Friday, July 25, 2014

Brazil's passinho dancers in US debut at LC Out of Doors

A Batalha do Passinho dancers
Below: Batalha host Zuzuka Poderosa
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
When New York's summer weather cooperates, as it certainly did last evening, Lincoln Center Out of Doors can be a great way to soak up and savor the positive energy of arts from nearly everywhere in our world. Last night's show brought an organized group of performers of passinho, the Rio de Janeiro party dance, in their US debut together with Rennie Harris Puremovement, the celebrated Philly troupe that revolutionized a sophisticated blending of hip-hop moves with more conventional dance theater techniques and aesthetics.
Three luminaries of New York's urban and contemporary dance scene
served as the passinho battle's judges.
Left to right: Rokafella, Akim Funk Buddha and Doug Elkins
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
A Batalha do Passinho dancers (c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
The showcase was created in 2011 by co-artistic director Julio Ludemir
after this Rio favela dance trend went viral on YouTube.
Opening the two-hour show, the Brazilians burst on the stage with a rawness and sense of adventure and fun that would be hard to top. Rapidfire twisting of their feet made their bent legs look like massive, lethal grinders. The daunting contortions of flexing and bone breaking, the smooth illusions of moonwalking, b-boying acrobatics, Cossack folkdance and even voguing all flow through passinho, offered in a spirit of good-natured competitiveness. The batalha (battle) format of the Brazilian presentation, facilitated by the merry host, Zuzuka Poderosa, gave the Lincoln Center audience an active investment in the proceedings as we watched closely to make distinctions between the competitors' styles and specialties.
Marcelly Miss Passista,
champion of the Lincoln Center batalha
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
The Brazilian dancers trained our eyes for a kind of reckless derring-do that seem combed out of the silky, glamorously sexy Puremovement with Harris's oddly safe, placid approach to arranging dancers across a stage--line them up, slide the frontal lines side to side. It's funny to come away feeling that I would have preferred to see Puremovement "where they belong now"--in formal, and well-managed, indoor staging. Put a frame around them.

The interesting encounter and dialogue of troupes that could have been did not pan out. Maybe next time both crews could be tossed together in a residency to experiment and cook up something surprising.

New York knows and loves Rennie Harris's endless seductions, the way his dancers' bodies bounce like rubber against air as if it were a hard surface; the way they float inside and around the edges of music's rhythms, each body addressing multiple, discrete segments of time in individual ways even when everyone's working the same moves. Puremovement demonstrates the basic silliness of trying to make dance where everyone looks exactly like everyone else, where visual homogeneity is privileged. Everything offered up is going to be a little different, according to who gives it, and that's a fine, instructive thing.
There's much more to come from the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival, running through through August 10--all programs absolutely free. Click here for a schedule of events including tomorrow's 1pm Family Day dance class with dancers from A Batalha do Passinho!

Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Damrosch Park Bandshell, Lincoln Center
West 62nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, Manhattan

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