The “high-octane, high-flying” (The New York Times) energy of DanceBrazil takes center stage at The Joyce when the company returns for its 2011 season. This season, we’re thrilled to have the company performing to live music.
In the company’s program notes, Artistic Director Jelon Vieira offers the following account of a particularly influential moment regarding the berimbau and the inspiration for his new work Batuke.
“My first real understanding of rhythm and music came when I was ten years old and first heard the berimbau, the stringed instrument that is the soul of Capoeira. Shortly after I moved to New York as a young man in 1975, that understanding was greatly expanded when John Cage invited me to his loft to play the berimbau. He wanted to tape the session. It was a hot day, and I asked him if we could close the windows because the noise from the street was distracting. He looked at me hard and snapped, “that’s not noise; that’s music that inspires me.”
“Pure John Cage, as I soon learned, but my late mother would have disagreed with the famous composer. Take Batuke (Batuque), a term used to describe the sounds and rhythms made by “non-traditional” instruments and played during Carnival. When my friends and I played Batuke on anything that we could put our hands on, my mother would predictably scream, “stop that noise!” For us, as it would have been for John Cage, Batuke (Batuque) was pure and sweet music, but for her it was the worst cacophony.”
“The sounds and rhythms of Batuke–call them music or call them noise, I don’t care–are the driving force behind this dance, incorporated into the movement of the human body: smooth samba steps, lethal Capoeira kicks, the plain but sensuous walk of Bahian women, and much more. When it came to actually selecting the music for this piece, although I thought of John Cage and my mother, it was the streets of Salvador, Bahia that I know so well where music and dance are ever-present that inspired me.”
Listen to a sample music played on the berimbau, one of the instruments of Capoeira, courtesy of DanceBrazil musician Naná Vasconcelos.