Photo by Lois Greenfield, from here.
(Late) reminder: DanceBrazil’s live webcast begins tonight (Sunday) at 6:45 EST. Go here for deets.
Alyssa and I saw them Friday night at the Skirball Center and Alyssa said it was they best dance event I’d ever invited her to I greatly enjoyed it too. There were two pieces, Ritmo and Inura ( the second having its world premiere). Ritmo (from 2008, choreographed by company head Jelon Vieira) is what they’re live-casting tonight. I’d reviewed it earlier and liked it then, but they did something to improve it substantially. I loved it Friday night. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s so worth watching, believe me. It’s basically just a wonderful celebration of Brazilian dance — mainly capoeira, which is a martial arts dance originating in the 16th and 17th centuries by slaves and celebrates the slave’s ability to outsmart the master. Some may see capoeira as a bunch of “tricks” but I think that is a ballet or perhaps modern hip hop mentality (I say ballet because I think those critics are likening the astounding jumps, mid-air turns, and balances on one’s neck, to ballet’s barrel turns, huge jetes, bizillions of fouettes, etc). But the “tricks” here are not so much to wow the audience, but to celebrate the slave’s triumph, his ability to mentally and physically “out-trick” his captors. But there’s more — there’re also a few Samba sections :D, and some parts comprised of beautiful combination modern / Afro-Brazilian movement. In one section, a dancer does what I’ve heard in hip hop referred to as a caterpillar. But he does it so much more poetically than I’ve ever seen; his body gains such momentum on the repeated up and down moves, he begins to look like an ocean wave.
Inura, choreographed by Carlos Dos Santos Jr. which made its world premiere this season at Skirball (but is not being live-broadcast today), is a celebration of Exu, who, in Afro-Brazilian Yoruba tradition, the program notes state, is the messenger between the world of the people and that of the gods, and also the guardian of the energy that moves the universe. Inura is “the manifestation of the Exu energy that exists in each of us.” There are scenes of worship, of a goddess being exalted, raised high by a group of men, of a prince and princess flirting, then consummating their relationship, with a near-naked Yul Brynner-looking man sitting atop a mirror beside them, in various poses accentuating his skin, his musculature, in a kind of celebration of humanity, perhaps representing the human being they will create?
The movement in Inura is contemporary with of course a definite Afro-Brazilian bent. The company is comprised of four female dancers (at least ideally; Vieira has only two for now), four male dancers, and four capoeira artists and it’s interesting to see how he and the other choreographers who work with him use the capoeira artists in a contemporary dance. In one scene, there are several bodies supine on the ground, as if sleeping, and the capoeira men come out and dance over and around them — jumping over them, kicking out in all directions — as if they are protecting them in their sleep from either captors or evil spirits. One man does in back of the group what in hip hop would be termed a “flare” and it looks like as he’s spinning around down there, he’s just whipping all those evil spirits right away.
Afterward, there was a short question and answer session with the artists and one woman remarked how “the youth of today” — meaning, today’s young hip hop / break dancers, are using many of these same moves, totally unaware of their origins, thinking mistakenly that they’re creating them. It was exactly what I was thinking, and judging by all the nods and “um – hums!” was a thought shared by many in that auditorium. She continued, saying how sad it was that these young dancers don’t seem aware of this aspect of their roots — this African slave dance centuries old. So true. Perhaps dance elitists who trash hip hop and break-dancing don’t understand that either.