Claudio Segovia’s Brasil Brasileiro is no stranger to Sadler’s Wells, last appearing here in 2006 to largely positive views. I was hoping to enjoy a similar treat as I did recently at Havana Rakatan, a likewise inspired Cuban dance treat but on this occasion I was left disappointed by an, at times, lacklustre cast and lengthy musical arrangements that took centre stage over this dance through the history books.
The show gets off to a slow and slightly sobering start with the performers arranged in a semi-circle, tapping their hands to the stage in unison and builds gradually to include a haunting a cappella vocal. There is not much dance to be seen. Needless to say as an opening it lacked the Latin American exuberance I was hoping for.
Proceedings pick up a little with Capoeria which features flashes of excitement from three of the male dancers (Baianinho Capoeira, Jean Lopes and Tiago Moreno) in an impressive gymnastic display. Their rhythm is dictated by the simple background percussion and as the beat intensifies and increases in speed so do the dancers to match as they turn tumbles so swiftly they transform into a blur of whizzing limbs. It’s a great crowd-pleaser and certainly gets the audience on side.
Sadly moments like the above are few and far between as authentic Brazilian music (sang in the original language, not helping a great deal!) takes charge. For a lover of dance this is frustrating predominantly because we’re looking for more than musicians to make a performance, especially as the many billboard posters around London have unmistakably marketed this as a dance show. It’s true there are moments of flamenco, Argentine tango and Cuban salsa but not enough for Brasil Brasileiro to be satisfying for a dance fan. The lengthy musical arrangements simply feel like an endurance test.
Singing aside, there are some lovely moments. Twosomes such as Jimmy de Oliveira and Yolanda Reis buzz across the stage with Cuban verve in a number entitled Just Kidding; it’s sharp and energetic finally reminding me why I’m here. Act One is concluded by a Carnaval de Carnavais (Carnival on the Beach) featuring all of the ensemble dancers, with ladies in crop tops and tight Lycra and men in not much more, they embody that athletic perfection and party spirit I’ve been waiting for. They bounce around the stage remaining playful with an air of the unrehearsed making for an aesthetically pleasing display.
With time to reflect I remain confident that Brasil Brasileiro fails to deliver what it promises. The insistence on lengthy musical numbers, is overdone and not spectacular enough as a viewer but on the few occasions that the full cast of dancers do fill the stage, the show has the potential to be the treat anticipated. In addition, the lack of any storyline or narrative does not aid this hotchpotch of song and dance and at time it feels a little directionless.
Brasil Brasileiro is playing at Sadler’s Wells until 27 July. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.