Hip-hop collides with contemporary choreography in a most striking way in Compagnie Käfig. The all-male Brazilian ensemble, now on the main stage at Jacob’s Pillow, is thrilling audiences with its energy, humor and attack that is proving that hip-hop, sprinkled with capoeira and samba, speaks a universal language.
French choreographer Mourad Merzouki harnesses the street-savvy talents of this group of 11 dancers in two works — “Correria” and “Agwa.” He takes their flash, which is usually reserved for improvisational displays of strength, agility and prowess, and assembles them within the confines of his highly structured and eye-catching creations.
And to drive his point home about hip-hop’s merit as a concert dance, he has his dancers groove and glide to a surprising array of music — from opera to tango to Middle Eastern to gospel as well as the expected rhythms of the hip-hop sound.
Feet and beat
In “Correria,” the hands and feet of the dancers supply much of the beat. As the lights slowly rise, the only thing visible is feet, in white sneakers, pedaling the air. With the lights fully on, the trio on their backs let their feet slam the boards in well-timed thumps. Their hands, too, join in the percussion, launching the dancers into a fist-pumping and heart-throbbing round of escapades.
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $64, $59 and $39
MORE INFO: 413-243-0745, jacobspillow.org
Merzouki introduces all of the dancers early on — as they run on and off the stage and form a moving circle of endless vitality. Throughout, they toss out their startling moves — back flips, head spins and fluid break and funk maneuvers.
By then, the diverse musical selections, mixed by AS’N, throw the dancers into moody scenarios — including a haunting one in which they quietly walk in place behind some supercharged and tortured dancing by a trio and a silly one with Fidelis Da Conceicao, aka Geovan, looping about and making funny faces to an aria.
“Correria” does not come together thematically as well as “Agwa.” In this work, stacks of clear plastic cups serve as a metaphor for thirst. The cups sparkle as they are lined up and flung about, defining the space.
Capering among cups
Amazingly, these brisk and buoyant dancers manage to flip and fly among the hundreds of cups strategically placed to create linear designs.
Moving in between the lines are many standout dancers, among them the compact Diego Alves Dos Santos, aka Dieguinho, who strikes at his shifts and steps with intensity. Wanderlino Martins Neves, or Sorriso, also wows the crowd with an extended head spin in a pile of discarded cups.
In the end, the men of Compagnie Käfig are providing one of the best performances during the final days of Jacob’s Pillow dance festival.