Review: Augusto Soledade – Brazzdance 10yr Anniversary performance

“It all starts with an idea”

Miami’s leading contemporary dance company Augusto Soledade Brazzdance celebrates their 10 year anniversary with ‘Oduns’, a multi-cultural inspired programme by choreographer Augusto Soledade.

Soledade’s Dreaming Amazonia is the opening piece, which he has dedicated to Garth Fagan (choreographer of the Lion King), Soledade’s teacher and mentor. He calls Fagan a “creative genius” and says it was Fagan who taught him “how to manipulate the dancers in space and establish a relationship with music; how to develop the choreographic idea- the moment to moment.”

Brazzdance. Photo by / Mitchell Zachs
Brazzdance. Photo by / Mitchell Zachs

Dreaming Amazonia contains ideas about the Amazon, Brazil, different cultures, and the power of dance.  It is as lovely and as complex as the Amazon, after which it is titled. The dancers are at once both a part of our world and of another; they seem to wrestle with the meeting of two worlds. Running, leaping, and turning in another place and time with only the  forest and the winding river to stand witness.

Soledade spent 15 day in the Amazon in his native country of Brazil before choreographing Dreaming Amazonia. There he visited the native Brazilian preserves to study their way of life. He states that he was “intellectually intrigued by how the native Brazilians knew how to navigate the forest without roads. In a city we are guided; we know how to get to a place.”

Dreaming Amazonia brings the two worlds together. At times the dancers navigate the stage as if led by an internal guide. At other times they appear to be on a crowded  road. At one point they all, save one, climb into the bucket and are pressed tightly together as riders on a crowded subway. What happens when two worlds collide? In Amazonia it is a remarkable flow of movement performed by highly skilled and talented dancers. We are watching a people fight for their existence knowing the bucket is never far off.

Altars - Photo: Mitchell Zachs
Altars – Photo: Mitchell Zachs

“Choreography,” said Soledade, “starts with an idea.” The idea for Altars, the second piece on the program and set to the Cantatas by Johan Sebastian Bach, features aspects of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomble. This piece is dedicated to Clyde Morgan, one of Soledade’s earliest teacher and also a mentor to him.

The dancers appear dusted in white and wearing all white. The piece  begins with a beautiful duet where the dancers seem to revere each other and the Candomble religion. They are joined by other dancers in white and the stage is given over to ancient rituals. The audience becomes active participants when they are given roses and fruit to place on the altar they help to create. It is an act of a community coming together; it is powerful  and timeless.

Augusto Soledade is a Guggenheim Fellow (2008) with a desire to explore different cultures while blending them  with his own. “We all have cultural baggage,” he explains, “no matter where you go, you bring your cultural baggage with you.” Soledade is interested in giving himself the opportunity to really create and explore as opposed to working in one specific way.

“I try and bring it all together in ways that are exciting, intriguing, surprising, challenging and creative,” said Soledade. Dreaming Amazonia and Altars does just that.

By Diana Dunbar