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Dance troupe gives February arts festival a Brazilian flavour


Who: Aché Brasil

What: Celebration 2010 Whistler Arts Festival

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Monday, Feb. 14, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $15/$18

Carnival, the annual festival of colourful costumes, music, dance and pre-Lent, all-out, hedonistic revelry, kicked off this week all over Brazil.

Whistler gets its own taste of the action this year with a visit on Monday by Vancouver-based Brazilian dance troupe Aché Brasil.

The troupe was founded in 1990 by current leader Mestre (Master) Eclilson de Jesus, a native of Pernambuco, who continues to fill the group’s roster with performers of Brazilian descent, including his own 18-year-old daughter.

The name (pronounced a-SHAY Bra-SILL) means "all things positive," de Jesus said, a concept reinforced by the group’s energetic spectacle of traditional Brazilian music and dance that has become a mainstay of multicultural festivals, TV variety shows and large-scale special events such as the World Figure Skating Championships in 2001.

The group performs in varying incarnations, depending on the size of venue and type of crowd. Monday’s event, de Jesus said, will bring eight dancer/musicians to the MY Place stage.

The show will incorporate elements of the Maculele and Maracutu dance forms native to the tribes of the Amazon, performed in traditional costume complete with machetes and sticks.

"It is a very powerful dance," de Jesus noted, "almost like a fight."

The show will also feature Capoeira, a traditional Brazilian martial art developed by African slaves and subversively masqueraded as a dance so not to clue in the slave owners to its powers of resistance. With its energetic high kicks and quick moves Capoeira has grown in popularity in North America in recent years, showing up in mainstream music videos such as Christina Aguilera’s notorious Dirrty video, and lending much to the ebullient techniques seen in modern breakdancing.

Of course, Monday’s performance will also include plenty of scintillating, booty-shaking Samba, the good time dance of Carnival lore. Mestre de Jesus said the performance will close with a set of Samba songs, at which time the audience will be welcome to get up and dance.

Those familiar with the infectious rhythms of Samba know all too well that it will be near impossible to remain in the soft seats of the MY Place theatre. Dancing is like breathing during Carnival and Samba is the air.

Monday’s event will be the first time Aché Brasil has performed a theatre-style show in Whistler, previous appearances being private events and street-performances. Tickets for the show are $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, available through the MY Place box office at 604-935-8410.

The show is part of the Whistler Arts Council’s Celebration 2010 Whistler Arts Festival, which continues throughout the month of February.


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