Advisor - Portugal
home | art &
architecture | books
& cds | dance | destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
Ao Vivo (Alive)
The prospect of seeing a modern dance company from Portugal
is like opening a gift from a distant relative. What will it contain? Portugal lies
outside the mainstream of European culture. Other than Great Britain, which shares a
strong kinship with the U.S., Germany and France are the most visible exponents of modern
dance form. Merce Cunningham has been the basis for much of French modern dance; the
Germans have their own expressionist heritage. Spain and Belgium have been drawing
notice. But Portugal is largely unknown.
The appearance of the Companhia Paulo Ribeiro, performing a one-hour
work entitled Ao Vivo (Alive) provides an initial glimpse, and a pleasant one, too.
The company of seven dancers (four women, three men) is touring with three jazz
musicians. Pianist Mário Laginha and vocalist Maria Jočo, who are also responsible
for the musical compositions, are augmented by Helge Norbakken on percussion. Jočo
was the most interesting performer of the evening, often moving among the dancers as she
sang. She employs a wide range of sounds and voices, some of which sound northern
African in their almost nasal wail. She is a lively presence, with moves of her own
and an engaging smile. She enjoys what she does and the feeling is infectious.
The music has an international sound in that it does not seem specific to any
culture, although they did include a tango, sung in Spanish.
Choreographer Ribeiro, who is not one of the performers, has created a
dance that is about individuality and display. He favors steps and gestures that
happen on the beat and that correspond to the musical notes. He keeps his dancers working
in isolation most of the time. Only in two sequences (notably the tango, which had
three couples dancing) do the dancers relate to one another. The dancers are all
clad in the same black outfits. This neutrality of appearance was matched by an absence of
personality. The dancers often repeated the same move in unison. Ribeiro has a
satiric edge that he should indulge more frequently.
In a sequence of solo turns, one woman's solo involved elaborate and
rapid hand gestures. Was this a reference to the fairy of song in Sleeping Beauty?
In another sequence, a woman strode down to the edge of the stage, her eyes clearly
communicating with "someone" in the audience. One of the men tried repeatedly to
interrupt her, only to be brushed away. This rejected suitor did some capoeira-like
moves on his hands in a solo that followed shortly thereafter. Was this an
expression of his frustration?
Had the program been any longer, it would have become boring. The
brief length suited the limited material. At least there were no overt and ponderous
- Larry Campbell