With Rio set to host next year’s Olympic games, Brazil will once again have the world’s spotlight placed on them as billions eagerly await to see what Brazil will bring to the table. Known for their vibrant genres of dance, heart thumping musical rhythms and their colourful costumes, Brazil is set to get the party started! Amongst the many aspiring performance troupes working day in and day out to perfect their craft, Balé de Rua have risen above the ranks and have taken the world by storm. Ahead of their performance of Baila Brazil at the Southbank Centre this August, Co-Founder and Co-Director Fernando Narduchi speaks to Theatrefullstop about the importance of dance culture within Brazil, there not being enough dance opportunities for Brazilians and Balé de Rua performing at some of the world’s most prestigious events!
How are you feeling ahead of the performances?
The company loves touring and it’s amazing to have the opportunity to see so many different places and to get to know so many new people and cultures. That’s the dream. To share our work around the world makes us very proud.
How important is the dance culture within Brazil?
Brazilians see people dancing everywhere, from the minute they are born. The African people who came to Brazil as slaves brought drums, rhythms and dance with them. They were slaves to begin with but eventually they won their freedom and they maintained their traditions which became a strong influence on Brazilian culture. Samba, which is a precious jewel of our culture, the Frevo, Maracatu, Congado, the Carnival, Capoeira followed, along with so many other Brazilian styles of dance and music.
Do you believe that there are enough dance opportunities for young people in Brazil?
Brazil is a very big country with many talented young people so I don’t think there is ever enough opportunity. There have been more openings for young people in the last 10 years, through social and cultural projects developed by the government but there is a lot more to be done. But I do believe in the power of young people and sometimes just a little help can change their future, they don’t always have to wait for opportunities; they can create it for themselves.
Baila Brazil premiered at the Sydney Opera House at the beginning of the year. How was the production received? How did the audience react to the show?
It was great! We had standing ovations at the end of each show. There was always a group of people waiting for us at the stage door and people said some very beautiful things to us. It really touched our hearts. It has been like this everywhere. That’s why we dance; to touch people’s hearts. That’s the biggest reward we can ever receive from the audience. The energy from the audience has been great and it makes all the hard work worth it.
Music plays an integral part to the production, with live music accompanying the entirety of the show. What made you decide to use live music rather than recorded?
We have been using live music for many years. We often have our dancers playing percussion. It brings a lot of energy to the show. The connection between the drums and the dancers really improves the power of the movement. More recently we invited a singer to join us and now we have a band too. It is a very powerful experience when you have dancers and musicians playing and breathing together, united as one living body. The show is performed with precision but the music gives a new life to the performance and makes every night unique.
Balé de Rua comprises of many performers born in the favelas of Brazil. How has the austere upbringings of these performers impacted on the art they create? Is the company an outlet for artistic expression?
Art changes lives. Not only performing arts, but music, painting, literature and all kinds of artistic expression. Art has the power to transform people, to open their minds to other things and to new worlds. Art is about communication and expression and if you can find a positive and creative way to express yourself then you don’t need to turn to other activities. A lot of the time, people who live in poor areas feel like they are forgotten or that they are not important. Arts and culture remind us of our humanity and can make people feel stronger in their identity and more aware of their importance within society.
As the founder of Balé De Rua, what inspired the creation of the company?
It all started from our love of dancing. We wanted to create a form of dance that was so precise and so sophisticated that it would be akin to ballet. We wanted to find a way of stamping our Brazilian identity onto street dance. We also wanted to be recognised and respected by our peers in the world of classical dance and prove that, like ballet, our dance had its own technique.
From humble beginnings to dizzying heights, Balé de Rua has accomplished a lot, from performing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, to preparing for next year’s Rio Olympics. Had this been a vision of yours from the company’s beginnings?
We always wanted to be recognised and respected in Brazil but we didn’t expect to travel abroad. Then we were invited to the Biennale de Lyon in 2002 and it was a sort of step-by-step journey from there. We had to put in a lot of work but we have achieved a lot as artists and as people. It is a journey that has changed our lives.
Balé de Rua places Afro-Brazilian culture at its root. Do you believe that there are enough theatre companies out there that highlight Afro-Brazilian culture?
Brazil is a huge country with a strong Afro-Brazilian heritage. There are many groups at different levels, some amateur and some professional, particularly in the state of Bahia, for example. But I believe there are not enough professional dance companies that achieve national or international visibility. I know some great black artists that are doing good work in contemporary dance. But we don’t have enough events and festivals, to promote these artists and showcase their work. It’s a very small market and so the opportunities to highlight the culture are few. I guess that with the profile of Balé de Rua, we have inspired other groups to believe in their dreams and keep on going to achieve their goals.
What are your plans for Balé de Rua for the future?
We will always be looking for new inspiration and we will always be studying and creating dance. We want to continue touching and enchanting people. Before my work is done, I hope we can build a theatre that is dedicated to dance. A venue that lasts forever.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians and dancers?
I would tell any and all aspiring musicians and dancers to believe in their dreams. Dedicate yourself, go deep, work hard. Nothing comes easy.
Interview by Lucy Basaba.
Baila Brazil will be shown at the Southbank Centre from Wednesday 5th to Saturday 15th August. For more information on the production, visit here…