By BRYAN FRANCIS
SPECIAL TO THE
COMING TO THE Thailand Cultural Centre this month are two of South America’s top dance companies – Ballet Nacional Sodre (BNS, or National Ballet of Uruguay) and the Deborah Colker Dance Company out of Brazil. One is classical, the other contemporary.
Uruguay’s national ballet company, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, has a long history. Legend has it that the much-celebrated Nijinsky almost accepted an offer to start a school in Uruguay after his final tour with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1919. Uruguayan choreographer Alberto Pouyanne founded an earlier incarnation of the BNS known as the Corps de Ballet Sodre, which became one of two major South American ballet companies in the 20th century, the other being Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.
Over the years a number of Europeans left their mark on the company, staging major classical works such as “Les Sylphides”, “Swan Lake” and “Coppelia”. Then in 1971, a fire ravaged the company’s base, Estudio Auditorio del Sodre, and for almost 40 years the theatre was closed, finally reopening in 2009. The following year Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica appointed multi-award-winning Argentinean star dancer Julio Bocca as the artistic director.
A gifted dancer, for two decades Bocca was the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and a guest artist with the Royal Ballet of London, Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Kirov Ballet in St Petersburg, and Alla Scala de Milan, among others.
In a short period of time he dramatically elevated the standard of the BNS, first expanding from only 25 dancers to 68, and going from just 15 performances a year to 90, with national and international tours. He also mounted full-length productions of “Giselle”, “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker”, “La Sylphide”, “Le Corsaire” and Natalia Makarova’s staging of “La Bayadere”, and triple bills of ballets by choreographers such as William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian and Nacho Duato.
In addition he enticed ABT ballerina Maria Riccetto back to her homeland, making her the principal with the company, and then promoted the young Spanish dancer, Ciro Tamayo, to principal in 2013. Both will perform in Bangkok in an exciting programme this Sunday that takes in Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada’s “Our Waltzes”; “Coppelia – Pas Deux” by Enrique Martinez; Oscar Araiz’s “Adagietto”; “Le Corsaire Pas De Trois” by Anna-Marie Holmes; and “Don Quixote Suite” by Silvia Bazilis and Raul Candal.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Deborah Colker Dance Company. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Colker founded her company in 1994, taking it to the world stage with productions featuring elaborate installations and sets, and a choreographic direction that tackles abstract themes strongly influenced by her heritage.
The company went on stage for the first time at the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre, sharing the night with Momix, Moses Pendleton’s renowned cult group. It was the inaugural edition of the show “O Globoem Movimento”.
With sponsorship from Petrobras, the company acquired their own studio in 1996, the same year as their first world premiere abroad at the prestigious Biennale de La Danse de Lyon with “Mix”, which combines excerpts from earlier works “Vulcao” and “Velox”.
Since then they have performed in Argentina, Austria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In 2001, the company was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award in the category “Outstanding Achievement in Dance” by the Society of London Theatre, an honour never before awarded to a South American artist or group.
In Bangkok, they will recreate their “Mix”, a highly physical blend of gymnastics and acrobatics, which praises the beauty of the moving human body.
International Cultural promotions is grateful to the shows’ sponsors – Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, B Grimm, BMW, Beiersdorf, the Crown Property Bureau, the Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, PTT, the Nation Group, Singha Corp, Thai Airways International, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Culture.
-“Gala Concert” by the National Ballet of Uruguay is on Sunday and will be staged on Sunday and “Mix” by the Deborah Colker Dance Company of Brazil is on October 18 at the Thailand Cultural Centre. Shows are at 7.30pm.
-Tickets cost Bt800 to Bt3,000. For more information, visit www.BangkokFestivals.com or at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.