In the labyrinthine favelas of Rio de Janeiro, ten prodigious performers invent small miracles of dance. Emerging from a milieu that is despised or disregarded, Cria radiates with life.
In the labyrinthine favelas of Rio de Janeiro and in the dance halls that juice up its night life, small miracles of dance come into being. The choreographer Alice Ripoll latches onto these creative bursts and lovingly guides ten prodigious performers, an impassioned and close-knit group full of contagious energy. Emerging from a milieu is despised or disregarded, oppressed and massacred by the policies of the extreme right, Cria radiates with life.
Neither lightning nor gunfire, nothing impedes joy, nothing stops the dance. The virtuoso, flamboyant dancers perform passinho (short step) and dancinha (little dance), the latest offshoots of Brazilian funk. In impetuous, salacious dance akin to voguing, samba and breakdance, they skillfully blur established codes. The black bodies strutting onstage, their freight of heartbreak palpable, will move the audience – or have them burst out laughing. To each his absolute difference in a feast of fluidity of genres and mastery of styles. They are the avant-garde.
Produced by Suave
Directed by Alice Ripoll
Performed by GB Dançarino Brabo + VN Dançarino Brabo + Thamires Candida + May Eassy + Nyandra Fernandes + Romulo Galvão + Kinho JP + Andre Oliveira DB + Sanderson BDD + Ronald Sheick + Gabriel Tiobil
Assistant Director and Sound Technician Alan Ferreira
Lighting Design Andréa Capella
Costumes Raquel Theo
Musical Direction DJ Pop Andrade
Design Caick Carvalho
Management Rafael Fernandes
Touring ART HAPPENS
Produced with the support of Centro Coreográfico da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro + Casa do Jongo (Rio de Janeiro) + Rafael Machado Fisioterapia
Presented by Fugues in association with Maison Théâtre
Written by Jessie Mill
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Espaço Cultural Municipal Sérgio Porto, Rio de Janeiro, on November 17, 2017
Alice Ripoll (Rio de Janeiro)
A native of Rio de Janeiro, Alice Ripoll initially studied psychology and intended to pursue psychoanalysis, a temporary detour that now nourishes her choreography, keenly attentive to the dancers’ slightest quivers or pulsations.
In a country ravaged by racism, sexism, violence and inequality, Ripoll insists on the right to stray and stroll, the right to free association and to dreams, the last safeguard for artists. Cria, from the verb « to create », is also a cry heard in the favela to state where you are from, as in: I am Cria from the Complexo or the Maré neighbourhood.
This is the second production by the company SUAVE, and it was the result of a happy accident. In 2014 the Panorama de Rio festival invited three choreographers to take an urban dance style and develop it further. Ripoll was intrigued by a newly born dance form, passinho, a funk dance popular with Rio youth that was going viral on the Net.
She held auditions and worked with very young dancers, exploring themes, discovering moves. It led to a performance that was a sensation in Brazil and internationally, knitting the troupe together in a close bond of kinship.
For each new work, Ripoll established a framework to stimulate the inventiveness and creativity of the dancers, expressing their dreams and desires. Performing now in established venues, the treasures she has organically unearthed acquire subversive potential.
In aCORdo (2017), created with her company REC (which has been working with passion and no resources since 2007), the choreographer zeroes in on social hierarchies. Spectators were obliged to frisk search the performers, a brief taste of what happens far too often to poor blacks persecuted by the police.
In Cria, more traditional forms – samba or capoeira – rub shoulders with the homespun movements of hip-hop, breakdance, voguing and others, with great sophistication. What are the characteristic features of these dances, passinho and its derivative dancinha, that attracted you?
When the Panorama dance festival asked me to select an urban dance style in 2014 and expand on it with young dancers I chose passinho, a new and very technical style. I had seen it on the Internet and really liked it. I held auditions, and our small experiment miraculously grew into the show SUAVE.
I had already worked with hip hop, krump and popping dancers. Passinho is completely different, and I love funk music.
The dancers casually borrow from hip-hop and are constantly inventing new movements. There is a lot of discrimination around this musical genre and this dance form, as it is often associated with drug traffickers and violence, notably police violence, a common occurrence in the favelas.
The atmosphere that gave rise to these dances is very complex. There is much lingering prejudice. Brutal wars rage in the favelas, but local dances like passinho and dancinha manage to connect with people, breaking down barriers. The young dancers circulate freely. Art makes connections in the embittered slums.
You have said that you are not looking for virtuosity or formal prowess. Yet in Cria, the spectacular nature of certain figures seems to be a important source of affirmation for the dancers. Where do these impressive feats come from?
My contribution consists of building a world where the language and the technique of the dancers can exist and thrive. If one of them commits to difficult or virtuoso figures, it is because he or she wants to. They invented passinho, and know its inherent codes. They put the steps and the movements to the test in other spaces inside the favela.
Onstage, of course, those figures take on another meaning such as Mayla’s solo, for example, with the swirling whirlwind of her hair.
From one performance to another and with an enthusiastic response from the audience, that solo has grown significantly. She is the master of that segment and how long it lasts. The dance of Mayla’s hair reflects a claiming and defining of her own space by this artist from the LGBTIQ+ community.
Cria thrums with expansive liberty, sensuality and an energy that takes on all sorts of meaning, yet suddenly there is gunfire and a scene of raw, explicit violence. Was that sudden emergence imposed?
That reality is very important. We cannot remove violence from these performers because it is part of their daily lives. Staying alive is what is at stake in their work. Several friends and acquaintances who danced with them are dead; it is a difficult subject to broach.
We improvised quite a lot during the creative process: dance, theatre, speech. Violence lurks around every corner and explodes in brutal, straightforward fashion.
For them it is all linked together: life, dance, violence, death. It is sad that we can’t present a show without evoking violence, without having it appear onstage.
There is a palpable solidarity, fraternity and tenderness among the male dancers in Cria, particularly in the final duo. How did you establish that relation, which runs counter to the prevailing masculine stereotypes in Brazil?
I had that scene in mind even before the piece took shape. The creative process was a pretext for developing those types of movements and feelings. I gave birth shortly before we started to work on this dance, and that experience was very vivid in my mind.
Some dancers in the group are fathers, and each member of the group – particularly the men – felt connected to the notion of paternity. In the favelas there are many homes with no men, fatherless families. The men die quite young or are unable to function within the family structure.
I was looking how to make a connection between sensual aspects and the violence of their environment – drugs, arrests, prison, death. Right from the start, the dancers came to grips with touching, with respecting each other and integrating their differences.
That sensitive experience belongs to a different world. In Brazil for several years now people have been talking about feminism, but without evoking the reasons for doing so. What happened to the men? What is the source of that violence that is concentrated in their souls?
It seemed to me that if men were able to touch each other, deal with the homosexual part of their nature and raise children, they would never lack respect for women.