See Royal Festival Hall dance to a capoeira beat

A massed gathering of young and old took over The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall to learn capoeira Angola –  the beautiful and exhilarating Brazilian art-form of martial arts and dance.

The free workshops were hosted by Kabula, a community organisation that aims to connect and inspire people using  capoeira Angola. They were punctuated by spectacular showcases indicating the athletic grace and beauty unique to this national Brazilian pastime which blends dance, play, fight and music of Afro-Brazilian origin.

‘We were really happy to see all our capoeira friends joining us in this special moment for the promotion of capoeira Angola in London,’ Kabula told us.

Southbank Centre’s Festival Brazil continues until 5 September. Look out for the presentation of MC Marechal and Akala’s Project Performace, created with a group of young people from Hackney Youth Offending Team on Saturday 28 August.

Dance Umbrella celebrates Trisha Brown

Trisha Brown Glacial Decoy (c) Julieta Cervantes 2009

Trisha Brown Glacial Decoy © Julieta Cervantes 2009

Dance Umbrella (9 – 19 October) is around the corner. One of this year’s highlights is a special focus on the work of American dance artist Trisha Brown. Here, Dance Umbrella‘s founder discusses what has made Brown a dance icon.

Dance Umbrella founder Val Bourne sings the praises of Trisha Brown
Interview by Donald Hutera

Asked to define Trisha Brown’s most salient virtues as an artist, Val Bourne, founder of Dance Umbrella, goes straight to the point. ‘Her intelligence. Ideas pop up simultaneously in Trisha’s head in extraordinary and wonderful ways. And she’s interested in everything.’

2010 marks Brown’s 40th anniversary at the head of her own company, but her roots as a trailblazing American dance-maker extend further back than that. Born in the state of Washington in 1936, she had a fairly orthodox modern dance background. In 1961, however, Brown moved to New York and the following year became one of the original members of the Judson Dance Theater. This group of maverick experimentalists essentially gave birth to what became known as postmodern dance and, as such, gradually exerted a tremendous influence on the development of an art form both in America and abroad.  

Over the decades Brown has naturally passed through many different phases in her career. In the early years she concocted rigorous yet playful site-specific pieces in lofts, galleries and outdoor locations. Then, starting in the late 1970s, she began fashioning work for more traditional theatrical venues in collaboration with high-profile colleagues like Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson. More recently she’s been directing opera or using jazz as a creative springboard. ‘Trisha’s always developing,’ Bourne observes, ‘and moving off in slightly different directions. She’s not tried to copy anybody. She’s somebody who’s absolutely ploughed her own furrow.’ It’s exactly this restless, brainy sense of adventure that Dance Umbrella 2010 will try to encapsulate via live performances, archival film screenings and talks.

For someone endowed with such an unpredictable and far-reaching vision, it’s no surprise that it took a while for Brown’s work to be embraced by more conventionally minded members of the global dance community. ‘Here in Britain we had Rambert and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre,’ recalls Bourne, ‘but no Judson, or anybody who came out of anything like that. It was alien from anything people had seen.’ Bourne, however, remained a champion of both Brown and, later, of Stephen Petronio, one of the first men to dance in her troupe. [He, too, has enjoyed a long association with Dance Umbrella and his eponymous company will again feature as part of the 2010 programme.]

It could be said that Dance Umbrella’s commitment to Brown – by presenting her company in the festival seven times since 1983, and also organising a couple of its UK tours – helped this peerless choreographer make the shift from the cutting edge and into more mainstream acceptance.

Bourne is savvy about the apparent discrepancy between what could be deemed high and popular art. ‘These days art is meant to be for everyone,’ she remarks, adding sagely, ‘but actually, not everything’s for everyone. It’s a shame, because the two things [high and popular art] should be able to co-exist and feed into each other.’ These are categories that Brown comfortably straddles via work that can be as engaging and entertaining as it is perplexing or challenging. As Bourne sums up, ‘Trisha’s always setting herself complex intellectual problems to solve. She’s a major groundbreaking artist.’

Dance Umbrella 2010 features Celebrating Trisha Brown, focusing on the full range of Brown’s work including performances in theatrical and art gallery settings, as well as films, exhibitions and discussions.

Click here to see all Dance Umbrella events happening at Southbank Centre in October.

Le Cirque Invisible opens

Jean-Baptiste Thierrée and Victoria Chaplin’s Le Cirque Invisible is now showing at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Here are some snaps of their delightful antics from opening night. The show only runs until 25 August – book your tickets now!

Le Cirque Invisible

Le Cirque Invisible

Le Cirque Invisible

Le Cirque Invisible

There are also some animal stars…

Le Cirque Invisible

All images © India Roper-Evans Photography