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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY


by Robert Abrams
May 15, 2001
New York, NY

Featured Dance Company:

DanceBrazil (office)
246 West 38th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10018


Robert Abrams

May 15, 2001

DanceBrazil, an Afro-Brazilian dance company presented three new works tonight. They are in New York City for a two-week season at the Joyce Theatre (May 15-27, 2001 - 8th Ave and 19th Street, Box Office Phone # 212-242-0800).

The first work, entitled "Divinities", was choreographed by Carlos dos Santos, Jr. The performance was a rich tapestry of sound, light and dance. It was possibly the most "poetic" performance of African dance I have seen. The story within the piece was coherent, if a little loose. Not that a loose narrative is a negative. In dance, sometimes it is good to just dance, stripped of all meaning other than motion in the moment. On the other hand, having some, if limited, knowledge of African dance, I could glimpse frequent traditional symbolic gestures. Just enough, in fact, to be convinced that there was a level of meaning I missed. The dancers themselves were powerful, supple and expressive. The choreography showed off solo and group work with creativity. The choreography also incorporated some genuine and believable partnership work.

All in all, this is a dance with skill equivalent to the best silent movies. This is a dance worth seeing twice.

The second work was entitled "Unspoken… Unknown". It was choreographed by Jelon Vieira. This dance was a portrayal of clinical depression and a friend's attempt to reach him using Capoeira as the means of communication. That, anyway, is what it looked like to me. The dancing certainly evoked a wellspring of emotional depth. The audience was very enthusiastic in its applause for this piece.

The third work was "A Jornada" which means "The Path". This work was also choreographed by Mr. Vieira.

This dance started with a set of dark tableaux. As the work started to move, it bore a strong resemblance to traditional ballet-like choreography: very abstract with a rhythm where one line of dancers would run on stage, do their number, and run off, followed by the next line of dancers. When you stop and think about this, traditional choreography bears a striking resemblance to the rhythm of hockey.

The work became bright, colorful and very energetic. The dancers were very good, even amazing, but there was a little too much showing off. Even their immodesty had no modesty. The choreography took an unexpected turn with an extended riff on Country Western dance and/or on the Ballet interpretation of Country Western dance from "Oklahoma". I can imagine hard core CW dancers either loving or taking offense at this section. In fact, if Mr. Vieira wanted to capitalize on this potential cross cultural tension, he could use this section of as the germ of a new work. Perhaps Brazil and Dixie meets West Side Story?

The dance incorporated extensive use of Capoeira. It was beautiful but your heart will be in your throat because one wrong move, and someone might get clocked.

In general, the dance was a tour de force. The choreography starts out looking ordinary, but slowly builds to near brilliant sophistication that puts the beginning in context.

I loved the first work and enjoyed the other two. My two co-critics who joined me tonight (Anya, a dance teacher, and Lika Williams, a native of Brazil) weren't thrilled by the first dance, but loved "A Jornada". With dance performances as rich as these were, you would expect this kind of disagreement. Dance, by its very nature, is more often than not open to interpretation. How you will experience it is a function both of the dance itself as well as your prior experience. I have no doubt that you will find something to make your evening. DanceBrazil will only be in New York for two weeks, so get your tickets before they take their exuberant artistry back to Brazil.

Photo by Lois Greenfield

Photo by Beatriz Schiller

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