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  • Chris O'Rourke

São Paulo Dance Company

São Paulo Dance Company, Goyo Montero's Anthem. Photo Iari Davies


To that endless list of things that often resemble buses, as in you don’t see one for ages then two come along together, you might add five star dance performances. Following Junk Ensembles wonderful Dances Like A Bomb, the internationally renowned São Paulo Dance Company take to the stage of Bord Gáis Energy Theatre to show why they’re one of the world’s best. For this, the Brazilian company’s first Irish show, three contemporary pieces, each roughly twenty minutes in length, from three choreographers rooted in Latin American or Spanish culture, create a truly memorable experience. To say each one is exhilarating would be like saying Frida Kahlo dabbled at drawing, it would be a massive understatement.

São Paulo Dance Company, Goyo Montero's Anthem. Photo Iari Davies

Despite three individual choreographers, the overall tone is one of a shared aesthetic. One grounded in the vision of artistic director Inês Bogéa, reinforced by chiaroscuro lights and a wardrobe dusted with desert hues from different authors. Opening sequence Anthem, by Spanish choreographer Goya Montero, sees fourteen dancers traverse the stage like a murmuration of starlings, or a shoal of fish. Arms extending, hands flapping, bodies swerving, whirling, flowing; the individual subsumed within an organic collective breathing as one. Till breath dissolves into music, Owen Belton’s score a patchwork of mesmerising moods. As sequences progress, unravellings occur as bodies separate, reform into groups, duets, trios. If ballet and contemporary provide the choreographic foundations, whatever is useful, from gymnastics to squaring off in a Jerome Robbins styled, West Side Story street battle is allowed play. Poetry in motion, no doubt. But choreographer Montero is a painter as much as a poet. Images forming like fleeting tableaux, then dissolving, endlessly reforming into others before returning to stillness.

São Paulo Dance Company, Nacho Duato's Gnawa. Photo Iari Davies

To underscore the company’s commitment to collaboration and diversity, Gnawa by Nacho Duato, artistic director of the Mikhailovsky Ballet, based on Moroccan ritual songs and rhythms, sets a tone as beautiful as it is haunting. Again a minimal costumed palette, again a large body of dancers. Yet Gnawa, despite its North African score, is rooted in ballet, being dominated by sublime duets in which lifts, glides, extensions are executed with consummate care. Once again, if movement is the paint endlessly reforming into patterns, light is often a chiaroscuro of timeless mystery. Not so in Brazilian choreographer Cassi Abranches’s Agora, which again sees group work dominate. A metronome ticking faster setting up an open marriage of movement to beat and rhythm, built on a fidelity that likes to stay true but isn’t averse to a little flirting outside the rhythmic form. Fosse-like hip pops and swivels, backward struts, like a playful wink, achieve divine synchronicity at times. Costumes afforded a modest splash of colour, allowing for a sexier hang around the hips, lights now a sunlight of celebration as the night draws to a delightful close.

São Paulo Dance Company, Cassi Abranches's Agora. Photo Camilo Munoz and Iari Davies

Throughout, the mix of male and female energies merge into an organic whole larger than the sum of their superb individual parts. Like Plato’s hermaphrodite, the two make for a complete soul. Indeed, along with being technically excellent, creatively brilliant, and choreographically exhilarating, São Paulo Dance Company are also one the most soulful. Like watching a murmuration of starlings, to watch São Paulo Dance Company is to be a privileged witness to something of life’s beauty and mystery. Not to be missed.

São Paulo Dance Company, presented by Dance Consortium, perform at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre as part of their Irish and UK tour until Feb 6.

For more information visit Bord Gáis Energy Theatre


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