DanceBrazil's "Banguela" (Andrea Mohin)
Based in New York City, DanceBrazil has captured audiences across the United States for more than 30 years. Starting Feb. 6-7, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts will be hosting DanceBrazil in the Bram Goldsmith Theater.
Founded in 1977 by Jelon Viera, DanceBrazil is inspired by the cultural tapestry of Brazil. The program will include the West Coast premieres of two new pieces. “Gueto,” which features choreography by Viera to the music of composer Marcos Carvalho, and “Búzios,” choreographed by Guilherme Durarte to the music of composer Leo Jesus. Likewise, featured will also be Viera’s 2013 “Fé do Sertão,” which is also set to music by Carvalho.
“When I choreograph a new piece like “Gueto” (Ghetto), I want the world to see it,” artistic director Viera says. “Especially when I’m talking about an existing issue. When “Gueto” was conceived in my mind, I was in a neighborhood in the outskirts of Paris, and I thought if I ignore the French spoken by the community, I could be in the ghettos of Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, São Paulo, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil or somewhere in Africa.”
As for “Búzios,” the piece is based on the Jogo de Búzios, one of divinations used in African traditional religions of the African Diaspora instilled in many countries of the Americas, especially in Brazil, said Viera. One of the dancers will play the role of Babalorixá (the spiritual mentor) that communicates with the Orishas through the jogo de búzios.
“The ritual was practiced by African priests in order to communicate with the gods and read the future,” he says. “When the búzios is thrown on the table, the priests used to invoke the Orixá (Orishas) to interpret and transmit the answer given by the deities.”
The final piece, “Fé do Sertão,” centers on a severe drought, hot sun, struggle, desperation and the happiness that comes along when the rain falls. Viera said he tried to express the frustration of everyday life and love and celebration.
For Viera, struggle played a part very early in life. At the age of 9 months, he had an accident and doctors declared that he would never walk again as a result. His mother didn’t believe them and instead reached out to spiritual healing. By the age of 3, he was walking.
He saw Capoeira (an “Afro-Brazillian martial art”), for the first time seven years later and immediately felt a connection. However, his mother did not approve of it and wanted him to have no part in the art form.
His interest in dance came when he was 16 and joined Bahia’s folkloric dance company, Viva Bahia, directed by Emillia Biancardi de Ferreira.
“My interest in choreography came from growing up in the dictatorship regime, not being able to talk,” Viera says. “I saw a dance company expressing the lack of freedom of speech and I found it phenomenal. It was so well expressed that afterward it seemed like someone had spoken while they were dancing, but without words and just their bodies.”
Along with the features, the company will conduct mast classes in Afro-Brazillian movement on Feb. 5 and Capoeira on Feb. 7.
“My objective is to bring the culture and give an experience to people that have never been to Brazil and Americans that are champions of Brazilian culture,” Viera says. “Outreach in the community is our favorite activity, because it’s a way of building an audience and creates a strong link between us (artists) and the community.”
Tickets can be purchased on www.thewallis.org. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills.