April 3, 2012
The aggressive physicality and electrifying Brazilian sensuality of Dance
Brazil consumed the Joyce Theatre. Founded in 1977 by Jelon Vieira, the company’s artistic director and choreographer, Dance Brazil strives to share Brazilian culture with the United States through dance performances featuring Capoeira, blended with Afro-Brazilian and contemporary dance. This mission is evident as the dancers, only four of whom are Capoeristas, display their endurance first in “Imfazwe,” a New York City premier, followed by the fun and traditional “Batuke,” both performed to live music.
“Imfazwe” opens with a calm, clean, strong ensemble of dancers. The
program states that “Imfazwe” means war, so this classical introduction leaves the question hanging as to how the aggression will materialize. The answer comes suddenly, when spotlights clamp on a duet of Capoeira dancers, who display what this company does best: feature chiseled men who seem like they can stand on their hands for hours, jump from the stage to the back row of the audience and without a doubt, mutilate anything with one kick. This first Capoeira dance left the clean lines of the preceding ensemble in the dust. Even more unbelievably physical Capoeira sections follow, rendering everything else about this piece, from the choreographic development, to the music, amateur.
The second piece, “Batuke,” begin with the three women in the company showcasing the strength of their femininity and Brazilian roots. As they swing their hips, and throw their hair, they generate a comparable amount of energy and excitement as the Capoeristas. Unlike the
preceding piece, in “Batuke,” the modern dancers get equal opportunity to show off their stamina and artistry, personifying the sensual rhythms of the non-traditional instruments played during impressively endless sections of choreography. The company’s energy, carried by one dancer in particular, the rehearsal director Camila Freitas, gains momentum as “Batuke” arrives at a climactic finish.
Dance Brazil’s performance was energizing and impressive. Although the
company didn’t demonstrate versatility or a forging of artistic ground, their
expression of Brazilian heritage was fresh and honest.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Elizabeth Sherlock-Lewis