Dance review: Viver Brasil turns up the heat at Ford Amphiteatre

Rachel Hernandez of the Viver Brasil dance troupe performs "Para Xaxa" during a dress rehearsal at the Ford Amphitheatre.
(Paul Antico/ )

Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock aren’t the only ones packing heat. L.A.-based Viver Brasil scorched the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday with its hybrid moves that mix Bahian Candomblé (white magic) folklorico and modern dance. Founded and directed by husband-and-wife team Luiz Badaró and Linda Yudin, the Afro-Brazilian troupe celebrated its 15th season with six works in a program dubbed “Intersections/Ajê.”

Even Badaró, normally heard (on percussion) and not seen strutting, sashayed alongside guest artist Dona Marivalda, his king to her decked-out queen (huge hoop skirt, crown, velvet cape), in his 2007 “Maracatu Viva Viver Brasil.” Also in the piece was a beaming, stomping Adebola Afolabi, her calunga (doll) in hand, assuring that African spirituality reigned.

Rosangela Silvestre’s revamped “Mothers and Sons,” a tableau of squats, stomps and swiveling hips, was a rousing life affirmation: Katiana Pallais gave birth to a sickly child (Shelby Williams-González) and a serpent (Kara Mack) in the form of a rainbow that then became the connection to Iemanjá, the mother of all Orixás (deities), danced by the ever-ebullient Laila Abdullah.

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Lively too was Williams-González’s 2013 “Para Xaxá.” Inspired by northeastern Brazilian social dances -- xaxado and forró -- the work featured seven performers clad in Nong Tumsutipong’s brilliantly colored tutu skirts and tops, with heavenly hips, dips and skips predominating.

Vocalists Katia Moraes and Kana Shimanuki also became part of the action, while the six stellar backing musicians, including terrific trombonist Fabio Santana de Souza, took polyrhythms to new heights.

Less successful: Dani Lunn’s 2013 “Aqueous,” with Tumsutipong’s gauche silver-spangled costumes detracting from Lunn’s improvisatory-like choreography, her yoga-like poses interspersed with swanning arms, back bends and contemporary toe work.

Worse: Guest choreographer Amy “Catfox” Campion’s new breakdance/capoeira duet, “Eu Sou Caçador” (I Am a Hunter), with Rachel Hernandez and Williams-González executing feeble cartwheels and faux martial arts moves in sneakers and leggings. Where are the high-speed, acrobatic blends of dance and martial arts -- and men -- when you need them?


This lack of testosterone (save for the male musicians) was problematic overall, but mattered not in Lunn’s joyous finale, “Samba No Pé" (Feet Speak). Intricate unison footwork, booty-shaking and sensuous shimmying gave way to buoyant solos; the audience was, well, spellbound.


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