On March 12, Alberto Maranhao Theatre Dance Company came to Bates to teach a class and show a few works. The company, originally from Brazil, brought with them four dancers and a member of the directorial staff. Most of the visitors didn’t speak English, but a local dance teacher acted as a translator. With her help and the enthusiasm of the dancers, all parties were able to communicate and share ideas.
To start the morning, one company member taught capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that involves elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. It was originally a form of fighting against Portuguese slave hunters during colonization. Consequently, we learned several movements meant to either protect oneself or harm another while moving to the beat of the music.
The class started by walking across the floor “as animals,” imitating elephants and ostriches. This was meant to warm up the body and familiarize dancers with the movement vocabulary specific to capoeira. Next, we learned a basic step used to remain mobile, and afterwards we layered on a turning kick, crouched defense move, and cartwheel.
Hannah Miller ’14 noted that “it was intriguing to explore a form of dance that combines martial arts and movement—it made you feel powerful when you did it.” Miller also went on to say that it was “amazing to watch a non-English speaker interact and teach class to a room full of people who speak a different language.” Keila Ching ’18 agreed and said, “I loved [the workshop]—my dad does Filipino martial arts disguised as dance, so it was familiar to me.”
After class, the company changed into costumes and presented two pieces to members of the Bates dance community.
The first piece was inspired by a choreographer’s dream of cockroaches invading his dance studio. The four company members expressed this dream by vacillating between moving as cockroaches and moving as humans. For the audience, the distinction between cockroach movements and human movements was clear, so viewers understood relationships between dancers much better. The choreographer also included human nonword noise such as breathing and clicking sounds. These provided context and created an atmosphere of being in a forest.
The second piece the company presented was much more dramatic. It began with a soloist singing until he was interrupted by a “prima donna” singing into her shoe. The ensuing theatrical interaction and fight for attention created chaos and competition between the two dancers. This scene repeated with variations throughout the rest of the piece, which included singing in Portuguese and speaking to the audience in either English or Portuguese. The other two dancers, in contrast, had a much calmer and intimate contact improvisation duet. The juxtaposition between the two types of relationships and personalities presented in the piece were poignant and left viewers curious about its inspiration.
Throughout the whole showing, the choreography included a diverse movement vocabulary replete with detailed articulation of body parts, particularly the spine and arms. The group perfected the concept of making difficult movement look effortless. Each dancer’s physical strength was revealed only through knowledge of the effort required to execute each movement.