BECKET, Mass. — Hip-hop is a solo art. Thus, it takes effort, a lot of effort, to transform a crew of house and break dancers into a cohesive ensemble.
Sonia Destri Lie has partially succeeded with her Companhia Urbana de Dança. The Brazilian troupe, making its second appearance at Jacob’s Pillow this week, is still raw. It’s so raw that its world premiere, “I, You, We... All Black!” looks amateurish. Its “Na Pista” (Portuguese for inside track), on the other hand, is well-done and honest.
The difference could lie in lack of rehearsal time for the new work. But more likely, it is Lie’s choreography itself.
“I, You, We ... All Black!” has its moments, particularly at its conclusion as the dancers crowd together in a triangle and bounce from one foot to the other in rhythmic unison.
Yet mainly the work that is to express the hardships of growing up black in the favelas of Brazil evokes little emotion as the choreography and dancing is muddy.
Companhia Urbana de Danca
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
WHEN: 8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $59, $49, $39; $10 youth ticket for certain shows
MORE INFO: 413-243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
It begins with the group of nine singing off stage. Their voices rise, growing louder and louder, as the curtain opens onto an empty stage. Lights on tripods square off the space and then the dancers appear, compact tightly in a corner, dancing a quiet samba.
As they break apart, they perform, en masse and in various trios, duos and solos, tentatively. They appear unsure and disjointed. Though they each possess amazing dance skills, they don’t bust the moves that send hip-hop enthusiasts reeling.
Every time the “All Black!” looks to heat up, for example as the eight men circle the one girl like hungry predators, there is a pull-back in the tension. The stage lights rise and the drama dissipates before it climaxes. “All Black!” is underdone and underdeveloped.
Lastly, the costumes look like stretched out and worn-out street clothes. While authentic, it further tarnishes any polish that “All Black!” might hope to have.
“Na Pista” is a celebratory work that somewhat redeems Lie and her dancers. It begins with a friendly game of musical chairs and then bursts to life as a dance party.
As each dancer retreats upstage, with a chair, a crystalline design of lines that straighten and bend reveals itself. As the dancers come forward to show off their fluid footwork punctuated by abrupt poses, the real Companhia Urbana de Dança emerges.
Jessica Nascimento, as the only female, gets a lot of time center stage as she flirtatiously sways her hips and flicks her curly-top head. The men respond by approaching her and pushing each other out of the way. She handles it all nonchalantly, waving off their advances.
While “Na Pista” feels real, the dancers again do not allow themselves complete freedom, which is the essence of hip-hop. Lie, a classical and contemporary dancer, has yet to fully capture and release hip-hop’s liberated soul.