Brazilian street dance, minus the street, moved into an industrial corner of Portland this week. Bruno Beltrao Grupo de Rua, a nine-member, all-male ensemble from Rio, enjoyed a sold-out run through the White Bird Uncaged series,
which brought the action to the Bison Building, a cavernous warehouse space in Northeast Portland. That bare-bones setting fit H3
, the company's 55-minute deconstruction of street dance and hip-hop.
As street dance goes, H3 may be the quietest version you'll ever see.
There's no hip-hop soundtrack pounding from the speakers, none of the usual joking or showmanship among the performers. Much of the dance is done in silence, save for heavy breathing and squeaking sneakers. Not only do these dancers not “sell” the movement, they barely acknowledge viewers. H3
feels much more like a contemporary dance piece built from bits of hip-hop vocabulary.
The movement unfurls slowly and deliberately as a series of solos, duos and group phrases that intensify steadily, building to an explosive movement passage toward the end, where individual dancers are launched, slingshot style, by their compatriots into a backward run circling the perimeter of the stage. Along the way, body language reveals influences of hip-hop and capoeira, Brazil's cartwheeling, sparring dance. Instead of overt pop-locking, you get forearms dangling from cocked elbows, wrists circling toward the floor like drill bits. There are freezes, sudden drops to the floor; fast, rolling crabwalks and off-kilter isolations.
There is also a sense of energy coiled and ready to spring, and ultimately it does, as confrontational gesturing between twosomes gives way to bodies hurtling through the air with abandon. Like Rennie Harris, whose full-length narrative Rome & Jewels
took hip-hop in a new direction, Beltrao demonstrates how much of street dance's choreographic potential has yet to be tapped.