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By Wendy Perron
Teatro Sérgio Cardosa
São Paulo, Brazil
October 19, 2011
By Wendy Perron
This fledgling ballet company, co-directed by Iracity Cardoso and Inês Bogéa, chose an adventurous triple bill. Only three years old, it offered two works that most ballet companies wouldn’t go near—Nacho Duato’s earthy Gnawa and Marco Goecke’s super jittery Supernova—and a cramped version of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.
The Islam-inflected Gnawa, made for Hubbard Street in 2005, has a voluptuous relation to the earth. Sounds of water (the first segment of a recorded music collage) set the mood for the circular, scooping movement of bare-chested men and women in black, flowing dresses. Their luscious fluidity is studded with exquisitely timed flexed feet or jutting elbows. Most lyrical was a duet for the lead couple, Paula Penachio and Samuel Kavalerski. Here she was more exposed, sinuous in a beige leotard. These two have organic ways of closing and opening the torso, curving inward and unfolding ecstatically outward.
Later, 12 dancers walk toward the audience and set candles down before they dance in rhythmic, near-tribal patterns. At the end they take the candles upstage and raise them high in a cluster of flames. Penachio and Kavalerski emerge in the near dark, and as the candles behind them lower to the floor, he lifts her up. A stirring ending: We feel the pull of the earth and the reach for the heavens at the same time.
In Supernova (a star that explodes with brightness as it dies), the dancers are dimly lit while an initial spray of salt grabs the light (lighting by Udo Haberland). Skittering sideways, the dancers hold an imaginary ball (a mini-supernova?) that seems to vibrate so much the hands cannot contain it. Sometimes the dancers are baby birds frantically flapping their wings and never getting off the ground. But this ballet, which was made for Scapino Ballet Rotterdam in 2009, does get off the ground. What could have been merely agitating became full of a crazy kind of glee. In a final solo, Diego de Paula expanded into longer, more stretched lines—an elegant ending to a fantastic blast of nervous energy.
Theme and Variations served to show that this company of 40 could pull off a technically difficult Balanchine ballet. Almost. The lead dancer, Luiza Lopes, had beautiful arms and rock-solid balances, but the performance was marred by a miserable sound system (the Tchaikovsky recording alternated between too loud and too sudden), and too frequent bows that broke the mood. The dancers in Theme had a lovely lift in the chest even when they seemed quite closely packed in during the last movement. But it was their ability to infuse Gnawa with a glorious sensuality and Supernova with an obsessive yet buoyant energy that distinguished the company.
Photos: Nacho Duato's Gnawa, by João Caldas; Balanchine's Theme and Variations, by Wilian Aguiar.
Both courtesy São Paulo Companhia de Dança.