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Rachel Levin
California Dancing
Performance Reviews
Ford Amphitheatre
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

Feet on the Ground/Aiye — Viver Brasil

by Rachel Levin
July 3, 2009
Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Summer in Los Angeles would be incomplete without a performance by Viver Brasil at the Ford Amphitheatre. Friday night's show "Feet on the Ground/Aiye" marked the seventh year of Viver Brasil at the venue, which artistic director Linda Yudin called "our home." With its hilltop perch amongst palm trees and soothing breezes, the Ford stage evokes an earthy, tropical setting that complements the company's choreography rooted in the Salvador, Bahia region of Brazil. Adding to the atmosphere, the booming sounds of the Hollywood Bowl's fireworks show ricocheted across the hills during Viver Brasil's performance, sounding not unlike an act of supernatural power — appropriate given that the new works in Friday's program explored Axé, the Afro-Bahian concept of Earth's energy.

The opening piece, "Avanhia," was mystical and reverent, leading the audience into a kind of worship service for mother Earth, beginning with the sound of wind chimes and singer Katia Moraes' bittersweet, disembodied chants. The dancers entered through the audience, clad all in white, a clergy of movement. But this pristine, holy dress didn't stop them from playing in the dirt, so to speak. They clawed the sky and then plunged to the ground, rubbing their hands as if sifting through earth. Their dizzying spins evoked the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

The following pieces brought fiery bursts of color to the stage as the dancers paid respect to the elements of water and wind and the gods of hunting and herding. In flowing dresses of vibrant green, fuchsia, and orange, the dancers gathered as if at a well or river, collecting the precious resource in clay pots. Blending folk dance with ballet, they alternated between frenzies of arm movement to pounding drums and lyrical leaps to percussive sounds of thunder and rain. Next, camouflaged in bright feathered headdresses, the dancers entered the stage with a warlike swagger, referencing the warrior spirit of capoeira movement.

These pieces exploring the concept of Axé were dense, textured, and satisfying, and rooted in spirituality. The evening's concluding pieces were lighter crowd pleasers, from the acrobatic feats of soloist Gustavo Caldas to the swishing hips and shoulder shimmies of "Onile's Smiling Daughters," a piece celebrating the samba beat that brought the dancers into the crowd.

One element noticeably absent from the evening was the virtual set of video projections by Mexico City director and video artist Leonardo Bondani that had been planned. These images accompanied by text were to have enhanced the audience's understanding of the Yoruba stories being told throughout the evening. Unfortunately, this element of the show never materialized, perhaps due to technical difficulties. This collaboration between movement, image, and text is something new for Viver Brasil and something I look forward to experiencing in the future. But on Friday, the group's proficiency in translating myth into movement continued to speak for itself.
Viver Brasil performance signature piece Avanhia

Viver Brasil performance signature piece Avanhia

Photo © & courtesy of RGB Photography

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