Brazilian dance company Balé de Rua are certainly a company that don’t believe in ever giving less than their all to a performance, the dancers unstoppable energy and charismatic personalities make for a compelling, exhilarating evening of dance.
The cast, which features numbers lively enough to ensure everyone has an opportunity to show off their party pieces, features eight dancers and a passionate team of nine musicians.
On the whole, this is a hugely pleasing night out with humour, excitement and historical context (darker numbers that evoke images of slavery) all present. The dancers are funky and dynamic, they move so freely you feel kind of inept as you watch them. The costuming and set are bright and exuberant too. However, with no storyline and no interval, there is little transition between numbers and occasionally this creates a feeling of no real direction or consistency.
The opening is particularly quirky and fun, with suited men, dressed jauntily enough to suggest a nod to Michael Jackson, climb around on the scaffolding-like structure that stands at the back of the stage. They come down and pull off some sliding moonwalks with suitable sass. They then give way to what appear to be veiled women in religious dress. The music changes to the traditional carnival sounds associated with the Samba completed with loud, pulsating percussion and the women are then revealed to be an energetic group of men with sculpted torsos.
Not much later, the cast are in full “show-off” mode. Dressed only in tight red shorts there is a segment of bouncing back-flips, headstands with legs akimbo in the air. The relentless energy and dynamism is dizzying.
As the only female in the troop, it’s easy to focus on Uiara Cristina Ferreira. Her carnival Samba moves to Mas Que Nada in the opening number are particularly memorable and fused with her balletic background she makes for hugely engaging viewing. Alexia Falcão Lopes is the only vocalist and is centre stage for most of the evening, a daunting ask for a 16 year old but she delivers. There’s no doubting her incredible voice and musicality, she is hugely impressive throughout but sadly in places the percussion is just too loud and she is sometimes drowned out.
At only 85 minutes, party time at Baila Brazil seems over all too soon. Energy and passion never dwindle throughout, the programme requires just a little more direction to add clarity to some of the some of the ideas here to make this show a real sensation. That said, it’s still a feel good, visual spectacle. Southbank Centre should consider programming Baila Brazil in January as it would certainly remedy any winter blues.
Review by Vikki Jane Vile
Baila Brazil is a musical journey into the heart and soul of the African and urban roots of acclaimed dance company Balé de Rua, which premiered at Sydney Opera House in January 2015. Inspired by North-American street dance, capoeira and samba, the company’s energetic yet elegant style is born from the everyday lives of many of the company who grew up in the favelas of Uberlândia in Brazil.
Comprising 14 dancer-percussionists, one singer and a live band of keyboard, bass and guitar, the show explores the rich cultural heritage of the Brazilian people. Choreography, Costume, Set Design and Artistic Direction are by Marco Antônio Garcia, with Lighting Design by Nicolas Simonin and Yoann Pelletier and Musical Direction by Pedro Ferreira.
Balé de Rua was originally developed as an art project in the poor neighbourhoods of Uberlândia. Since being discovered at the Biennale de la Danse of Lyon in 2002, the company have performed at leading venues across the world, bringing their exuberance and energy to more than 500,000 people in 13 different countries. They have developed free schools in their home town and every year train more than 300 children from local communities, including all of the dancers in the professional company.
The thrilling mix of Baila Brazil’s original music and passionate dance forms part of the Southbank Centre’s summer-long Festival of Love. The popular riverside urban beach returns, along with many more summer events across the site including installations, performances, music, film, dance, free events and themed weekends.
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre
Wednesday 5th to Saturday 15th August 2015
Suitable for ages 6+
Running time: 90 minutes
Box Office: 0844 875 0073
Ticket prices: £38, £28, £15
Concessions Half Price
Saturday 8th August 2015