Brazilian dance troupe Companhia de Danca just wrapped up a short run at NY’s City Center, performing Deborah Colker’s 4X4. Colker has choreographed sambas for some of the most prestigious schools to participate in the Rio Carnival, and she’s also the first woman to choreograph for Cirque du Soleil — she did their most recent show, Ovo.

You could really see the influence both of Carnival and Cirque du Soleil in 4×4. The whole program was very sexy, very acrobatic with the dancers performing feats that looked extremely difficult.

The title of the work refers to small spaces and how we humans try to adapt to them (which is very pertinent to my life right now as I try hard to tolerate the monstrous noises made by upstairs Godzilla and her mother…).

In the first piece, “Corners,” tall, thin, bare-legged, short-skirted and high-heeled women seem trapped in boxes, each within her own. Well, not really trapped though — just inside the box. Each woman climbs about her box, sometimes lying down on her back and tracing the box’s planes with her long legs, spider-like. Eventually men appear, climbing over the high backs of the boxes, then reaching down toward the women, pulling them up, eventually winding up in the box together, each couple performing a very gymnastic pas de deux that evoked a lot of oooh and aaahs from the crowd.

In the second piece, “Table,” a man and woman perform complicated lifts as a a conveyor-type belt runs atop the table, showing their impressive balancing skills.

In the third cutely funny piece, “Some People,” all the dancers take the stage. They dance and jump about joyously, full of life, while performing everyday gestures that may be natural but that you don’t really do in public — smelling, poking, grabbing / scratching your crotch — the men first, then the women almost in imitation of them.

Music to the first two pieces reminded me of Cirque du Soleil but with a Brazilian emphasis — electronics, some guitars, very percussive; music to the third was the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” by Larry Morey and Frank Churchill, which, given the crotch scratching, etc. was rather amusing.

The second half of the program consisted of one dance, “Vases,” with a short overture consisting of women dancing ballet en pointe (the only time in the show anyone’s in toe shoes) to Mozart, as played on an onstage piano by Colker herself (she’s also an accomplished classical pianist).

After the overture, several vases that appear to be made of china or another very breakable material are slowly dropped onto the floor. The vases appear to be set very close together and the dancers — now men joining the women —  must wend their ways around them — leaping, jumping, turning, partnering — at one point, the men push the women around like wheelbarrows, zigzagging in and around those crazy vases.

Soon, lights are dropped from the ceiling toward the vases and the dancers must weave around those as well. Eventually, the lights are dropped into the vases, and, each light still being attached to its wire and all the wires still attached to the ceiling, the dancers now have to dance around these delicate objects on the floor as well all these crazy wires strung from the ceiling. Talk about the need for nimbleness, agility, and amazing spacial sensibilities!

It was a sweet night. Though nothing seemed tremendously profound, I found all the dances to be humorous and cute, while involving difficult hurdles the dancers surmounted seemingly effortlessly.


Only thing, I was expecting and so looking forward to seeing Isabela Coracy (above), from this wonderful film, which I saw at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, but she doesn’t appear to be in the company any longer. The film’s producers were the ones who’d told us to expect to see her when Deborah Colker’s company came to town. Only When I Dance follows the lives of two dance students from the favelas (poor areas): Irlan Silva who is now with ABT’s studio company, and Isabela. I was so disappointed because she’s such a beautiful and talented ballerina, trained classically but very able to dance modern as well as the film showed, but the portions of the film devoted to her dance journey made clear how hard it is for black female ballerinas in Brazil — and, from what I’ve seen, elsewhere as well. She’s often told she doesn’t have the “right body,” she needs to diet, yadda yadda yadda — endlessly frustrating, even to you as the audience, because these criticisms seem to overtake any issues with her technique or artistry. And of course she’s not the least bit overweight.

Anyway, I was disappointed that she no longer seems to be with Companhia de Danca. I really wanted to see her dance live.

All photos except the one of Coracy taken from the company’s flickr page; the Coracy photos is taken from the film’s website.

One Comment

  1. I had heard about Deborah Colker’s 4×4 program from a friend who saw it in Brazil. I have been trying to find a DVD of the show, which I know exists because my friend had seen them at the show, but have not been able to find anything on the internet. Do you have any suggestions where I might purchase one?

    Thanks, and I really enjoy your articles.

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