There’s a new dance show burning up the floor in Jo’burg, and if there’s any justice in the world, it’s going to start a serious new craze. By LESLEY STONES.
I have a prediction. The new dance show Brazouka is going to spawn several spin-offs as its sexy young stars split off with shows of their own, and a film to tell the true story of its lynchpin, Braz Dos Santos.
It’s inevitable. Everybody loves a rags-to-riches story, and here’s a modern-day one where all the parts are played by a stunningly sexy crew in the teeniest tiny outfits.
Oh, there’ll be Brazouka classes launching at your local gym and dance studios too. And hopefully a passion for guys getting themselves into shape again and flaunting six-packs, not beer boeps.
Brazouka is a Brazilian dance craze and the men do it even better then they do football, perhaps because there’s a bigger chance of scoring at the end.
The style has been perfected by Dos Santos, who was born in Porto Seguro as one of 11 children. When he was 14 he was sent to be a fisherman to earn money for his family, but the sea rightly terrified him. He learned to dance – first by watching women dancing in a brothel – and was spotted by a French talent scout dancing in a beach bar.
This story is told by the man himself in a series of scenes that weave in tales of Orixa gods, the hardships of life on the sea, the risqué dancing in the brothels and his triumph as a club owner in Europe.
The first number lacked the punch to instantly pull you in, but the tempo soon picks up and the choreography grows more daring. The 16-strong dance troupe is collectively delicious, a line up of beautiful women in shorts so small they look like they’re painted on and men who fling them around like complicit ragdolls. The dance has evolved into Lambazouk, a blend of the Lambada and Zouk music from the Caribbean, giving it a vibrant Latin American and African tingle.
The show has been created by West End musical choreographer Arlene Phillips and comedian and Strictly Come Dancing star Pamela Stephenson-Connolly. In a touch of nepotism they’ve given the job of narrating to Pamela’s husband, the comedian Billy Connelly, who adds a recognisable voice but I found it distractingly incongruous to have a Scotsman introducing a show from Brazil. Let the Brazilians do it themselves, for heaven’s sake.
Some of the musical choices are a bit dodgy, with powerful and relevant Latin-American music interspersed with inane pop songs to appeal to the younger generation. In a scene where Braz is being made courageous enough to conquer the world, Rihanna’s ‘Shine Bright like a Diamond’ felt like the wrong lyrics at the wrong pace.
The set design is simple but effective, creating a gritty street feel that’s doesn’t hijack the theme by add false glitter and glam.
The producer is Australia’s Harley Medcalf, founder of the Burn the Floor dance show, and it could have been called Burn the Floor Some More, because that’s pretty much what you get. Spectacular costumes, brilliant dancing, some amazing athletics and the welcome addition of the genuine storyline.
Brazouka runs at Joburg Theatre until 19 October. DM
Photos by Mariola Biela.