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Sao Paulo Dance Company

Goyo Montero, Nacho Duato, Cassi Abranches

Ines Bogea and Luca Baldovino

The Lowry, Salford

March 12-13, 2024: 1 hr 35 mins


Sao Paulo Dance Company in Nacho Duato's Gnawa.cr Charles Lima
Sao Paulo Dance Company in Nacho Duato's Gnawa. All pics: Charles Lima

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Billed as Brazil’s finest, the Sao Paulo Dance Company appears at The Lowry towards the end of its first UK and Ireland tour. The creation largely of one woman, Ines Bogea, it is very good indeed at contemporary ensemble ballets for a dozen or so performers, and its triple bill showcases those strengths.

The marketing line is about Brazilian sunshine and how the 22 dancers are sleek and sexy, which is true as far as it goes, but that’s not the real point. They are technically highly skilled, and – on the strength of these three pieces, at least – have a style that’s pure and really quite classical in its foundations.

Sao Paulo Dance Company, since its foundation in 2008, has had some close links with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, and that could have a lot to do with it. Bogea takes a bow, Russian-style, with her dancers at the final curtain call, but there’s no doubt it is very much her company, with its Spanish and Brazilian identity to the fore in the origination of this programme’s content.

The first piece, Anthem, by Goyo Montero, resident choreographer of Cuba’s Acosta Danza, and with lighting design by Montero and Nicolas Fischtel, is the most “produced” of the three: lighting is very much in the concept, with a battery of backlights for one sequence, suspended lamps for another, and haze as well. The music, by Owen Belton, reflects the sort of tunes and songs that we can feel hold us together – in commitment, in love, in one sequence in a kind of mock-patriotic fervour, and later, as we notice more clearly that there are often odd ones out from the collective identity, in conflict and sorrow. Created on this company in 2019, it was communicated powerfully by the whole troupe, and especially the duo of Joca Antunes and Luiza Yuk.

Gnawa, by the veteran Spanish dancer and performer Nacho Duato (probably best known for his Jardí Tancat with Nederlands Dans Theater in the 1980s but since then artistic direct of the Berlin State Ballet and of the Mikhailovsky in St Petersburg), was the highspot of the evening. The music is a collection of hypnotic North African tracks by a variety of creators, mixed with evocative outdoor sounds including bird song, insect buzz and running water, and the piece, danced against a backdrop of complete darkness, has a classical sense of shape, balance and purity and calls for technical prowess of a very high order. First staged on Sao Paulo Dance Company in 2009, it’s constantly changing and inventive and utterly mesmerising.

To finish there was the lively and cheerful Agora, by Brazil’s own Cassi Abranches (from 2019). With another purely dark backdrop, it’s full of fun, with percussive music by Sebastian Piracs, beginning with a slow tick-tock as dancers move like slow pendulums … and finishing with the same image at double speed.


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