SARAH SILVERMAN MAY BE getting attention lately for her edgy comedy, but let's not overlook the more delicate -- but no less edgy -- bounties of Miranda July, a performance artist turned filmmaker whose "Me and You and Everyone We Know" took two prizes at this year's Cannes festival. Her feature debut, in which she stars as an eccentric video artist who falls for an even stranger shoe salesman (John Hawkes), is about the found poetry of everyday life -- as processed through July's off-kilter consciousness. In this and her short works, she suggests a composite of experimental filmmaker Maya Deren, Emily Dickinson and postmodern comic Steven Wright. Get in tune with July's dark-side-of-Pluto brilliance and you'll fall in line with the Cannes judges, too.
-- Desson Thomson
At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. Thursday at 7 p.m. Six of July's experimental shorts will be shown Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. $5. Reservations are required. Call 202-783-7370 or e-mail email@example.com.
AS THE SEASON OF "Nutcrackers" descends, something different sounds especially inviting. Ziva's Spanish Dance Ensemble might be just the antidote to the sugar glaze that coats dance offerings this time of year. The locally based group presents Andalusian flamenco as well as folk dances from Galicia, Aragon and Valencia. The troupe will be joined by Spanish dancers Antonio Hidalgo and Jorge Navarro, and Israeli performer Carmel Shelly. Live music accompanies the program.
-- Sarah Kaufman
At Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NE. Saturday at 8 p.m., next Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m. $7-$20. (The 4 p.m. Sunday show is free for one child 12 or younger with a paying adult.) Visit www.danceplace.org or call 202-269-1600.
SAY THIS ABOUT the fantastic soul singer Bettye LaVette: She didn't peak early. The Michigan native was discovered as a teenager in the early 1960s, and after some initial success on the R&B charts she was basically sent to the music industry's discard pile. But LaVette, at 60, has returned to the spotlight with a vengeance: Her new Joe Henry-produced album, "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise," is among the year's best releases, full of raw, smoldering interpretations of songs by the likes of Sinead O'Connor, Joan Armatrading and Lucinda Williams. LaVette performs Thursday at the State Theatre, and based on her breathtaking reading of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" on "Late Night With David Letterman," ticket-holders are in for a treat. One that's been decades in the making.
-- J. Freedom du Lac
At the State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church. Thursday at 7 p.m. $16. Call 703-237-0300 or visit www.thestatetheatre.com.
IF YOU LIKE ART that's easy on the eyes, you might want to skip the current exhibition at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. But if you think that art should change the world -- or at least that it can take a stab at it -- then "Crowd of the Person" is the show for you. In one project, called "(Re)living Democracy," four artists from New York, Baltimore and Denmark collaborated with locals to explore the plight of downtrodden East Baltimore. There's a slide show of RIP graffiti -- commemorating a violent death -- and lots of information about how poor people get gentrified out of their own neighborhoods.
-- Blake Gopnik
At the Contemporary Museum, 100 W. Center St., Baltimore, through Jan. 14. Open Wednesday-Sunday noon to 5. Call 410-783-5720 or visit www.contemporary.org.