Bale Folclorico da Bahia Brings African Gods To the Stage

Written By ArtBurst Team
December 11, 2016 at 7:13 PM

January 14 2011 Dance is one of the greatest things that could happen to a person. Dance not only teaches you about your body, your mind, your “self,” but it can inform and create your destiny. Dance is destiny. For me, dance is how I communicate with and understand God. It shows me the way. This intersection of sacred belief and destiny was brought up in my phone conversation with Walson Botelho, the co founder of the only professional folk dance company in Brazil, the Bale Folclorico da Bahia, who are performing this Saturday at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Speaking to him immediately transported me to my first trip to Bahia, Brazil, where the company calls home. I remember a long street and as we curved and angled away from the airport. There was a river on my left with larger than life metallic sculptures springing up from the water towards heaven, resembling both humans and gods in majestic, protective stance. I pulled the car over and ran to the edge. I wanted to jump in and be with them. I loved them. These were the gods and goddesses of Candomble. “The show is based on the culture and religion of Bahian life,” Botelho explains, “the sacred heritage of African people that was left for us by the slaves, the rituals of Candomble, and how that influences other cultural aspects.”

Oxala's Court; photo: Philip Martin

Sacred Heritage is both the name of the show and title of the opening number dedicated to Eshu, the messenger of god and creator of the universe. Eshu is the guardian of the crossroads and guides your path in life. He opens and closes the road. He is always sung and danced to first. The 38-member cast of dancers and musicians will blur the lines between sacred ritual and stage performance bringing the audience inside the “iyawo” (initiation) process and celebrating other deities, including the gods and goddesses Oggun (iron/war), Oxosi (hunter/forrest), Iyansa (tempest/whirlwind) and others. “I am part of the religion and I know the limit,” Botelho adds. “Everything we show is public ritual, not sacred”. In addition to the dances of gods, there are other popular and regional dances that will be highlighted. These include the fisherman’s dances and two well-known Bahian exports; Samba and Capoeira. A Samba de Roda will be performed, which is the original samba and what Botehlo describes as “the root of all Brazilian dance.” Capoeira, a martial art that came from Angola and that was masked as a dance to create slave warriors, is perhaps one of my favorite art forms anywhere. What Botelho exalts at is the notion of performing in Miami. In the company’s 23-year history, this is their Miami debut. “We are so excited to come to Miami and be with the Brazilian population!” Since the company’s inception there have been over 600 members and dozens of alumni who currently reside here. Their tenure in the Bale Folclorico da Bahia paved the way for many careers in dance, capoeira and performance across the Brazilian Diaspora. “Over 90 percent of the company members come from the lower classes and the company was a way to change their destiny,” Botehlo passionately explains. “This is social work. Not just artistic.” Bale Folclorico da Bahia come to the Knight Concert Hall at the Arst Center on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 8:00 p.m.; tickets cost $30 to $65; 305-949-6722.

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