Even though the weather has been unseasonably warm in Minnesota, it's closer to 90 in Brazil around this time of year. And while an airline ticket to Rio de Janeiro would be nice, it was also fun to spend Friday evening at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis watching Contempo Physical Dance perform "Balacobaco," a world premiere tribute to the colorful Rio Carnaval and other celebrations significant to artistic director Marciano Silva dos Santos' homeland.
The dancers of "Balacobaco" had such a great time, it was hard not to jump onstage and join in, especially when a local percussion band, Batucada do Norte, struck up its festive sound.
Dos Santos combines elements of Afro-Brazilian dance, the martial arts form capoeira and contemporary movement to create his own creative fusion, fueled by a healthy dose of positive spirit.
Dos Santos always gives his dancers a tall order — stay in near-constant motion, coordinate the flow of counter-rhythms from feet to hips to shoulders, seemingly glide across the floor, keep up with multidirectional changes in energy, and fill the atmosphere with confidence. This proved particularly true in "Balacobaco."
The eight-member dance troupe rose to the occasion, supported by Brazilian composer Divan Gattamorta's vibrant and expressive score as well as Dos Santos' colorful costume design.
Gattamorta's music for "Balacobaco" runs the gamut from playful to mysterious, as if he were assigned the task of creating a soundtrack for the transition from early evening revelry to late night delirium.
The dancing at the Cowles reflected this shift as well, particularly as the performers dug into the kinetic-musical connections of the deep bass rumble or the lighthearted, bossanova-tinged electronica.
This range of styles adds a new dimension to Dos Santos' choreographic approach, suggesting more narrative impulses behind the pure movement energy. Dos Santos made a couple of appearances to remind us of his commanding stage presence.
He played the role of silent guide for the show as well as inspiration for its very reason to exist — a mandate to party, let go of worries and embrace the beauty of the moment.
It was a welcome reminder that the problems of the world can be ignored for a while, and replaced with something close to pure joy. It's no wonder Brazilians embrace Carnaval. Dance, music, love — these are the tools of survival.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance critic.