Dance Brazil - Retratos Da Bahai (an homage to Pierre Verge)
The Joyce Theatre
New York, NY
(March 1-6, 2005)
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Robert Abrams and Autumn Bear
March 2, 2005
Dance Brazil performs with fluidity and power from the head pop and roll that starts the evening length dance. Whether the company is lying on the floor or leaping through the air, they command the space.
The first section starts with the dancers lying on the floor, moving as classic photographs of Brazilian people are projected on a translucent scrim in front of them. Dancers circle each other, as they often do in this work. First two circles that then form into one circle. The energy level is high, but also controlled.
The second section presents dancers in bright print shirts. The energy moves up a notch, perhaps due to the hint of capoeira. No matter whether they are moving fast or slow, no matter whether they are men or women, their movements are precisely delineated.
At the start of the third section, the men change outfits in the dark. The dancers, dressed in net shirts, sing in response to the live band. There is much bending and stretching out of the arms. A woman dances solo. A woman and then a man is added to the circle (I told you it was a theme). It looks like they are enjoying their work, both as dancers and the work they are representing metaphorically in the dance. Finally, there are four. They break from the circle and form a diagonal chain. They twirl, they leap greatly. They are very much alive: even their hair moves to the rhythm.
The work moves to a very fast section. The dancers move like they are riding a horse. They are very flexible. Which I suppose helps to ride a horse. The section ends with the whole cast lying on the ground, echoing the beginning of the work.
The next section, featuring a woman dressed in blue, was one of Autumn's favorite passages. I liked the way their movements resembled water that recedes after the tide; movements that matched the full and vibrant sound of the band. I also liked the stark positioning, woman facing forward, man facing away, with their backs against each other. The man repeatedly placed his hand on the woman, only to have her definitively push him away. This control at the beginning contrasted with a kind of spasm interspersed passivity at the end as the woman was carried off on the bent over back of the man. Autumn liked the way they moved to the music. The music pulled their bodies. They were fluid and elegant but powerful at the same time. They had a good blend of a partnership - they danced like a partnership without it being a partnership dance.
The latter part of act I had several moments worth noting. There was an amazing leap, (Autumn's exact words were "sweet!") of one man into another's arms with seemingly little preparation movement. In a section where the dancers were wearing white with an exposed band of color, each of seven dancers soloed in turn as the lighting changed to their representative color, each with a distinctive movement. I especially liked the way the soloists' movement was offset against the movement of the group. As if that wasn't enough, the dancers then presented large white sheets and started waving them around like flags creating a veritable storm of movement. The final image was reminiscent of the Notario Dance Company, where five men threw powder in the air as the curtain descends.
Autumn remarked that some of the movements made her laugh. The music was perfect for the movement they used and visa versa. The combination of fluidity and power was unusual. Normally you see fluidity OR power, but never both. It was very cool to watch.
The two people sitting next to us loved it. I couldn't agree more.
I suppose I could call the performance an energetic tour de force, except I still have to find something to say about act II.
In act II, I could see the fluidity and power running through the dancing. That's about as good a frame as any for organizing a viewing of this work and these dancers.
Autumn also saw hints of Yoga in their dancing. I have only taken one yoga class (at Soho Dance), but that was enough to see the connection. I could see how the dancers were transitioning from one position or set of movements to another.
The next section started with slow capoeira. Very slow capoeira. So slow that one has to marvel at how long the dancers can hold their bodies at odd angles suspended in the air. The pace picks up. More dancers join the first two. The pace picks up further and the group forms a challenge dance. Both women and men join in stylized combat. Plus a little grandstanding in the form of rapid summersaults in place and another dancer who moved across the stage energetically cheerleading with his feet, upside down. They do have spirit.
Autumn felt this evening's presentation was valuable because it presented many Brazilian dance forms (such as Pescada, Capoeira and Afoxé) and not just Samba. While I concur, I also think Samba is one of the most succinct kinetic expressions of joy. In this regard the next section was just what the doctor ordered (and is available without a prescription).
The dancers took the stage in pants and skirts embellished with multi colored tassels. They were joyous in movements both small and large. They leapt and they shook. Their movements have pop. A group of six rock their heads back in turn. Echoing a theme present throughout the evening, the women circled a central group of men, and then the men circled the women. The effect overall was a riot of movement and color.
As if that wasn't enough, the cast peeled off in groups as if they were a partying phalanx only to return embellished with drums small and large. Their beats at first seemed chaotic, but after listening for a while it resolved as a call and response, one rhythmic crescendo of the band answered by another rhythmic crescendo of the dancers' drums in turn.
After well deserved bows, the dancers returned for a coda with wild drumming. You can't ask for a more masterful, seamless and energetic performance.
You can, however, ask to break the fourth wall and get the audience dancing. To this end Autumn and I made our way to Chetty Red for John Festa's regular West Coast Swing night, which is energetic and seamless in its own way.
Dance Brazil - Clodo, Guilherme, Pequeno
Photo courtesy of Jelon Vieira
Dance Brazil - Ágatha
Photo courtesy of Jelon Vieira
Artistic director and choreographer: Jelon Vieira
Music director, composer: Tote Gira
Production director, lighting design: Kim Palma
Costume design: Mary Jane Marcasiano
Assistant to the choreographer: Alex Brito
Executive director: Patty Bryan
Performers: Alegria, Alex Brito, Cabelo, Guilherme Duarte, Fogo, Camila Santos Freitas, Claudia Guedes, Darlan Jesus, Macarrão, Ágatha Oliveira, Clodonaldo Santana, Janete Santana
Musicians: Tote Gira, Edmilson Pereira Santos, Eduardo Pereira Santos, Marcelo Oliveira Santos
Autumn Bear teaches Swing and other dances at Soho Dance.