Brenda Angiel Dance Company

February 15, 2000

Brenda Angiel Dance Company/AmericArtes Festival

Eisenhower Theatre, J.F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.

February 15?17, 2000

Reviewed by Judith Lynne Hanna

Argentina?s Brenda Angiel Dance Company journeyed through space as part of “AmericArtes,” the Kennedy Center?s celebration of Latin America?s traditional and contemporary arts. Argentina?s national dance is the tango, but Angiel takes modern dance to new heights as her dancers effortlessly twist, hang, tumble, or soar midair, suspended by static and elastic ropes dangling from a twenty-foot-high custom-rigged scaffold. Angiel formed her company in 1987 and the choreography originally centered on dance theater and contemporary dance. Beginning in 1994, however, she redirected her focus toward an aerial dance that relies on equipment common to the circus.

Three former circus riggers, who had not worked with dancers before joining Angiel?s company, used pulleys, levers, and special mountain-climbing devices to send the dancers flying. Angiel?s fascinating choreography, which owes its style more to gymnastics than classical dance technique, requires tremendous abdominal and back strength from the dancers, who move suspended from harnesses worn around their pelvic and shoulder areas. “I like to do movements not everyone can do, to go beyond limitations,” said Angiel in a post-performance discussion.

Angiel?s piece Otras Partes began with a beautiful aerial male-female erotic duet expressing tenderness, need, and vulnerability. The four dancers wittily created a curving moon-bounce effect, springing back and forth from two tables onto the stage. Subsequently, dancers seemingly blown by gale-force winds flew (on cables) into the audience. In South Wall and After, dancers created a haunting effect by walking down what looked like a bleak nighttime street.

The AmericArtes gala featured performances by the American Indian Dance Theatre and American Ballet Theatre?s Argentinean star Julio Bocca, who passionately interpreted tango themes of love and pain with a cool, somewhat detached Ballet Argentino dancer, Cecelia Figaredo. Ballet Folclórico do Brasil brought the thrilling, high-energy ritual and secular dances associated with Afro-Brazilian culture, including samba and capoeira. Two male dancers from the Peruvian company Los Danzaq de Ayacucho performed the traditional Scissors Dance as a competition of strength, agility, imagination, artistry, humor, and acrobatic skill.

Brazil?s Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker presented an excerpt from her full-length work Rota at the gala, and performed it in full later in the festival. The U.S. premiere of her work Casa was stunning: Colker?s fifteen exquisite dancers created striking airborne images using physical strength and daring. In a three-story-house set cleverly designed by Gringo Cardia, they climbed the inside walls, hung from the rafters, or swung from an opening garage door, comically reflecting what we all do, from brushing our teeth to making love. As the oversized house doors opened and closed, viewers caught glimpses of dancers arching over one another?s backs, standing on shoulders or sternums, jumping through the circle of another?s arms, leaping off twelve-foot-high platforms, and shimmying down firehouse poles.