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Theatre Review: The São Paulo Dance Company

If you don’t have plans for tonight (Saturday 24th February) then you need to get tickets to see Brazil’s finest dance company at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, for their very last night. Made in Plymouth’s Content Director, Bracken Jelier, reviews a performance that ended with a standing ovation.

This is São Paulo Dance Company’s debut visit to the UK and Plymouth is one of the lucky cities to host them, through Dance Consortium, a group of 19 theatres that presents a range of contemporary dance from across the world to local audiences. The São Paulo Dance Company was founded by the Brazilian Government 16 years ago – investment in culture – and what an investment! With around a hundred performances per year the company has a broad range of classical repertoire and contemporary pieces created for them by local and international choreographers.

Coming from a family of classically trained dancers, I knew that I would love this show – but I had no idea what a joy it would be; just how different and exhilarating. Although it has ballet at it’s core, it is a fusion of Latin American passion and Afro-Brazilian rhythm, with dancing so technical and athletic that, at times, there were gasps en masse from the audience. Poetry in motion.

Broken into three parts, a triple bill, this programme showcases the work of three different choreographers.

The first, Goyo Montero (resident choreographer with Carlos Acosta’s company Acosta Danza) was exploring the idea of collective identities, accompanied by Owen Benton’s score. As an audience member you were given an emotionally charged ensemble with 14 dancers. They pulsated in perfect synchronicity, as one body, interspersed with passionate and moving solo and duet movements. The sheer energy and athleticism was breathtaking. It was only after the show, in the Q&A with Artistic Director Inês Bogéa that we were told that this first piece reflects on life; the joy and the collaboration between people as well as the inevitable conflict. Knowing that this was choreographed before, and then during the pandemic, this made perfect sense as it truly reflected the the highs and lows of human interaction.

The second, Gnawa (a group of people brought to North Africa by the Berber as slaves), by Nacho Duato (Artistic Director of the Berlin State Ballet), draws on the Mediterranean colours and flavours of Valencia, powered by the hypnotic, ritualistic music of North Africa. It was in this that I as particularly entranced by the pas de deux between Ammanda Rosa and Nielson Souza. Rosa, with her flesh-coloured body suit and closely shaved head appeared almost spirit-like but with this incredible strength, fluidity and delicacy that I felt as if she might even fly. To be able to have that flexibility and ability to control your body in such a way – an absolute dream. It was a spell-binding performance – and definitely the highlight of the night for me.

Brazilian choreographer Cassi Abranches’ colourful and flirtatious Agora provides a high-octane and exhilarating finale, taking inspiration from the concept of tempo, in all its forms, with sprinklings of jazz and rock. The ticking clock gives way to Afro-Brazilian beats and each dancer is sculpted by the rhythm, with even the smallest movement, like a flick of the fingers or nod of the head,  making an enormous impact. This was a powerful, energetic and breathtaking climax.

The company received an extremely enthusiastic reaction at the end of the performance with some standing ovation. The good news is that they are back tonight – and there are tickets still available – so don’t miss out! https://theatreroyal.com/whats-on/sao-paulo-dance-company/

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