Contemporary Brazilian Troupe to Unveil World Premiere at Jacob’s Pillow

Scene from 'Na Pista' (photo Gregory Lorenzutti)

Scene from ‘Na Pista’ (photo Gregory Lorenzutti)

(BECKET, Mass.) – The street life of Rio will pervade Jacob’s Pillow this week when Companhia Urbana de Dança returns for a five-show engagement in the Ted Shawn Theatre from Wednesday, August 13, through Sunday, August 16, 2014. The troupe brings a program of contemporary hip-hop dances never before seen by Pillow audiences, including the thought-provoking, dramatic world premiere of “I. You. We… All black!” and the exuberant and lively “Na Pista.”

Companhia Urbana de Dança choreographer and artistic director Sonia Destri Lie is recognized for combining hip-hop with dramatic, creative, and contemporary choreography. Destri’s company features street dancers from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro who have developed a diverse movement vocabulary of hip-hop, urban, and Brazilian social dance.

Founded in Brazil in 2004, Companhia Urbana de Dança is an ensemble of performers who work to transcend cultural boundaries while showcasing the art form of dance. The dancers, eight men and one woman, come from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro where dance is not supported as a legitimate profession. Members of Companhia Urbana de Dan?a use dance as an outlet to escape the challenges of their daily lives; company member Rafael Balbino, says that dance “helped me to find the right way, especially with the dangers of my neighborhood,” while others credit dance with providing much-needed release, community, discipline, and distraction.

Scene from 'Na Pista' (photo Gregory Lorenzutti)

Scene from ‘Na Pista’ (photo Gregory Lorenzutti)

The world premiere of “I. You. We…All black!” explores and invites audiences into the conflict and struggle inherent in the daily lives of its performers. In reference to this work, Destri states, “Companhia Urbana de Dança is presenting a show whose movements originate in the corporeal personality of each of the dancers. Bodies that talk about violence, about the fight for freedom, for the right to write a different history, different from the one that the narrow streets seem to be leading to.”

With an original score by composer Rodrigo Marçal, whose sound design juxtaposes sleek electronic music with samba and bossa nova beats, this work presents the company in solo and ensemble combinations that align with this socially conscious theme as well as the personal life stories of the performers.

“Na Pista,” the program’s bookend, is inspired by traditional rhythms and culture of Rio de Janeiro. According to Brian Seibert of the New York Times, “Na Pista is a party. The dancers wear party clothes. They play musical chairs and chatter… Mr. Marçal’s score is full of enjoyably recognizable samples, and so is the choreography: samba, capoeira, line dances, voguing, bits of Michael Jackson videos.” This upbeat and accessible performance will features all members of the company in their signature of varying solo and ensemble work.

Of the company’s style, Wendy Perron, editor-at-large of Dance Magazine, comments, “Choreographer Sonia Destri has tailored the movement to bring out each dancer’s most intense self. She combines hip hop with her modern/ballet background, and her dancers have the control to glide from skittering hip hop legs to a slow port de bras.”

“Companhia Urbana de Dança is one of the most unique companies I’ve seen in recent years,” says Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff. “They marry the big spirit and amazing virtuosity of hip-hop – but it’s the emotional range of what they bring to the stage that’s also so effective, and beautiful.  You see real people on stage; human beings. They are really living their lives on stage, and it’s very exciting to see that kind of pure delivery.”

Sonia Destri Lie is an accomplished choreographer whose dual degrees in psychology and ballet provide her with a unique perspective on human expression that informs her choreographic style. For her contributions to dance, Destri has been awarded the Staging Award 2011 by the State of Rio de Janeiro for the work Eu Danço, the FADA Award by the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro (2012 and 2013), and the Best Choreography Award by Conseil International de la Danse (CID_Unesco).

Of the company’s Pillow debut and Destri’s work, Janine Parker of the Boston Globe comments, “To echo the Martha Graham truism, these bodies, these divergent physiognomies and personalities, don’t lie: Bridging the theatrical divide, they dance without reservation, and tell us everything we need to know.”

Related Event

Companhia Urbana de Dança Audience Chat: Following the opening night performance on Wednesday, August 13, audience members are invited to gather in Blake’s Barn and share their opinions and perspectives in an informal, book club-style discussion of the work, with complimentary beverages.

Performance and ticket information

Ted Shawn Theatre

Wednesday, August 13—Friday, August 15, 8pm

Saturday, August 16, 2pm

Free Pre-Show Talks with Philip Szporer, a Jacob’s Pillow Scholar-in-Residence, are offered in Blake’s Barn 30 minutes before each performance

Free Post-Show Talk with artists from Companhia Urbana de Dança will take place immediately following the performance on Friday, August 15 at the Ted Shawn Theatre.

Tickets $39-59. $10 Youth tickets for the performances on Friday, August 15 at 8pm and Saturday, August 16 at 2pm. Now on sale online at Jacob’s Pillow, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office.

Box Office hours: Sun, Mon, Tues, 11am-5pm; Wednesday- Saturday, 11am-8pm

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