Brazouka made it feel like the Rio Carnival had come to the Enmore. It saw comedian, Billy Connolly acting as the voice of authority and it had the promise of dusky temptresses plus colour and candour from the get-go. It was also a setting where gyrating uncontrollably wasn’t frowned upon but in fact actively encouraged. Brazouka is also the story of Braz Dos Santos, a name that may not mean much to people outside of the world of dance until you play some zouk music and the “Lambada”, yes that eighties song by Kaoma!
The show is produced by Connolly’s wife, Pamela Stephenson-Connolly who is a relatively new fan to this style of Brazilian dance. This show tells the story of Santos from his underprivileged beginnings in Porto Seguro in Brazil where he was forced at the age of 10 to be a fisherman with his brother, Didi to help feed the family. That was until a bad storm set the two brothers on a path towards the Lambada where they’d eventually be asked to go to Paris and the rest is all history. This is an interesting and inspirational rags-to-riches tale but it did seem like this incredible story was secondary to the amazing dance sequences and costumes this evening (even though the dialogue was mostly Dos Santos’ own words).
Brazouka featured 18 different dancers. There were 10 men (including Dos Santos) and eight women. This group form part of a new Brazilian dance troupe. They are all complete professionals who approach every dance with a kind of seamless grace and beauty that makes it all look so fun and effortless. They give the impression – with their artful precision – that they’d been performing these moves for decades, except that they share a youth’s exuberance, passion and enthusiasm for it all.
The costumes were amazing. They ranged from the tiny little skirts and G-strings that featured in Kaoma’s music video through to long floating skirts plus outfits worthy of cheerleaders, tourists and goddesses. There were even costumes that looked like they’d come straight off a belly dancer or two. The showstoppers, however, were when the gorgeous dancers performed their final number, as the men were buff and bare-chested and wearing black pants and heels. The ladies wore huge headdresses and skin tight suits with Brazouka written in glittery writing and tiny G-strings on top, giving the impression of being completely naked as they sashayed about.
The music included the more traditional Latino pop and Afrobeats but there were also some mainstream songs thrown into the mix including Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and “Diamonds”. A highlight of the evening was hearing the actual “Lambada” not once but twice. These two renditions had everyone clapping along joyfully, there wasn’t a face in the house that wasn’t beaming in wonder.
The dances were varied to suit the music. Some dances could even be thought of as influencing Zumba because while Dos Santos wasn’t involved in creating this particular style, there is some cross over between the two genres. So one minute you could enjoy a sexy Lambada or a spicy rumba that looked like it was straight out of Dirty Dancing. Another number might see some cheery swing or even a goddess delivering a slower, more interpretive dance routine with fast ballet moves before another moment was pulsating with Afrobeats and bongos. The most outstanding parts of the evening were the high octane aerials, flips, jumps and dips. These steps were nothing short of amazing and quite often had people applauding or gasping from their seats.
Brazouka was a hypnotic, visceral and dazzling shock to the senses in much the same way as Cirque du Soleil’s shows often are. The beats were infectious, the colours were as bright as a hot rainbow and the dancers were all so passionate, emotive and energetic. The whole thing is a grand spectacle for anyone who enjoys witnessing the power of the dance and especially when it unfolds before you in such resplendent glory.
Originally published on 14 November 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/theatre-review-brazouka-enmore-theatre-sydney
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