Viaduto, by Renan Martins & Frankão, at DDD – Festival Dias da Dança

Viaduto premiered on the April 29, 2021 at DDD – Festival Dias da Dança, at Auditório Municipal de Gaia. This show is a kind of ode to the party and popular culture of Rio de Janeiro. Choreography by Renan Martins, music by Frankão, dramaturgy by Ana Rocha, light design by Luisa L’Abbate, danced and created by João Cardoso, Mar Grifoli, Maria Ferreira Silva, Nina Botkay, and Thamiris Carvalho.

The action begins slowly. One of the dancers sits on the floor with one leg facing forward and the other backwards, with her back straight and her head bowed. She lifts her head subtly and, as she stands up, her gaze curiously observes the beginning of the show. Around her, several small actions start happening simultaneously: bodies crossing the stage in a long, lagging gait, unrolling and rolling linoleum mats, moving objects, positioning themselves in space, in an interplay between proximity and distance, and initiating a detailed back-and-forth movement externalized from the belly. Despite having its centre in the belly, it is a full-body swing, adding organicity to the bodies and scene. Almost all the bodies are on the floor. Therefore, this movement takes on a fictionalised quality, becoming more and more dynamic as time passes. The drone music, with synthesized notes, progressively fills the space, adding texture and density to the choreographic composition that sprouts. The scenography changes constantly by the action of the dancers until some put the sound table in the upper right corner of the room.

After this moment, the bodies’ movement accelerates and concentrates exclusively on itself and the other. This movement, which begins on the floor, in a low plane, rises delicately to a higher plane where the bodies become vertical. Still on the ground, the bodies on stage begin to relate to each other, but it is outside of it that they intensify the relationship. The movement begins to compose itself through touching the body of the other, that is, when a hand lands on the back of the knee of someone else, the knee flexes, just like the arm of the hand that lands on that same knee is pushed back as soon as the leg is stretched out. This back-and-forth dominates the bodies and the dancers intensify it, also creating a sense of intimacy. The space opens up according to the arrangement of the bodies, becoming progressively more dynamic and accelerated. The music is the conductor of the show’s rhythm. Frankão superimposes samples of bass and metallic sounds, progressively moving away from the drone atmosphere, arriving at the beat of funk carioca. The choreography expands throughout the space and gains more and more rhythm: the movement gradually acquires a more danceable quality. This danceable trait is naturally associated with the funk carioca beat. The choreography comes deliberately close to the movements we know as passinho carioca, in a reference to the dance (which gives the play its name) of Viaduto Negrão de Lima, in Madureira, in the northern area of Rio de Janeiro, and to the black urban culture of the periphery in general, which was born in the 1980s with the first funk shows in Rio’s favelas – heavily influenced by hip-hop culture, Miami bass and American R&B.

The party begins! The audience is absorbed in contemplation and experience – had it not been for the pandemic, the audience reaction would certainly have been different. We feel the willingness of the dancers to share the party with the audience. The enthusiasm in the room grows as the choreography looks more and more like a funk dance – specifically the Viaduto. One of the dancers grabs the microphone and strides to the front of the stage. She takes the entire front – walking, jumping, dancing from left to right and right to left. She sings, shouts, stimulates the audience. There is a growing extravagance as everything unfolds: the dancing bodies enter more and more into the imagination of the party and the audience also takes that place. The funk ends and the droning atmosphere returns. Frankão comes to the front and shouts words that, by his attitude, seem like slogans, but are almost imperceptible due to the distorted microphone. At the end of the play, a popular evangelical song can be heard, taking the whole show to another realm. The dancing bodies now inhabit this new imagination, taking the dance to the height of its extravagance. There is some sarcasm in the choice of this music, as it is so different from the rest of the piece. However, it makes sense, as Viaduto looks at the peripheral black culture of Rio de Janeiro, where the presence of the numerous evangelical churches is a reality relevant to people’s lives.

Rodrigo Fonseca (1995, Sintra). He studied at António Arroio, has a degree in History of Art and a master in Performing Arts from FCSH/UNL. He was co-founder of the publishing house CusCus Discus and of the festival Dia Aberto às Artes. Besides Umbigo magazine, he writes music criticism for Rimas e Batidas. He is a sound technician specialized in concerts and shows and resident artist at the cultural association DARC.

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