Braz Dos Santos’ Brazouka Assembly Main Hall

There are two big Brazilian music and dance shows on at the Fringe this year – This is Brasil at the Pleasance and Brazouka at the Assembly Main Hall. From what I’ve heard, this show is the slicker and stagier of the two, which is not unexpected given that it is directed by Arlene Phillips and produced by Pamela Stephenson of Strictly Come Dancing fame.

This is the story of Braz Dos Santos, born into a family of 11 in the back streets of Brazil – Porto Seguro in the state of Bahia to be precise, the birthplace of the Lambada and of this newer style, the Lambazouk. Braz himself takes centre stage in the dance sequences and narrates in his heavily accented English. He is joined by a troupe of 16 male and female gorgeous athletic dancers and we are treated to an energetic and spectacular display of Brazilian dance styles and music which illustrate the key scenes in his life.

Religion and tribal superstition held an important place in the community – his father was a shaman and used to wake him up in the middle of the night to beat the drum for exorcisms. The family was poor and could not afford education. Braz was expected, like all the other young men in the district, to work on the fishing boats, a dangerous and arduous occupation. Their only escape was found in the brothels or on the dancefloor. Braz started to earn money through winning dance competitions and eventually was asked to go to Paris to dance there. His father forebade it, but after nearly losing his life at sea, Braz decides to leave home for the first time and to travel to France where he becomes a successful dancer.

The dance is the thing, the high energy and sheer joie de vivre of the movements. Zouk is a couple dance form which incorporates samba, salsa, lambada and forro. Lambazouk is a particular variation which specialises in using parts of the body as well as the hands to pass and twirl one’s partner at breakneck speed. Some of the moves look neckbreaking as well, as the girls are almost bent double backwards. It is sensual and sexy and a lot of fun. So much fun that one little girl standing awestruck at the front of the stage had to be restrained by her Mum from getting up and joining in – the rest of just contented ourselves with clapping and cheering as I don’t think we would be able to emulate their moves, more’s the pity!

Irene Brownlee