The secret to great Brazilian dance
The Sao Paulo Dance Company, led by Ines Bogea, made its debut May 3 at New York City’s The Joyce Theater with four thought-provoking pieces: Gen by Cassi Abranches, Ceu Cinzento by Clebio Oliveira, Mamihlapinatapai by Jomar Mesquita (with collaboration from Rodrigo de Castro) and Gnawa by the internationally-acclaimed choreographer Nacho Duato.
With 23 talented dancers in their arsenal, this acclaimed Brazilian company impressed with their paradoxically strong and fluid movements and confident stage presence. Aside from Gnawa, which stood alone in its choreographic maturity, Gen was the piece to look out for. With an electronic rock vibe to the music, the piece was edgy and entertaining. The dancers alternated between synchronized, staccato movements and body-rolls in all directions. While the piece lacked a cohesive structure in the ordering of each section, the dancers’ technical and artistic abilities were showcased. It was clear that Gen was a crowd favorite.
Ceu Cinzento was meant to ask a rather strange artistic question: What if the lovers in Romeo and Juliet went blind instead of dying? The choreography tackled this question by having the two dancers reach out unsteadily, trying to move through the piece by their senses alone. After much isolated struggling to find their way, the lovers come together only to become uncomfortable in their attempts at dancing together. Many times, the woman falls backwards and is caught by the man in a test of trust. In the end, their struggle prevails and he physically rolls her off the stage, which left much room for interpretation and certainly didn’t give the audience the closure they anticipated.
Mamihlapinatapai left much to be desired, which seemed to be the theme of the piece within the context of relationships. It explores its indigenous title’s meaning: two people sharing a glance, both wishing for the other to take action, and neither having the courage. The choreography itself featured endless webs of what looked like contact improv, but was really the abstracted view of the couples’ courting. The most impressive moment in the piece occurred at the very start: the cast was dimly lit and lined up in sensual poses. The recording gradually increased at an extremely low rate from silence to full volume. Simultaneously, the cast began to shift positions at this same speed, moving so slowly that the inattentive eye could miss their transformation.
Lastly, Gnawa by Nacho Duato was performed with great precision and emotion. The piece grapples with man’s interaction with nature and was inspired by the beauty of Valencia, Spain. It takes an extremely talented and well-rehearsed company to perform a piece by Duato and Sao Paulo Dance Company proved themselves worthy.
Overall, they are a vibrant, classically trained group of dancers. As they took their first bow in The Joyce Theater, a certain sparkle of pride in Sao Paulo glimmered in each eye.
(Top photo: São Paulo Dance Company in Nacho Duarte’s Gnawa. Photo by Alceu Bett)