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DANCE REVIEW

Viver Brasil adds passion to a vibrant swirl of rhythms

July 10, 2006|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

If love makes the world go round, the locally based Viver Brasil Dance Company was on a devotional tear Saturday night, in its fourth appearance at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre since 2003.

Premiering "Mo Ife: Love Stories" -- tales of desire and intrigue from Bahia -- seven dancers tackled choreographer Rosangela Silvestre's ebullient blend of traditional and contemporary dance idioms with equal parts passion and flair.

Of course, plumbing the "white magic" Candomble religion is a hallmark of the award-winning troupe, founded in 1997 by co-directors Linda Yudin and her husband, Luiz Badaro. The latter went gaga on percussion Saturday and also contributed the choreography for the shake-your-booty finale, "Tribute to Carnival Queens."

But it was a three-part, 90-minute suite by Silvestre that offered deeper glimpses into the exotic myths from the eastern coast of Brazil, where the region's large Afro-Brazilian population has infused the culture with unfettered rhythms and an alluring movement vocabulary rampant with articulated arm work, isolated torsos and dervish-like spinning.

Beginning with "Saudacoes" (Salutations), six dancers, clad in virginal white and representing various male orixas, or deities, dipped and swayed to the trance-inducing wails of guest singer Vania Amaral as Badaro and pals unleashed head-banging beats on assorted drums, cymbals, triangles and gourds.

A languid start gave way to unison head-bobbing, with Laila Abdullah, Shelby Williams, Dani Lunn and Kimberly Mullen limberly sashaying on their knees.

Jealousy, coquettishness and courage took the form of high-kicking feet, glorious backbends and Cambodian-like flexed hands in "The Three Wives of Xango."

Here, a spectacularly supple Mullen portrayed the coveted hubby, and Abdullah, Williams and Lunn his spouses.

All four reached a frenzy of whole-body jerking before exiting in extended shimmy mode.

"Mothers and Sons" provided a wisp of lyricism, with Katiana Rush embodying a primordial mae and Lunn tossing off an occasional arabesque until a quaking Mullen, outfitted in a fury of straw, began rolling around the stage in a crash-and-burn response to a gargantuan wall of polyrhythmic sound.

Completing the program were Lunn's delirious skirt-swirling "Samba de Roda" and the dancing-in-the-aisles carnival climax.

Eileen Cooley's lush lighting added to the ecstatic, if occasionally overly pumped up, 2 1/2 -hour proceedings.

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