Call 279-3922.
A gay old time: Best-selling author Clive Barker (The Books of Blood, Everville and Weaveworld) is back on a roll, but with a twist. His new novel, Sacrament, is the questioning, coast-hopping, autobiographical saga of gay protagonist Will, who transcends the labels of sexual orientation with intelligence and compassion. Barker will autograph copies of the book (available for $25 from HarperCollins) tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave.; for details call 322-7727.
The band played on: Summer Nights on Larimer Square, the downtown tourist attraction's free under-the-stars concert series, takes a swingin' step back in time tonight with the '40s-style big-band music of the Jimmy Dorsey Tribute Orchestra. More than a concert, the event also combines food and drink vendors, roving entertainers and a dance area for an old-fashioned block party on closed-off, traffic-free Larimer Street, between 14th and 15th streets. Put on your seamed nylon stockings, shoulder pads and fedoras, and come on down; call 607-1276.
He's a pistol: When John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) took the stage in the mid-'70s--spike-haired, yowling and awash in a riffing sea of adulterated noise--he shocked the disco-driven pop-music world right out of its six-inch platform shoes, garroting the industry with a spiked leather collar. And even though Lydon and the boys, no longer of ill pallor, now look more like a rowdy quartet of red-cheeked soccer players, they're still the Sex Pistols, punk progenitors and Green Day's old godfathers. Back together again, the Pistols--Lydon, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock (we all know what happened to Sid Vicious)--storm Red Rocks tonight at 6:30; a forceful barrage by Stabbing Westward, Reacharound and Gravity Kills opens the show. Don't miss them--next time, they may be sporting orthopedic shoes and sprouting gray hairs. General admission tickets are $22.50; call 830-TIXS to reserve yours.