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Xire! Celebrations

by Rachel Levin
September 18, 2007
Los Angeles, CA
Viver Brasil Toasts Brazilian Independence Day
Saturday night's performance of "Xire! Celebrations" marked both Brazilian Independence Day and the 10 year anniversary of dance company Viver Brasil. For the occasion, choreographers Luiz Badaró and Rosangela Silvestre fashioned a program that emphasized foundations: the company's roots in the movements of Salvador Bahia and Brazil's legacy of African myth and ingenuity.

The first half of the show dwelled on the birth of the world and the birth of Brazil through the "orixás," or deities, of the Candomblé religion, a mix of Roman Catholicism and African traditions. In "Navio Negreiro," Yemanjá—the mother of all orixás and the ocean itself—looks over her African children as they travel the expanse of the sea to the New World. An undulating white sheet was used to great effect to represent the soothing yet violent power of the waves and the journey. Yemanjá made an appearance in the next piece, too, which explored the African creation myth of life forged from water and the elements. The final piece of part one, "Maracatu," revealed how the samba itself was forged from the raw materials of traditional African movement, in this case honoring royalty of the Congo and Yoruba traditions.

After intermission, the focus shifted to the vibrant culture created by the resourcefulness of Brazil's African transplants. "Lagoa de Abaete" made the audience privy to the work and play of washerwomen gathered at a lagoon in bright lemon dresses. The remix of "Tribute to Carnival Queens" paid homage to Brazil's pride and joy, the carnivalesque pinnacle of its cultural quilt.

The exuberance and nimbleness of the dancers—all female save for one—was enhanced by Viver Brasil's dedication to the rich mythological context of Bahian movement. These aren't just dances – they're teachings. Watching the performance, I had the sense that these dancers were sweeping their arms and hips not just through air but through something of greater substance. The legacy of the African contribution to world culture is so dense; Viver Brasil appeared to move through it like sweet, sticky taffy. Here's to another 10 years, indeed.

Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara


Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara


Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara

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