by Shango Los
You know that moment when you hear a song playing and think you recognize it? You listen closer, searching for something to help identify it. Then it hits you all at once that the song you are listening to is a cover of a song you love. Such joyful relief! That is the same experience to sit and enjoy Groupa de Rua performing this weekend at On the Boards. Viewers can very easily spot the street hip-hop influence at its core, but what seduces is the genre bending, contemplative and near psychedelic remix of this dance genre we thought we knew. To say the performance H3 is hip-hop and leaving it at that, is akin to calling Francis Bacon a portrait painter and leaving it at that. What Bruno Beltrao accomplishes to create is an engaging study of intimacy within a genre that is traditionally battling bravado. Yes, the strength and physical challenging and breakneck pace of street dancing are there but what is also there is subtle physical touch, dancers physically supporting each other and a quietness, a deep quietness, that brings the audience to a hush. In fact, the majority of the performance is accompanied by nothing more than ocean waves. Taken out of the context of thrumming bass, the choreography is allowed to open itself up and go beyond expectation. Through the vulnerability of not hiding behind a soundtrack, we can lean in to see something quite intimate, almost secret. I am reminded of the scene in war movies where the hero is holding the body of his fallen friend as he dies and giving to him love and compassion amid the gunfire all around. It is this same masculine intimacy that is generated amidst sharp angled and breathless choreography that makes H3 unlike anything I have seen in 10 years of dance attendance, and for that, I am grateful. A review of this piece would be incomplete without a nod to the lighting design of Renato Machado. The discrete use of stark lighting focuses our attention on the detailed nature of the choreography. Dancers flash in and out of light allowing us to digest snippets of the whole before being moved to another part of the stage. His creative use of distance and spot lighting causes the audience to literally see trails off limbs as they go through intense, repetitive and speedy choreography. Additionally, and in total contrast, Renato uses low lighting that bathes the stage in soft dusks that create a yearning in us to connect to the dancing. You can almost feel the entire audience lean forward. This level of lighting skill, working both extremes to move our eyes to best appreciate the choreography is masterful. In the end, H3 is most likely not at all what you’ll expect from "A Brazilian Hip-Hop Troupe." Bruno Beltrao and his company have created a piece full of technical talent, new choreography and sincere intimacy" and bravado.