In one Brasileiro and out the other
If you’re planning to watch Baila Brazil don’t go expecting to see women resplendent in feathers and bikinis. In fact, you’ll get more satisfaction if you don’t expect to see any women at all. Among the 18 strong crew of a Company that does noble work bringing creative arts to poor communities in Brazil, there’s only one female dancer and she’s confined to a few appearances and restricted to knocking out the same samba steps.
The rest of the cast indulge in a mix of hip-hop, break-dancing, samba, capoeira and acrobatic tumbling. They’re generally very good at it – the brief break-dancing face-off was the best moment by far – but the show suffers from a severe lack of structure that leaves its dancers nowhere to go once their best moves have been used.
The result was a frenzy of repetitive footwork with a default setting of running back-flips whenever Marco Antônio Garcia’s choreography ran out of ideas (which was far too often). Consequently the big finale had no impact because we’d already seen everything the dancers had to offer.
There was also a tiring insistence on audience participation that was introduced so early on in the show that it felt forced (I know the British have the reputation of being reserved but jeez, at least let us settle in our seats first).
Just as disappointing was the music. An unhappy clash of pre-recorded and live instruments, the sound was balanced all wrong and totally submerged in slushy synth strings that drowned out the singer in a sludge of lame covers.
After the show, the dancers and musicians held a samba class for the audience. Free of imposed choreography and without amplification suddenly the group came alive with a freedom and spontaneity that had been completely lacking on the stage. Done properly, and with the talent available, what a show we could have had.
Baila Brazil continues at London’s Royal Festival Hall until 15 August 2015. See the Southbank Centre’s website for tickets.