Lights down. Pitch black. People shuffle in their seats. A lone a cappella female voice cuts through the silence. The curtain rises and the woman we hear runs onstage in circles. The stage is bare except for a few stand-alone spotlights. As she runs and sings, she is joined by more voices, and a man starts following her, then another, until seven men follow one woman running in circles. They gather in one small corner of the stage and begin moving themselves to their own voices, one-by-one escaping from their illusory box to glide and contort their way across the stage. This is the beginning of I. YOU. WE . . . ALL BLACK! (Nêgo), the first half of Brazilian dance troupe Companhia Urbana de Dança’s performance in the Moore Theater on Saturday.
I’m always wary of a show with all men and one woman; I’m usually waiting for her to be overly sexualized or put in danger. At no point in Nêgo did I feel that. When she wasn’t leading the troupe, Jessica Nascimento was moving with the men, no more sexualized or less fierce than them. Later in the first piece, the men create a close circle around her, and when they move away she is standing in an upright, confidence pose. As they create a larger circle around her, she begins kicking them individually, and when they run, she runs after them. Nêgo very much felt like a commentary both on race and gender: one woman, six men, very little music yet chaos on stage.
Sometimes when a dance piece is meant to be political, like Nêgo’s explicit racial critique, I feel like they’re saying far more than I can ever take in. Through Nêgo I sometimes felt that if I looked away I would miss another lesson or message. That changed entirely after the intermission, when they brought out Na Pista, a lively piece that felt more personality- than politics-driven. The piece began with the men dancing through the audience and laughing and chatting with each other, then getting on stage for a game of musical chairs. Throughout this whole piece they talked to each other and the audience, and despite it all being in Portuguese, the crowd felt their words.
The intensity of the first half was counteracted with the fun and liveliness of the second half, and I definitely needed the 20-minute intermission to change that state of mind. I think there is beauty in the way the show’s raw and dark beginning ended in a standing ovation dancing with the performers to Uptown Funk.
By Jennifer Evans ’17
Jennifer Evans is a ’17 from Glamorgan, Wales, who studies English Literature and Creative Writing. She spends at least 30 hours a week at the Hop (a modest estimate), and if you see her staring at you from across the Courtyard Cafe or Top of the Hop, she’s probably writing about you. Please act natural.