Brasil Brasileiro – wasn’t nuts about it

Thursday 17 August 2006

Phil and Andrew had a well-deserved night off from the theatre yesterday evening but sent along acolyte Jarlath and his companion Angela in their stead. Here’s what he had to say…

Did anyone else see Brasil Brasileiro? Am I crying in the wilderness. Angela bailed out at the interval and went home to do the ironing.

Brasil Brasileiro was dire. If Kylie thinks this is good dance she needs to get out more.
It was shockingly amateurish like a a bad tourist cabaret on a cheap cruise liner. It was lowest common denominator stuff and it really rankles that they think they have to dumb down dance to reach a mass audience. What they need to do is just present good dance.

They had an appalling band who were out of tune and two ageing cabaret stars (dressed in black on a bare black stage!) were singing flat and seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the band weren’t with them. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve heard better singing at hoolies at home Ireland, at least there everyone can sing in tune.

The choice of music was also second rate. From a country which produced Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Astrid Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, this was unforgivable. It would be like representing British music abroad by using Des O’Connor.

The dancing was really community group level (like some dreary festival that Hackney council would dream up) and at one stage this couple did a lambada which was off the beat. I know middle aged English people who can dance a lamabada on the beat so was horrified. London used to have (still has I think) a number of lambada schools where amateurs produce a level of dance which is far superior to what was in this show. Passing this off as the best of Brazilian dance was criminal.

The whole show looked really under-rehearsed but the main problem was not so much the lack of talent of the cast and the basic flaw in its conception. The show was devised by Claudio Segovia who created Tango Argentino, Flamenco Puro and Black & Blue, all of which were fabulous.

What unites those three of course is that that they took as their starting point very strong vernacular dance forms and he brought together exponents of these dances who were at the top of their profession. The problem with this Brazilian nonsense is that there really isn’t a dance called “samba”, so there isn’t anything to hang the show on. It’s all too diffuse. Samba schools are about teaching street dance for Mardi Gras but there is no really defined steps so it’s a loose cover all term for varieties of street dance which have echoes of jitterbug, salsa, lambada, hip hop (the Samba dance in European Latin American dance competitions is a totally different and European invented dance).

This is all fine, if it’s well done but it’s party dancing and while it can be fun and looks embarrassing on a professional stage. I’m not saying the dance has to be artistically pure it just has to be coming from somewhere. All the women in this show were just decorative and didn’t really have any steps, they just kept up with the men who threw them around.

The look of the piece was also very interesting. They all looked really trendy (in today’s terms) which meant all the men were in sporty gear and all the women looked like hookers. I could write another essay on the sexual politics of the piece, but I won’t!.

The place for this show was the streets of Notting Hill Carnival not Sadlers Wells. Of course the audience loved it and clapped loudly and stamped their feet but as PT Barnum said “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the general public”.

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