Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, one of the most exciting new ensembles on the world stage, comes to the Hop for a week this April to share its bold fusion of street and contemporary dance with audiences of all ages, in the Hop and in the community.
Companhia Urbana de Dança gives two full-length evening shows in The Moore Theater of the Hop, on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, at 8 pm; a matinee for school groups; and a free HopStop performance for young children and their families on Saturday, April 9, at 11 am, in the Hop’s Alumni Hall.
With electrically charged athleticism, Companhia Urbana de Dança brings together nine young dancers—eight men and one woman—from Rio de Janeiro’s poorer neighborhoods who mix hip hop, samba, capoeira and contemporary dance to create intense and beautiful stories based on their own life experiences. “An absolute marvel of gritty physical energy” (San Francisco Chronicle), they take audiences to a realm where dance is funky, freeing and done from the heart. Encore Magazine described the troupe as “dynamic, vital, poetic and explosive.”
Artistic Director Sonia Destri Lie founded Companhia Urbana de Dança in 2004—after training in ballet and American and European contemporary dance and then spending several years working in the commercial dance world. Her work allowed her travel throughout Brazil and Europe exploring various dance forms, particularly breakdancing and “b-boy” culture in Germany.
To build her company, she recruited young people who were a part of the vivid street dance culture of the favelas, or slums, of Rio. Drawing on her more formal background in composition, Destri Lie deconstructs her dancers’ thrilling kinetic expressions and shapes them into theatrical tableaux. The dancers help shape the works, embedding their own life stories in the visual narrative. “Classic hiphop moves are visible—the rippling of arms, the rolling on backs—yet they have been stretched and shaped into something new” (The New York Times).
The group has performed at festivals and theaters throughout Europe and Latin America, and its 2010 U.S. debut was ranked among Time Out New York’s “Top 10” dance performances of the year.
For this tour of New England, Urbana will perform two signature works. I. You. We… All black! explores how race and identity figure into the cultural roots of Brazil as well as the performers’ own life stories. To an original score juxtaposing electronica, samba and bossa nova beats, the company dances in solo and ensemble combinations. Na Pista burns up the dance floor with choreography combining samba, capoeira, line dances, vogueing and bits from Michael Jackson videos—all reflecting the cultural environment in which the dancers grew up.
The residency is a rare chance for Upper Valley audiences to better understand the people and culture of Brazil, which, despite its size and its hosting of the 2014 soccer World Cup and the Olympics coming up this summer, isn’t well understood in the US. The troupe members of Urbana are strongly committed to teaching and to spreading understanding about street dance and culture and the resilience of their home environments. Wrote a blogger for the National Performance Network, the dancers “are redefining the word favela in the psyche of Brazil and the world by making their dance and their daily work a political, as well as aesthetic, response to their environment.”
Hop Programming Director Margaret Lawrence first saw Urbana in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 and was struck by the company’s energetic, authentic approach to applying hiphop to contemporary dance choreography. She was also impressed with the egalitarian role of the troupe’s female dancer, not always seen in the hiphop realm.