LIFT festival brings to the London stage stories and performances from around the world. Running until 29th June, the 2014 festival of international theatre brings together over 40,000 audience members in locations as normal as the Barbican and the Battersea Arts Centre, and as unusual as the Doon Street car park.
As part of LIFT a new work by famous Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrao had its London premiere last night. The large stage at Sadler’s Wells was the setting for CRACKz – 50 minutes of experimental hiphop-influenced dance. Performed by the 13 members of the Grupo de Rua which Beltrao founded in 1996 it CRACKz is an attempt to bring street dance to the stage, brush it with a dab of performance art and let it loose in carefully choreographed splendour.
With the football World Cup about to start in Brazil, the South American country is in the headlines. But its culture is not all brash yellow bikinis and loud samba. Here the stage is bathed in gentle top-lit light, with jeans and T-shirted dancers spinning across the stage. Often hidden in gloomy areas of the stage where the light does not reach, there is no artifice, no scenery, no curtain.
There are other languages more suited to talk of technical subjects like counterfeited computer software. Nevertheless that is the topic that CRACKz is investigating. The dancers have chosen movements found online and, let’s be frank, purloined them. ‘Don’t be a biter,’ says Tight Eyez on his website, (a biter being someone who copies another artist’s style) but he is one of those hip hop stars whose moves have been taken and used in CRACKz. Other phrases are taken from BBoy Cloud, BBoy Issue, Lilou and other dancers.
This method of creation mirrors the cracking of software and dissemination by people other than the original creators. Some of the moves in the show have the dancers spinning like planets out of orbit. Whilst bouncing around the stage they appear like data streaming in illegal peer to peer downloads. Seemingly chaotic yet ultimately totally controlled.
Too much of the show involves grating music, but occasionally this quietens and the sound of squeaking sneakers accompanies the energetic movements. The moves are repeated and shared amongst the dancers – who include BBoy Chairspin, Luiz Carlos Gadelha and Tito Lacerda – the original influences disguised as they build something bigger than the original.
The audience enjoyed the encore most. The crew came to the edge of the stage and brought things back to the dance-off roots. Encouraged by the music’s beat, people clapped along as the dancers took it in turns to show their moves. Urban dance loses intensity when it moves from b-boy battles to the stage.
Beltrao is using the building blocks of hip hop dance to create something new. Careful choreography is not as exciting as free-styling battles, but CRACKz is a fusion of street moves, contemporary dance and everyday actions, given a final polish with an avant-garde attitude. Rather than a marathon hip-hop battle this is thoughtful and planned, taking the original dance phrases and attempting something with more stamina.
CRACKz is also on tonight at Sadler’s Wells.