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Compagnie Kafig infuses hip-hop and capoeira with humor and theatrics

'Agwa'
'Agwa'
Michel Cavalca

Compagnie Kafig in 'Correria' and 'Agwa'

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The Brazilian dance troupe, Compagnie Kafig, hit the Byham Theater stage Saturday in a phenomenal showing of humor, theater and impressive athleticism.

To call the company a “hip-hop” group would be a gross understatement. Each of the eleven male dancers was also skilled in capoeira and samba. Many proved to be adept break-dancers as well. And a few sections touched on contemporary and dance-theater.

I have to admit when I read the program, I expected a high-energy evening of hard-hitting tricks that would have the audience in absolute awe. Although we were in awe, and there were a healthy amount of energetic head-spins and gymnastic flips, the choreography had much more depth to it.

In the first piece, “Correria” (Running), three men lay on their backs, pedaling their legs as if on a stationary bike. A few more dancers entered the stage, running in circles, also seeming to get nowhere. The theme of the choreography was clear. We could all relate to feeling stuck in the “race” we call life.

The music was rich and rhythmic, infused by the dancers who clapped and pounded out various beats. One section had the dancers partnering in playful duets, easily supporting one another’s weight. And in a humorous solo, one man jogged slowly in place until the music escalated and his pace sped up to a feverish sprint. He ended up right where he started.

A unison section of snaky torsos and undulating arms proved the dancers’ capability beyond their strength and toughness. And rather than ending on that dynamic note, or even a one-armed handstand (those happened, too), they opted for simple and funny instead. One performer ran his first and middle finger across his opposite palm, mime-style. The audience laughed. The lights went down.

The second and final piece, “Agwa," was inspired by its literal meaning, water, as well as its symbolic meaning, renewal.

On the stage sat clear plastic cups, stacked throughout, maybe a hundred of them. As two men performed a wavy sequence of movement, the stacks toppled at random.

Then, in almost total darkness, and within seconds, the rest of the group crawled in from the wings and lined up the cups in perfect rows. With articulate foot work, the dancers carefully avoided knocking them down. One performer even backflipped his way through without so much as a toe to plastic, an incredible feat.

The piece included complex floor-work, much of it upside down, and big, sweeping leg and torso work, classic of capoeira. Like the first half, though, there was more to it than just the movement.

In one section, the dancers covered themselves in hooded raincoats, reacting to the sound of water. After a particularly difficult sequence, one dancer picked up a cup and stared longingly at the liquid.

To end the piece, and the show, all eleven men danced in and around a long line of cups. Eventually they stood, clinked glasses in a final “cheers,” saluted the audience, and drank.

Much to the excitement of the audience, the company performed a dancing bow, a lively epilogue to an already electrifying evening.

For the remaining shows in the Pittsburgh Dance Council season, click HERE.