Last weekend Augusto Soledade’s Brazz Dance Theater had its Arsht Center debut with an evening length production of Mistura Fina, (Portuguese for “fine blend”) mixing classic repertoire pieces, a world premiere of “ Mistura Fina,” and a work in progress, “Cordel.”
The show opened with an engaging duet between senior dancer Ilana Reynolds and guest percussionist Kenneth Metzker. Metzker played a hidden belt of bells around Reynolds’s waist, keeping the bodies close, slowly walking, turning, and spiraling in and around each other — teasing gravity, space, and time. The piece had incredible choreographic moments, Soledade’s signature element of surprise, and Reynolds’ exquisite lines and ability, timing, and execution. I loved it when Metzker shimmied the shekere around Ilana, like an shamanic vibrational cleansing.
Metzker had two sets of drums on opposite diagonals of the stage and the choreography traveled that distance and spatial relationship. At one point Reynolds left the stage while the percussionist unleashed his gifts for the crowd. The musical solo seemed a bit early in the program but certainly gifted the audience with a superb rhythmic journey. To my surprise, Reynolds returned to the stage with finer blending of pan-afro aesthetics with a contemporary approach. The only section that left me skeptical was the voyage into Cuban rumba. It seemed too technical and over performed; even “happy.” The magic of rumba seemed absent, the raw sexuality and mischievous sensuality seemed lost to the ether. Everything was well executed but I definitely felt a missed opportunity for a strong visceral connection to the moment
The work in progress piece “Cordel” left me wanting more. It had a different feeling than what I’ve seen from Brazz and I felt like I was being taken on a journey of creative and artistic growth with the choreographer. The lead dancer Reynolds truly commanded the stage and navigated beautifully interior and exterior emotional spaces. The choreography had long stretches of complicated sequences that were mathematical, beautiful, surprising and intriguing. The piece, which also included dancers Dia Dearstyne and Katie Sopoci, created tableaus and configurations that played with depth of field and stage business. The lighting design by Celso Peruyera added to the essence of otherworldliness framing the acute urgency of the choreography with a cosmic, in-the-moment mood. The other dancers never achieved the level of gravitas that is so palpable with Reynolds’ dancing. She appears to be the perfect embodiment of Soledade’s vision, a translation in muscle and bone to the choreographer’s inner world.
The last piece of the night was “Altars,” a 2006 choreography that was a quirky and existential mix of the most ethereal and earthbound approaches to spirituality. Blending the ascending feathery and heavenly sounds of Bach’s Cantatas performed by Nancy Argenta and the ensemble Sonniere, and the earth infused offerings of a Candomble altar created by the audience, the piece was a full-bodied experience that traveled the entire chakra journey. The audience felt included, refreshed, and integrated.