Los Angeles Dance Review: INTERSECTIONS/AJÊ (Viver Brasil at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center)

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by Myra Joy Veluz on February 10, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Perhaps the vibrancy of the Afro-Brazilian dance culture lures you in with the strong beats of the drum. Maybe it’s the sensuality and seductiveness of its movement. Whatever the case, Viver Brasil did not fail to deliver on its presentation of Intersections/Ajê at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Rest assured that even well after the drums stopped playing everybody’s feet and hips were still dancing.

VIVER BRASIL - photo by Tim Agler

For those who have not been there, the Holden Center can be easily misidentified as just another building on Washington between La Brea and Crenshaw, but the cars rushing to find parking and the sea of very excited dance patrons gathering in the bright, inviting lobby was a dead giveaway of the venue. The beautiful and intimate theater ensures that every seat in the house is the absolute best.

VIVER BRASIL musicians - photo by RGB photography

During the ninety-minute performance, Viver Brasil, a Los Angeles-based dance company, presented six dramatic dance works full of life and celebration, all accompanied by live musicians, percussionists, and vocalists (read more about Viver Brasil’s  artists here). In “Mothers and Sons,” their newest work choreographed by Rosangela Silvestre, each of the dancers represented different gods and elements from the earth. The tribal movement pulsated from the ground and into their bodies, which was enough to make the audience gasp and yelp; some even joined the percussionists in their syncopated beats.

VIVER BRASIL photo by Jorge Vismara

“Ajê,” choreographed by Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, utilized active narration from vocalists Katia Moraes and Kana Shimanuki, who, slow and steady at first, moved on and off stage using their voice as a guide for the dancers. As the music and vocals sped up, the dancers combined traditional samba and Afro-Brazilian movement. A true crowd pleaser, it closed the first half with vivacious whirling, endless shimmies, and faster than normal footwork and jumps. The grand finale was a conga line of dancers and musicians exiting the stage, but the infectious rhythms and electrifying performances had viewers jumping to their feet; many in the audience were so buzzed that they didn’t leave their seats until well into the intermission.

Viver Brasil's "Para Xaxa" by Shelby Williams-Gonzalez - photo by Paul Antico

The most sentimental part of the evening was the honoring of legendary percussionist Paulinho da Costa and dancer/choreographer Keny Long. Prior to the second act, Linda Yudin (who co-founded Viver Brasil with co-artistic director Luiz Badaró in 1997) presented each artist with a City of L.A. award in recognition of their contributions to the Afro-Brazilian dance and music community through their hard work in performance, education outreach, and true love of art.

Viver Brasil dancer Laila Abdullah - photo by Jorge Vismara

Beyond all comprehension, the artists actually revved up the pulsating life-force still reverberating from the first act with “Samba No Pé.” The dancers donned costumes of neon pinks, blues, greens, and yellows with matching, eloquent headpieces. The scorching-hot music ensemble, no slouches until then, actually displayed their best performance of the night with the instrumentalists putting their best beats forward and vocalists singing a compilation of traditional samba songs including Sergio Mendes’ “Magalenha.” This section also highlighted soloists, who executed high-intensity hip circles, body isolations, accented arm gestures, and feet pounding. Viver Brasil’s presentation has proved to be an everlasting drug of high energy and pure love: Even as I sit writing this, I am still giving a standing ovation.

Viver Brasil’s "In Motion, Em Movimento" choreographed by Rosangela Silvestre & staged by Shelby Williams (3-14-09, Alex Theater, Glendale, CA)

previous production photos by Jorge Vismara,
Tim Agler, RGB photography, and Paul Antico

Viver Brasil: Intersections/Ajê
presented by Ebony Repertory Theatre DANCE @ THE HOLDEN
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center
played on February 8, 2014
for future Holden events, call (323) 964-9766 or visit www.ebonyrep.org
for more info, visit www.ViverBrasil.com

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