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CISNE NEGRO #2 (article first published : 2004-08-28)

The internationally-renowned Brazilian contemporary dance companyCisne Negro has been performing at the Playhouse for the past two weeks, presented by Petrobras (the biggest oil company in Brazil) in association with The Playhouse Company.

I saw Programme One last week and this review should be read in conjunction with that report (also on the Dance pages), where I was blown away by the originality of the dancing, choreography and lighting.

Cisne Negro (meaning “black swan”) is one of the finest dance companies to grace our local stages. What makes the company so impressive is its strong grounding in classical ballet training – not to mention the simply astounding amount of energy presented by the dancers.

The first piece, Cherché, Trouvé, Perdu, is choreographed and costumed by Patrick Delcroix who was assisted in his superb lighting design by André Bottó. It discusses the essence of searching, finding and then losing a relationship. Bursts of confined lighting and movement contain the couples’ interaction before the stage is revealed in its entirety. Here they find themselves in an unfamiliar and vast environment, uncertain as to how to proceed.

Reacting to ecstatic audience response to the piece, the line-up for Programme Two now includes the magnificent Cânticos Místicos, choreographed by Vasco Wellencamp to excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. On this second viewing, I was able to focus on the details and discovered such delights as the drumming of feet reminiscent of a herd of sheep racing around; the subtle angles of feet (“How beautiful are the feet”), the positioning of Angel Gabriel (“and the angel said unto them ..”) and the flick of heads (“Rejoice, greatly”).

Cânticos Místicos is a tough act to follow and the programme compilers wisely chose to change the mood completely and remind us that this is a Brazilian company with Rings, choreographed by Dany Bittencourt with lighting by André Bottó and costumes by Eduardo Ferreira. Set to a specially commissioned piece by Adriana Calcanhotto, Maria Bonita, the work has a catchy Latin rhythm, percussive background and reference to drops of water.

The use of rings (like hula hoops) forms a reminder that when the company was founded in São Paulo in 1977, it included gymnasts from the local Physical Education University. What could easily have become a clichéd acrobatic work remained firmly within the genre of dance.

One of the successes of Cisne Negro’s choreography is that it is not overt. Exquisitely presented along certain themes, it still allows audience members free reign to present their own interpretation.

The last performance of Cisne Negro’s Programme Two can be seen in the Playhouse Drama tomorrow (August 29) at 18h00. Tickets R55. The word is finally getting around town that this group is hot with a capital “H”! So get there early to ensure a ticket if you haven’t booked. If not, it’s worth driving to Pretoria to see their performance on August 31 at 20h00 at the State Theatre before they head home to Brazil. – Caroline Smart




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