Companhia Urbana de Dança/Sonia Destri

September 29, 2011

Peak Performances
Alexander Kasser Theater

Montclair State University

Montclair, NJ
September 22–25, 2011

Performance reviewed: Sept. 25
By Wendy Perron

The eight young men in this Brazilian hip hop group are almost shocking in their individuality and physicality. In ID:ENTIDADES the first guy who comes forward in a solo,  André “Feijão” Virgilio, a tall thin beanpole, ripples his spine outrageously. You can’t take your eyes off him. But you do, because the next guy is just as riveting. There’s Johnny Britto, who’s a softer, gentler mover, but precise in his gestures. Bruno Williams, a short cannonball of a man, balances in a parallel relevé with his whole body tilting forward. Powerful stillness yields to an alarming, thudding fall forward. Back to Virgilio, now upstage right, leaping forward, busting his gut to get somewhere—but he’s still in the same corner.

Choreographer Sonia Destri has tailored the movement to bring out each dancer’s most intense self. She combines hip hop with her modern/ballet background, and her dancers have the control to glide from skittering hip hop legs to a slow port de bras.

When not in the center, some dancers sit on the floor upstage, knees up, hands loosely clasped around the knees. We’re just chillin’—while all hell breaks loose with our pals. That juxtaposition of calm and fury makes you feel you’re in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where some of these dancers are from.

The only trouble with the piece is that long stretches of silence, while giving some space around the solos, hold back the momentum. Even so, the dancing is so powerful that exclamations of “spectacular” and “terrific” flew from audience members’ lips as soon as the lights went up for intermission.

A motif of running backwards in an arc holds Chapa Quente (hot plate or hot grill) together. Less raw but more consistent than ID:ENTIDADES, this second piece has more unison dancing, as when all the dancers perform voguing-type gestures in front of their faces. Playful moments add some charm. A couple of guys with their hands in pockets, cool as Fred Astaire, break into a moon walk. The samba infiltrates the break dancing in cheeky ways. At one point all the dancers, facing upstage, move their butts to the beat—but each with a different sense of freedom and sass.


Photo: Tiago Sousa and Gustavo Americo in
Chapa Quente.

By Mark Garvin. Courtesy Peak Performances.