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Rachel Levin
California Dancing
Performance Reviews
The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre

Mo Ife: Love Stories

by Rachel Levin
July 10, 2006
The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Hollywood, CA 90068
(323) 461-3673
Viver Brasil Dance Company
With pounding atabaque drums and frenzied feet and hips, Viver Brasil's performance of "Mo Ife: Love Stories" reflected the rich spiritual heritage of Brazilian dance. In a country where dance is something of a religion, it's not surprising that Brazil's oldest faiths are firmly grounded in music and movement. The Candomblé religion - an interweaving of Roman Catholicism and African traditions practiced in Salvador da Bahia - conducts dance-based ceremonies in homage to deities known as "orixás." "Mo Ife" explored the mythical love relationships among these orixás with elaborate costumes and intoxicating dances while transporting the audience to the realm of ancient African magic.

The evening's five pieces were choreographed by Luiz Badaró, Dani Lunn, and Rosangela Silvestre. Though some dances were collaborations and others were individual works, percussion was the thread that joined them all. Silvestre composed the music as she choreographed the movement, so the role of the musicians was integral to the choreography. At certain points, watching the dancers was like seeing the rhythm of percussion written on the body.

Each vignette explored a different theme of love, from the adoration of religious devotees, to the complexity of a love triangle, to the primordial love between mother and child. The dancers donned costumes of the orixás, like the feared deity of plague and disease Omolú, who appears in a straw mask and cape that covers the face and body. As the mythical stories ranged in intensity of feeling, so too did the choreography. Sometimes the dancers seemed to float with light swaying and graceful hand motions; at other times the choreography was so fervent that it demonstrated the trance-like contortions of Candomblé women who shake and writhe in religious ecstasy.

After intermission, the program departed from religious folklore to become an all-out exuberant celebration of samba de roda and samba reggae, the signature rhythms of Bahia. An Olodum medley of beats and breaks from Carnaval 2006 got the crowd on its feet, and the final tribute to Carnaval queens had everyone dancing in the aisles. If Afro-Brazilian dance is a religion unto itself, then "Mo Ife" certainly cultivated its share of converts.

Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara

Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara

Photo © & courtesy of Jorge Vismara

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