Bale de Rua, Festival Fringe Review

In their white suits and striped shirts Bale de Rua want to talk about Brazil, “the Brazil we love”. Amid publicity promises of “euphoria” and “jubilation” Bale de Rua’s production failed to capture my senses or imagination. It wasn’t just me; a lady sat nearby fell asleep midway through. Bizarrely she and many others in the audience came alive as the show ended and joined in a rapturous, over the top standing ovation.

Bale de Rua programme cover, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008

Bale de Rua do have talent, as several mid-air somersaults and an impressive headspin demonstrated. Their large cast consists of just one female: the other dancers shed all their clothes bar some tight underwear early in the show - a sure fire crowd pleaser (for the female audience members at least). Bale de Rua’s stated aim is to demonstrate the good and bad times of Brazil’s history, through a mix of hip hop, salsa, capoeira and traditional Brazilian dances.

The problem with Bale de Rua was demonstrated five minutes into the show, when the whole cast stood on the edge of the stage gesturing for the audience to join in. Many of the audience obliged, only for the claps to gradually fade away. I was expecting an urge to clap and sway, not to be urged to clap and sway. It wasn’t long before the repetition of the dance and the drums, even the paint which was smeared and orally sprayed onto the dancer’s bodies began to tire.

Bale de Rua’s journey of Brazil was colourfully described. The colonial history was charted through dancers walking around the stage in chains before being cut free. Some aspects of the production were a little harder to determine, especially when one cast member began rapping into his microphone.

I wanted Bale de Rua to energise, but it never happened. For a show which requires so much energy and whose cast shed so much sweat it’s an odd and unfortunate statement. As distinct dance pieces, Bale de Rua worked in parts. When all the pieces came together it was a show lacking the very heart and love it so obviously strives for.

There is an audience for Bale de Rua and I’m sure they will do well this August at the Assembly Hall. I probably expected a little too much, but when (at their peak) tickets cost £17 each I’m not sure that’s unreasonable.

Essential | Worth a watch | One to miss

Bale De Rua are performing at the Assembly Hall until 25th August.

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