Bruno Beltrão: New Creation
New Creation is the latest troubled piece from Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão, famed for radicalising hip-hop and street dance by scooping it off the kerb and into a contemporary dance space. The choreographer aims to create a "socio-political” plea for change within a society gripped by "ultra-right forces" through the form of urgent movement.
Whilst appreciating the remarkable skill and talent in both choreography and performance, as a form of entertainment, this latest offering is challenging to follow. It is a struggle to unearth themes of political rebellion or indeed relate what we are actually watching to the burning issues that drives the choreographer to make the work.
New Creation opens onto the sounds of traffic and turbulence. Birdsong merges with building construction and what follows is a series of disjointed sequences, backed by horrific high-pitched drilling sounds - a painful ear covering level of noise. Anxiety is palpable as dancers violently kick into space, crouch, duck and confront. There is anger in the air, we just don't know why.
Production values are scaled back. The stage is mostly drenched in drab black with the odd flicker of light appearing. A strip of blue and red perhaps to signify street life. Towards the end, the lights are turned up full glare and we see performers darting in and out of the wings as well as hovering offstage. Such visibility only serves to place the dancers on a stage, within an auditorium, breaking the fantasy of transformation and with it, the world that Beltrão is presenting to his audience.
The purely abstract moments are stronger in themselves than those that allude to something happening. Multiple signs are casually littered into the production with no visible explanation. The costumes are confusing. One dancer is cast in bright red and one in a white suit, while the others are draped in sackcloth brown, but it's hard to decipher why the colour choice.
On a positive note, Beltrão’s choreography is fresh and creative. The strength of the performance lies in the dancers' ability to transmit despair through jerky and frenzied movement. There is an outward expression of violence from the stamping to the wrapping around of bodies into tight clusters that spiral out and fly across the stage, either running or walking as if wrapped in grief and desolation. A favourite sequence is where Beltrão draws on pure street. Three dancers perform head-spins like trees swaying and then collapse into unidentifiably strange, crouching gestures.
The performers are clearly competent and full of gusto, but the material they are given to work with is limited. The joy of Brazilian street dance and expressive movement, famed for annual carnival and colourful celebration, has been distilled into a violent and aggressive piece where clearly frustration is expressed, but with no threads of narrative to cling onto, it is hard to feel moved or swept into the piece beyond a superfluous admiration of technical prowess from the dancers.
Reviewer: Rachel Nouchi