The shapely female posterior plays a central role in Sadler’s Wells’ current summer celebration of all things Brazilian. On more than one occasion dancers clad in skin-tight sheath dresses shimmied across the stage, arms aloft and hips gyrating, to the obvious appreciation of their male counterparts.
As you can probably gather, there’s little subtlety in this exuberant and energetic show. But that’s no bad thing. Performed by a huge troupe of dancers (including a couple of children) from Rio De Janeiro, Brasil Brasileiro is a cool cocktail of natty suits, twirling skirts and undulating bodies: seductive, passionate and colourful.
Claudio Segovia’s entertaining show is assembled so as to give a rough idea of the historical development of Brazilian dance, beginning with an unaccompanied display of rhythmic traditional dance and moving forward through formal ballroom numbers to the raunchy all-out blitz of carnival. In doing so, the piece provides real insight into how the clash of African and European musical culture resulted in the country’s distinctive Samba rhythms. But this informative air is never pushed too far; this lively production is far more interested in getting the audience grooving in their seats and making them gasp at some extraordinarily acrobatic choreography.
Running for well over two hours, Brasil Brasileiro encompasses all forms of Samba, as well as other dances, including the nifty batucada and a fantastic gravity-defying display of the martial-arts based capoeira. The show also includes numerous musical numbers, sung by a quartet of Brazilian singers. Some of these are kind of fun, especially those involving the big-lunged, big-haired Elza Soares, a woman whose voice owes more than a little something to Louis Armstrong, but after a while the songs get rather repetitive and the show would have lost nothing by stripping a few of them away.
You spend most of the time when the dancers are off-stage waiting for their return, eager to see what’s coming next. The dance numbers grow bigger and bigger – and the outfits seemingly smaller, especially in the beach party number, which is awash with toned torsos and criminally tiny shorts – before exploding into a percussive finale that will have everyone in the auditorium struggling to remain still. Fantastic fun, as these big set-pieces are, the production is at its most memorable and most inventive in its quieter moments, when for example, a sharply-suited dancer casts immense shadows across the back wall by dancing in front of a centrally-placed spotlight.
Though somewhat overlong, and containing a curtain call so lengthy that even the most enthusiastic audience members were starting to flag in their appreciation by the troupe’s fourth or fifth return to the stage, this is still a great, uplifting way to spend an August evening. On opening night, Kylie was spotted twirling with delight in the lobby as she left the theatre. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one.