Hip-Hop revamped: Companhia Urbana de Dança

After their recent home game with “Eu Danço – 8 Solos no Geral”, Companhia Urbana de Dança from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are touring again: Their first destination is the Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, where they will be performing July 10-14, specifically at the Ted Shawn Theatre.

Choreographer and Artistic Director Sonia Destri Lie can look back on 35 years of work in dance both in Brazil and abroad. She discovered her passion for hip-hop and b-boying while working in Germany. In the 1990s, she worked as a dance instructor at TanzHaus in Düsseldorf and other dance studios. At the Reebok University in Germany, she worked with choreographer Marvin Smith, who changed her way of thinking about dance. Sonia received a number of awards, inc. the Best Choreography Award by CID Unesco.

Tiago Sousa (Luiz Tiago Sousa Laurindo) from Favela do Turano, Rio de Janeiro: “I was always very shy – for dancing, dating, for everything! My sisters danced charme and Carioca funk. This is why they had a larger circle of friends. So I thought if I started dancing I could make more friends, too, and get out of the house… I learned to dance. I really liked it,… Soon I got my first date, I met a girl… Where I come from, the only ways to conquer a girl are to carry a weapon as the bad guys do, or to dance. I chose dance.”

Rafa Russier (Rafael Felipe Russier) from Nova Iguaçu, Rio de Janeiro: “My mother once surprised me by saying she no longer wanted me to dance, and she prohibited it. So I decided to sneak out, telling her I was going somewhere else. I didn’t have any money for the bus, and I had to ask the bus driver to pass under the turnstile. When I was still little, that worked, I just asked and got on. But later, the answer was not always yes. So I often walked from Madureira to Caxias to get to the rehearsal… That was more than an hour’s walk one-way.”

Miguel Fernandes from Favela dos Macacos, Rio de Janeiro: “I was at home dying to go to a funk dance at the favela… I was 12 years old. Sometimes I saw guys coming up with their soccer sneakers tied to their hands. I wondered why they would be doing that… It seemed weird to me that they’d walk with their sneakers in their hands… When we arrived at the “Polish Corridor”, I realized what the purpose of the sneakers was… They were hitting each other in the face with them as hard as they could… They were killing each other.”

Feijã(Virgil André Oliveira Couto) from Catumbi, Rio de Janeiro: “Dancing basically created respect for my person, it changed the view of everything about me… It raised my self-esteem. When I started dancing, I found my true self,… It was like a miracle, like a bright light. I realized I could be myself, not just any black kid, but a talented black kid… Dancing gave me a chance to see the world, a direction. It may sound shallow when I say this, but it seems that dance gave me an identity.”

Filipe Oliveira (Filipe Oliveira de Souza) from Ricardo de Albuquerque, Rio de Janeiro: “Once I jumped the fence behind the station, and a security guard made me walk all the way to Madureira, several hours. He was following me and he would not let me look back… He had a nightstick. I had jumped the fence, I didn’t have any money for the fare to get to the rehearsal. My mother had argued with me saying I was spending too much…, dance wasn’t going to bring me any money… She had pulled the plug… I was told I was not going anywhere with that dance business because I didn’t know the footwork, the turns and how to be really fast. So my mother said no because the instructors had said no… And now I’m here, doing all his footwork,… and hey, I’m really fast!”

Johnny Britto (Johnny Britto Avelino) from Duque de Caxias: “Dance is not respected as it should be – not just where I live, at the Baixada, but anywhere in Brazil. If you ask me what dance has given me, I can only say: Look at my passport! It may seem arrogant, but it’s something I can claim. Where I come from, if you don’t say it, you have nothing to offer, you are not respected.”

Julio Rocha from Alto Independência, Petrópolis: “A lot has happened since I decided to be a dancer: I worked as a baker, a pool lifeguard, a gardener,… I wanted to dance so badly! Often I passed under the subway turnstile or I used a false bus pass… I always remembered my father’s words: ‘If you wanna go, just go! The doors will be open for you.’ My family is poor, and one day my father said: ‘Do you really want this? Do you really wanna be a dancer, play capoeira? Then go… but you will have to be the best you can be.”

Jessica Nascimento from Duque de Caxias: “I am 20 years old. My father never saw me dance. He doesn’t talk about it. I have to wake up at 4am to be at the rehearsal at 9am. This is my passion. It is my life. I don’t see myself doing anything else. My mother helps me a lot. I know that I have a lot to learn, and that’s exactly what I want.”

There’s nothing much I could add…

By Regina Huber

Fotos: Companhia Urbana de Dança