June 25, 2015
Jelon Vieira keeps his dancers moving fast and vibrantly, bursting with energy and athleticism. Joely Silva and Cristiane de Jesus, the only two ladies in DanceBrazil, a company of ten, draw trajectories of the company’s signature extreme bounce with their big hair flying to the floor and circling back 320 degrees. “Gueto” opened the program with music by Marcos Carvalho with moves pulled from the capoeira tradition, punctuated with postures suggesting the menacing hang of gangs. For the opening, Burke Wilmore created a strong graphic with light falling on the stage in a slatted rhythm and, later, with a urbanscape projected on the back wall, choices based on original design by Gerard Laffuste. The piece, driven in part by live percussion provided by Marcos Dos Santos (aka Gibi), Nailton Dos Santos (aka Meia Noite), and Gil Oliviera, is infectious and convincing in its depiction of the friendly friction of tight communities.
“Buzios” (2014) is comparatively less immediate, perhaps because of the foreign nature of its theme. “Buzios” stems from the mystical game of divination played with the throwing of cowrie shells. While the movement was similar for the entire program, the three dances involving nine or ten people on stage all the time, this piece alluded to more than macho challenges, but the subtleties of this shell game were buried or, perhaps, the spiritual connection was timidly explored.
The third piece on the program, “Malungos” (2015), had wonderful costumes by Duarte Junior that involved elaborately woven rope shirts and full red skirts. The metaphor of the rope, and its artful webbing, plays directly into this piece about bonds between slaves. Yet, the dance comes most alive when it slips into a folkloric, celebratory finale.
Founded in 1977 by Vieira, DanceBrazil blossomed in the same era as the company of Alvin Ailey, who served on its Board of Directors in 1980. While it has admirably stood the test of time, touring the world, nurturing fine dancers and musicians from Brazil, this program felt curiously dated and overwrought. Perhaps, the directors know their audience and their appetite for unbridled jumping, kicking, and aerial rond-de jambs, and so, they stay on safe grounds. Perhaps they could honor their Brazilian roots by exploring even more the nutrients, the particular conditions of the native soil of this art.
EYEO N THE ARTS, NY --Deirdre Towers