The write-up sounded promising: 'Over the course of the last two decades the Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão has revolutionised hip-hop by interweaving styles and postures of urban dance with contemporary dance principles.’
And: ‘In this new creation, he makes a powerful and touching work that bears witness to his country’s condition – a society in the grip of ultra-right forces.’
Instead, here's what we saw:
On a naked stage, against a black backcloth, dingily lit as appears to be de rigueur for contemporary works (lighting Renato Machado), nine people in the drabbest of costumes, all uniformly dark and as shapeless as sacks, except for a woman in a red dress and a man in a white two-piece, gradually walked on, to a grating noise that blended industrial and traffic sounds (sound score by Lucas Marcier / ARPX, Jonathan Uliel Saldanha).
Actually, they did a lot of walking: slowly and ponderously, or whimsically with a spring in their step; forwards, backwards, sideways; with straight backs, leaning forward or leaning back; alone or in groups; on their feet or standing on their hands.
Now the relentless noise segues into a prolonged high-pitched deeply unnerving note. The performers, who we sense are actual dancers and could dance if asked to, shake their hands and wave their arms in jerky movements, the significance of which is hard to discern.
Stage lighting changes apparently at random and to no particular effect or reason, mostly relying on murky twilight. At intervals a rectangular screen suspended upstage right, flashes briefly: red, later green – might that be the ‘video’ credited to Eduardo Pave?
By the three-quarters of the way mark, when most of the audience appear to have lost the will to live (there were walk-outs), the sound becomes a frenzied dissonant, arrhythmic clash of drums and cymbals.
A couple of gestures identifiable as hip-hop creep in, and creep out again before they’re given the time to do anything significant or engaging. And then – mercifully! – at about 50 minutes length it all ends as it began, leaving us none the wiser but totally dispirited.
Remember: this show comes from Brazil, a country with plenty of sunshine, the home of music and samba and capoeira, where so many people appear to take to dance as easily as drinking a glass of water; a country too, with problematic politics, particular during the mandate of the outgoing president Jair Bolsonaro.
Yet, none of this was apparent in what Bruno Beltrão brought us in his New Creation. lnstead, this meaningless jumble looked as if it hailed from a country where the sun never shines, nobody ever dances and street protests are non-existent.
|What||Bruno Beltrão, Grupo de Rua, New Creation review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
22 Nov 22 – 23 Nov 22, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour no interval
|Price||£20-£25 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|