Bahia of All Colors is a wonderful show, a spectacle in seven acts, a feast for the senses and the soul. This Brazilian folk dance troupe Balé Folclórico Da Bahia — the only professional folk dance company in Brazil — hails from the northern Brazilian state of Bahia, which has a rich Afro-Brazilian cultural legacy. The show stitched together several different artistic and cultural traditions — the indigenous cultures of Brazil, the descendants of African peoples brought to Brazil through the slave trade, and European cultures — to create a rich tapestry of music and dance, authentic and rich in meaning.
Conflict and personal interplay run deep through the performance, from the intricate Origin Dance, celebrating the Candomblé origin myths brought to Brazil by African slaves, to the heart-pounding feats of athleticism displayed by the Capoeira dancers. Each conflict between dancers tells another story, if one chooses to look beyond the surface — one of cooperation. Fire and water react against each other, darkness and light spar in the Origin Dance — a powerful clash that creates new life. Rivals who square off over a lover in Capoeira coordinate their movements so as to create something that is greater than the sum of their individual parts. And the dancers who slow-spar in Maculelê evoke the tranquility of tai chi, proving that the yin and yang of opposite forces are really just two different sides of the same coin — one cannot exist, cannot create, without the other.
And there is a similar dialectic between the audience and the performers, in Bahia of All Colors. A singer dances, carried away by the rhythms the drummers behind her create, she goes deep into the music, bending her knees, getting close to the earth, to the vibrations that make up the heart of the music.
“Take it away, mama!” an audience member calls out, admiration and love in her voice.
Later, a musician plucks out the Star-Spangled Banner on the berimbau, and we in the audience lose control — the admiration, is not just one-way, from audience to stage. Bahia of All Colors comes into the audience during the Samba Reggae; performers encourage us to join them in a joyous final dance. The separation between stage and audience has been eliminated; the conspiracy to keep separate performer and spectator has been punctured.
Bahia of All Colors invites us to feel the music in our bodies, in our souls, not just in our heads.
Balé Folclórico Da Bahia: Bahia of All Colors, Proctors, Feb. 16