Review: Jean Abreu in Raizes at Purcell Room, South Bank Centre

Performance: 15 July
Reviewed by Lisa Haight - Monday 17 July 2006

*Raizes*, the Portuguese word for “roots”, was an investigation into Brazilian culture through dance, music and poetry. Performed alongside four live, roving musicians, Raizes captured a snippet of Brazil I have sometimes seen in documentaries: that of a couple enjoying a passionate, traditional South American dance where their bodies barely part.

Raizes began with the musicians on stage in cream linen shirts and trousers playing their instruments; Anselmo Netto, percussion and bandolin, Maximilian Baillie, violin and voice, Josue Ferreira, guitar and voice and Adriano Silva Pinto, percussion. Abreu entered the stage from the side, a la Miami Vice, in a white linen suit with Panama hat, white shoes, black and white striped shirt and black flower pinned to his lapel. He danced his way through a selection of ballroom dances on his own until his partner, Leticia Pereira, joined him on stage.

Pereira appeared in black high heels and a black, short fringed dress reminiscent of a 1920’s flapper. Together Pereira and Abreu moved around the stage performing what I think were various versions of traditional Brazilian dances. Although fun to watch with a bit of flirtation and playfulness thrown in for good measure, Pereira’s ability to perform these steps wasn’t as good as Abreu’s and I felt this let the piece down. However, the audience seemed to love it. Abreu and Pereira left the stage and the musicians carried on.

When Abreu and Pereira reappeared, they were wearing white tops and trousers, no shoes and Pereira had let her hair down. They danced together across the back of the stage. Abreu then carried Pereira across the stage in what looked like a moving tableaux. Abreu moved Pereira forward and backward as if Pereira was a life size puppet Abreu was controlling. Abreu spun Pereira around and her long braids went flying. Through this second piece Abreu and Pereira moved as a unit, their bodies melded. It was a sensual piece to watch and both performed it with passion and skill.

As Pereira majestically walked off the stage, Ponciano Almeida entered wearing the same outfit as Abreu. Together Almeida and Abreu performed a duet that was riveting. An interpretation of Capoeira, the movements were graceful with large, sweeping arms and legs and handstands reminiscent of Laurie Booth’s choreography.

Overall, this was another fine example of Abreu’s work. At times it was fun to watch and at others, it was captivating. I’m already looking forward to his next show!

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