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nu:TEMPO Experimental Dance Company

'Nu' not so new

by Thea Nerissa Barnes

May 24, 2004 – Cochrane Theatre, London

nu:TEMPO experimental dance company performed at the Cochrane Theatre 24th May. This writer first saw nu:TEMPO October 2003. The anticipation of seeing a new choreographer offer his second evening of dance after such a promising initial presentation is always filled with great expectations. This second evening was promising also but highlights concerns seen in the first that have yet to be rectified.

The evening began with a video created by Fernando Barbera, Larissa Machado, Tika Stefano given before the first work “Relaçoes” that was part of the first concert in October. This video presentation follows a filmic strategy for the creation of “in the making” films that detail participators and elements that have given the film its highlights and identity. This video is an articulation of the creative process and not intended to support the intention of the work that follows. Some of the dancers speaking are no longer with the company and the work itself has changed drastically. Offering a generic insight, the video works as testimony of the dancer’s relationship with Everaldo Pereira as choreographer, but offers minimal discussion regarding costumes, choices of music and even less about the dancers’ negotiation of embodied knowledge while working with Pereira. This start becomes redundant when a second video, same video making crew plus Pablo Ferretti using the same strategy and editing process is presented before the new work, “Roots”. This second video also has the dancer’s testimony of their working relationship with Pereira and although interspersed with location footage outside the studio hinting to Brazil, the inspiration for “Roots”, this film offers us no more than the first.

”Relaçoes” this time is an episodic, collage-like work offering meetings and passings of several relationships. Two sets of females, two solos and one heterosexual duet portrayed varied present or imagined interactions through conventional contemporary dance movement. Aside from the two soloist the dynamic progressed along the same line having no profound consequence. The sense of the dynamic state of the relationships was only evidenced through facial and hand gesticulations having little impact on the body design and movement vocabulary. It was as if the dance stopped for moments where the dancers “acted out” the quality of their interactions. Program notes did not indicate who the soloist were but these two women were more articulate and managed to merge dramatic intent with the movement given them. In the end, this work could have been more powerful with some strategic editing, (the ensemble sections were repeated but did nothing to further the thread of the work) and the movement seemed to serve the music and not be an articulated fulfilment of intent of the work. Pereira has connected steps in this work but there appears to be no key vision or revelation of the crux of the work.

”Roots”, the second work in this program, was reputed to have been inspired by Afro-Brazilian culture and religion. The expectation was the manner in which this infusion of a contemporary perspective would be used to portray the power of Brazilian Orixás. The program notes briefly described the religions celebration of Iemanjá, the Yoruba goddess of water which on 2 February “offerings of flowers and perfume are brought to the beaches and thrown into the sea”. The work suffered because it seemed to be telling two stories from two different perspectives, abstract and expressionist. It was not a portrayal of astute research in the religion, its context and manner of worship or an amalgamation of diverse movement vocabularies. There was enough conventional material in this work to make two separate pieces. The section with all the dancers dressed in white proved the most rewarding section to watch. In this section the movement seemed to be inspired with an Africanist root that was fragmented then transliterated with contemporary dance form and composition. Here Pereira seemed his most inspired because architecture of the body and rhythm became a metonym for water and so hinted its connection to Iemanja. Wave like arm and back sequences had an essence of traditional movement forms that were successfully melded into the fabric of contemporary vocabularies. In this section, one could detect Africanist movement vocabulary influences just below the surface.

A solo performed by Sia Kpakiwa was an elegant manifestation of essences of Iemanja. Wearing only a flowing white skirt, Kpakiwa’s upper torso, arms, and head performed the subtleties of yonvalou movement as her nudity accentuated the feminine sensuality of this particular Orixá. The subdued lighting design for this solo by Rosana Ribeiro created a wonderful mystery that at first shocked some audience members but as the dance progressed offered serenity because of the beauty Kpakiwa exalted.

What came next though devalued the solo and demonstrated the naïveté of Pereira. Kpakiwa was directed to stand downstage right and watch the other dancers and Ivan Martinez Moreno, who stared back, then continued for the rest of the work to be in search of something. The nude abstraction became a naked woman, as Kpakiwa not dancing appeared self conscious in her position as one who watches instead of being watched. The nudity was further devalued when Kpakiwa exited and returned wearing a blue sequined top and the same flowing skirt. One could ask why she had not worn the top for the solo? Perhaps Pereira did not think what this choice would do to Kpakiwa. He certainly didn’t seem to consider what this would mean in his work or how those of the Yoruba religion would perceive this act. Exhibitionist and sensationalism are the adjectives that come to mind upon reflection of the event. Pereira disrespected the very thing he had set out to celebrate.

There was other evidence of lack of forethought. Flower pots that opened the work where handled with reverence and placed in particular formation then as the dancers exited one pot was left. This one pot was removed suspiciously hinting that perhaps someone had forgotten about it. Something very important to begin with for the work and also of significance in Yoruba religious practices treated in this off handed, careless manner. This work also needed editing and more exploration of the movement vocabulary to warrant the tag, experimental dance company. In the second film a dancer indicates that Roots finds its inspiration in the differences of the sea with its calm morning and force at night during a storm. This last section emphasised even poorer choices by Pereira who portrayed the power of a raging sea with women in short blue chiffon dresses.

At the end a singing presentation was given by Adma Newport with musicians Sam Alexander, Luiz Santos, Garet Cashman, Halsey Clauberg. This performance was heart felt but seemed out of place given what had gone before. The brief appearance of Pereira in traditional garb carrying a pot of white daises seemed under rehearsed and under researched. If this dance was intended to be representative of Afro-Brazilian roots I would ask Pereira of which peoples this dance is derived, what is its significance and what his intention was in presenting it. By virtue of wearing the seemingly traditional dress the expectation is the dance is derived from a particular culture. If you appropriate an essence you must know its significance in the context of its use before pirating it. If you are making dance from what you remember and not doing your research you are regurgitating, not crafting a work of art.

Once again, there is no question that Pereira can connect steps. The young choreographer though must make an informed choice and be responsible for the consequences of those choices. Only time will tell whether Pereira will continue to mix a gifted choreographic talent with ill informed choices or do the work required that lays the foundation for exceptional dance theatre. There is a difference and I hope Pereira will, in time, discover which will serve his aspirations.

Edited by Jeff.

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