Brazilian dance highlights at Edinburgh 2011
Now and at the Time of Our Turn, Parallel Memories, My Voluntary Punishments and Another Cappadocia
This article is from 2011.
Long known for its rich dance tradition, Kelly Apter finds Brazil’s contemporary dance companies responding to all aspects of the country’s diverse culture
On 23 July 1993, eight boys aged 11–20 were shot and killed as they lay sleeping beside a church in Rio de Janeiro. Many of the off-duty policemen who committed the murders were tried, but only two convicted. The Candelária Massacre, or Chacina da Candelária as it’s called in Brazil, led to a national outcry about police brutality and – for a brief moment at least – highlighted the plight of the thousands of children sleeping rough on the streets of Rio each night.
Written and performed by physical theatre actor Eduardo Okamoto, Now and at the Time of Our Turn takes us back to that tragic night, from the point of view of a street kid who witnessed, but survived, the shooting. Okamoto found a way to embody somebody much younger and used to living in such extreme circumstances while working on a community arts project in the city of Campinas.
‘After the first few months co-ordinating the workshops, I started to imitate the street kids, collecting stories, actions, gestures, voices, etc,’ he says. Okamoto continued his work in São Paulo and then went on to Rio. It was there that the tragic events of 1993 began to emerge as possible material for a show. ‘Incorporating the Chacina da Candelária made me realise how revealing the event was on the subject of street kids’ lifestyles,’ he says, ‘and their interaction with a society that denied their existence until their death.’
Okamoto plays the fictional character of Pedrinha in the piece, a young boy who hides under a news stand while the shooting takes place. But although the show is based on a real-life event, Okamoto is keen for audiences to see beyond that, to the world-wide problem of childhoods lost through poverty. ‘Unfortunately, the slaughtering of those street kids was not an isolated case and still persists,’ he says. ‘That’s why our responsibility lies not with the kids that died but with the ones who are still alive. Now and at the Time of Our Turn is not a play about death, but about the life that is lost daily in corners of every big city in the world.’
Growing up in Brazil also helped to shape Parallel Memories, a dance duet which premiers at this year’s Fringe. Performed by Jean Abreu (whose powerful representation of prison life, Inside, was a highlight of last year’s Fringe) and Jorge Garcia, the piece is a very personal exploration of their lives to date.
‘Many strong and emotional moments came up,’ says Abreu. ‘Issues like childhood illness and conflicting relationships within the family were present for both of us. Parallel Memories looks at our journeys, where we are from and where we are now.’
A co-founder of Protein Dance before starting his own company, Abreu was born in Brazil but has lived in London for over a decade. He and Garcia first met in São Paulo in 2009, while Abreu was researching Inside. Garcia had made a dance work about a notorious Brazilian prison, and Abreu quickly realised the two man had ‘very similar artistic intentions’.
Like everyone, Abreu and Garcia were shaped to a degree by the culture and landscape that framed their childhood. And growing up in the fifth largest country in the world brings a lot of diversity. ‘We are both hugely influenced by Brazil, the culture, the people, the environment,’ says Abreu, ‘and we try to de-construct and analyse those influences during the course of the piece. However, it’s important to point out that Brazil is a huge and diverse country and although Jorge and myself are from a similar region – the north east – there are still major differences in our individual experiences of Brazil.’
Yet another aspect of Brazilian life is captured in Another Cappadocia, an intimate solo by contemporary dancer Daniel Jaber. Hailing from the city of Belo Horizonte, Jaber has explored the multifarious spiritual beliefs spread throughout his country. ‘Our society developed itself as a cultural melting pot,’ he says, ‘and there are more than 14 religions that coexist peacefully in the Brazilian culture. Each one has its own body language, movements, beliefs, and systems of worship linked to its roots.’
Like Abreu and Garcia, Jaber also used his childhood memories to shape the piece. ‘The concept of death, the rituals of spiritual protection, the constant presence of angels and their struggle to defeat evil – these are all images and impressions of my childhood reminiscences,’ he says, ‘which now impact on the creative process. My body is working to remember how the cultural context affected my life, my thoughts and my movement.’
Jaber’s solo is part of a double-bill of contemporary dance that also features My Voluntary Punishments, a group work by company Trama Cia de Dança. Inspired by French visual artist Annette Messager, the piece looks at how women are viewed in modern-day Brazil, both by themselves and others.
‘The work aims to defend and re-think women’s place,’ says director Joelma Barros. ‘It criticises the way women often accept and corroborate with the artificial models of beauty imposed on them by society. These frustrating models are causing emotional and social damage, but sometimes a problem is only perceived when it’s exaggerated in front of our eyes.’
In My Voluntary Punishments, the dancers perform before video projections, giving an abstract representation of what is taking place on stage. For Barros and company, the work deals with both the personal and political, posing questions about women’s lives and the country as a whole.
‘Brazil is a developing country with a very strong cultural background, but the external pressures are too great and we are suffering from the influence of the North American way of life,’ she says. ‘Brazil is one of the leading countries in plastic surgery and one of the main consumers of breast silicone prosthetics – it’s a contradictory title for a nation still struggling to overcame corruption, poverty and illiteracy.’
Now and at the Time of Our Turn, St George’s West, Shandwick Place, 0131 225 7001, 8–19 Aug, 12.20pm, £9–£12 (£7.50–£9.50); previews 5–7 Aug, £7.50.
Parallel Memories, C, Chambers Street, 0845 260 1234, 14-29 Aug, 2.15pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£7.50–£9.50).
My Voluntary Punishments – Another Cappadocia, Greenside, Royal Terrace, 0131 557 2124, 15–27 Aug (not 21), £8 (£6.50).