- Deborah Colker Dance Company’s Cão sem Plumas
Brazil’s Deborah Colker Dance Company will open the Dance Council’s 2018-19 season — and offerings for Cultural Trust’s Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts — at Byham Theater on Sat., Oct. 13, with the U.S. premiere of multimedia work Cão sem Plumas (Dog Without Feathers).
“It’s a show that almost didn’t happen,” says the Trust’s Randal Miller.
A tour date fell through in another city, jeopardizing the tour. Miller needed to move dates of that show and another to salvage the tour. “The value of this show made it worth any obstacles getting it here,” he says.
Based on the 1950 homonymous poem “The Dog Without Feathers,” by late Brazilian modernist poet João Cabral de Melo Neto, this 70-minute conceptual dance-theater piece runs without intermission and glimpses the impoverished riverside population of Brazil’s Capibaribe River Region. It taps into tension described in Neto’s poem between them and the elites in the region.
"The show is about inconceivable things, which should not be allowed," says Colker, on her company website. “It is against human ignorance, [the] destruction of nature, children, and what is full of life.”
A 2001 Laurence Olivier Award-winner, Colker founded her dance company in 1994. She is perhaps best known for visual spectacles such as the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo.
Set to an original soundtrack by Jorge Dü Peixe from mangue beat band Nação Zumbi and Berna Ceppas, and featuring Lirinha (former singer of Cordel do Fogo Encantado), Cão sem Plumas brings an equally engaging visual spectacle. Over a dozen dancers cover themselves in mud and feathers (in an allusion to the landscapes and wildlife the poem describes). Colker’s high-energy movement for the dancers evokes the river region’s creatures, such as crabs and birds.
“It is a unique work for Pittsburgh,” says Miller. “It has amazing layers to it that could stand on their own, particularly the black and white high contrast film that plays in the background — that could be in a gallery.”
In addition to Colker and filmmaker Cláudio Assis’ brilliant cinematographic work, which had the entire dance company filming in the back woods of Pernambuco for 24 days, Cão sem Plumas features body percussion, voiceovers of passages of Neto’s poem spoken in Portuguese, striking costumes by Claudia Kopke, and make-up effects by Renata Pittigliani. Also, there are what Miller describes as “gasp-eliciting moments” in the work surrounding Gringo Cardia’s bold set design.
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