Curtain Call: Grupo de Rua

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

That'll begin to prepare you for what Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrao and his Grupo de Rua will bring to the Thurber Theatre on Sunday for a performance presented by the Wexner Center.

Gone is a good deal of the aggressive macho posturing. Absent is much of the beat-heavy music. Banished is the notion that solo virtuosity should be elevated above all else.

Instead, expect exalting duets and trios. Rather than rap, there will be electronica, street noises, the recycled sounds of the dancers' footfalls and even silence. The shadows, rather than the spotlight, will be emphasized in Grupo de Rua's newest production, H3.

"In some ways, what Bruno is doing is like what some visual artists in hip-hop culture are doing - extending techniques or ideas drawn from graffiti and street art to gallery art practices," explained Charles Helm, the Wex's director of performing arts. "This approach in the realm of visual art is an international phenomenon, but it's very strong in the Brazilian scene."

Born in 1979 in Niteroi, Brazil, just across from Rio de Janeiro, Beltrao was performing on the streets by the time he was nine. After beginning formal dance training, Beltrao grew fascinated by hip-hop, still relatively unknown in Brazil in the early to mid-1990s. By 1996, he and his friend Rodrigo Bernardi had formed Grupo de Rua de Niteroi.

"As he began to make works for stage and deal with concepts for full evening pieces, he was also exposed, through his appearances at important international festivals, to the approaches of other choreographers," Helm said. "That opened up his formal ideas to fresh perspectives."

One major turning point occurred at Montreal's Festival International de Nouvelle Danse in October 2001, when Beltrao witnessed Jerome Bel's The Show Must Go On, a landmark work that would later play at the Wex.

As Helm puts it, "That performance's unique balance of a highly conceptual approach combined with an engaging, audience-satisfying event had a profound influence on Bruno's own thinking about the possibilities he could explore with Grupo de Rua."

Just as choreographer Bel had deconstructed performance in Show, Beltrao began deconstructing hip-hop with his 2002 production Too Legit to Quit. Since then, he has been trying to infuse hip-hop with the sensibilities of modern dance choreography, rather than the more common effort of trying to bring street dance to the stage with its credibility intact.

Grupo de Rua translates roughly as "group of the street." As you discard your preconceptions, know that Beltrao and his all-male Grupo de Rua intend to direct audiences down a road less danced.

Grupo de Rua's "H3"

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10

Where: Thurber Theatre, Campus