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Bale Folclorico Da Bahia (Bahia of all Colours)
Friday, October 12
In a festival programme dominated by middle-class WASP sensibilities, last night's five-century survey of Brazilian folk dance offered refreshing respite in an exuberant celebration of indigenous, African and post-colonial heritage from the religious rituals of Yoruba (kept alive by displaced slaves) through to contemporary samba reggae.
The company has spent nearly 25 years celebrating this history, giving voice to indigenous traditions internationally, and perhaps even more importantly at home.
It is hard to watch the Puxada De Rede (Fishermen's Dance) and not think of the recently halted Belo Monte Dam project, and the disastrous results such industrial developments have had on the self-sufficient fishing communities. Where once these tribes caught fish in their nets, the physical embodiment of that on stage finds contemporary meaning in the fishermen themselves being caught and hung out to dry by the drift-nets of progress.
The martial arts practice of capoeira is probably the material most familiar to Western audiences, so it seemed odd that that part of the programme didn't ever break out into a full-blown combat.
The duelling high kicks, cartwheels and flick-flacks were impressive, but it ended up feeling more like ballet than battle.
Bale Folclorico Da Bahia is a great study of the human form, and an exultant celebration of the interplay of its masculine and feminine forms through the ages. There is more raw, and honest, sexuality, sensuality and physicality in this show than in the tedious burlesque revival movement combined, without all the tacky gimmicks and dubious gender politics.
If previous assignments have made me feel I was at an awkward conference dinner, it was great to finally arrive at something worthy of an International Arts Festival.
The music, the costuming and, of course, the choreography provide a potent combination well worthy of your patronage.
- Aaron Hawkins.