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Os Elementos Fires up Toronto

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The Dance Migration
A Danceworks Coworks Presentation Supported by Toronto Arts Council

Fleck Dance Theatre
Toronto, Ontario
December 17-18, 2010

Os Elementos, presented by Toronto dance company The Dance Migration, is a show that should be coming to a town near you: a live, contemporary, Brazilian-inspired concert, featuring a group of ten dancers accompanied by a Brazilian band.

Adrianna Yanuziello is The Dance Migration's founder, artistic director, choreographer and dancer . She describes her vision for Os Elementos, the dance company's most ambitious event to date: “The stories of the four elements are from the Orixas, the Afro-Brazilian Gods of nature. We incorporate traditional movement, but go beyond that vocabulary by linking our contemporary abilities with the roots of Brazilian tradition. I gave the dancers the story behind each piece and the vibration or spirit of each god; it was very enjoyable to see them explore the themes of the Orixas as we rehearsed for this presentation."

I attended the performance on Saturday, December 18, and witnessed a blending of cultures; the melding of western contemporary dance and music with that of Brazilian, Afro Brazilian and African dance and music. Yanuziello—a Canadian of Italian decent—and her dancers, none of whom hail from Brazil, have aptly captured the spirit of the South American country. Yanuziello puts it this way, “Upon graduating from Ryerson University's dance program, I became very interested in Brazilian culture. In searching for an artist with whom I could train with I discovered Rosangela Silvestre, who had created her own technique. In 2007, I went to Brazil to further my training. It was during this time that I discovered the true essence of dance. This is what has inspired me to form The Dance Migration. I want to show North America how rich Brazil is in its dance and spirit."

The opening number began with the spotlight trained on center stage, a dancer in a white costume moving to a voice we heard but could not see. Vocalist Devine Brown was chanting in Portuguese; barely visible, at stage left. The incantation became more rhythmic, and Brown was singing as this reviewer has never heard her before. Sounding as authentic as any Brazilian, and with a spiritual energy radiating brightly, she delivered a prayer to one of the Orixas. The dancers' movements, seemingly effortless, responded to the chanting with a series of intricate and beautiful movements. The lights came up on stage left, a flutist began a haunting melody that created a cascade of visual and audio delight—a blending of one as melody, and vocal harmony and purity of movement collided in stirring majesty.

The full band made a musical entrance in support of a group of dancers who flowed onto the stage, bringing with them a new and vibrant energy. The musicians, under the direction of Brazilian,Contra Mestre Bola (Marinaldo DaSilva), broughtthe high energy of a live group to the performance. The band included a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass and drums—many drums: five drummers, covering a full range of percussion instruments from trap set, congas, bongos djembe and everything in between.

The jazz element of Os Elementos came from the shared love of jazz by both music director Bola and artistic director Yanuziello. To gain a jazz feel they incorporated flute, saxophone, trombone and trumpet. All the musicians played the music with a jazz inflection.

The concert, presented in two acts, was made up of five pieces in Act I and six in Act II. The final number of Act I, “Maracatu," featured guest drum troop Maracatu Baque de Bamba, a group of six percussionists. Combined with the Os Elementos band, a thundering drum sound ensued that made the ground rumble. The dancers and a male singer paraded to the rhythm of the drums, wearing beautifully decorated costumes. The standard-bearer was followed by the king and queen of the Maracatu, as the procession wound its way through the audience to lead to the intermission.

The second act featured more of the same energies. The program began its climax from the opening number, culminating in the tremendous finale, “Afro," that had the audience out of its seats and clapping, as the dancers and musicians let loose with improvised tributes to the African roots of dance and music.

For an encore, request that Os Elementos and The Dance Migration come to a town near you.

Written by Paul J. Youngman

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