A Brazil Pick and Mix

Feature in Issue 23-4 | Winter 2011

This list makes no attempt to be comprehensive, but flags up some of the performance artists and physical/visual theatre companies on Total Theatre’s radar.


Taanteatro is a dance-theatre company of international repute based in São Paulo, Brazil. The company was established in 1991 and is directed by Wolfgang Pannek (who originally hailed from Germany) and its founder, Brazilian Maura Baiocchi, who holds a teaching position at the University of Brasilia. Over the past twenty years, Taanteatro, currently celebrating its twentieth anniversary, has created more than forty performance works. Many of these have been based on the life and work of artists and poets such as Frida Kahlo, Lewis Carroll, Antonin Artaud, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In other strands of work, the company has inaugurated an investigation into performative rites of passage, and created extraordinary outdoor performance in the Amazonian rainforest.

The company have concurrently developed a training methodology called The Theatre of Tensions, which is disseminated through lecture-demonstrations, and workshops/summer school residencies.

Currently (December 2011 to January 2012), the company are presenting Hamletmachine Fisted by Wolfgang Pannek, and a reworking of DAN (ancestral becoming) by Maura Baiocchi – the extraordinary Amazonian landscape piece mentioned above – from February to April 2012. A new piece by Maura Baiocchi, [Im]Pure Dances, a Brazil / Argentina collaboration, will be presented May to July 2012.

Grupo Teatral Moitara

Grupo Teatral Moitará was founded in 1988 by Venicio Fonseca and Erika Rettl, who are still the company’s directors and leading lights. Moitará is a theatre company, but a great deal more too! Their lovely upstairs premises in a building in Lapa, Rio (which they’ve occupied since 2004) hosts a large rehearsal and performance studio with a sprung dancefloor, together with a ‘lounge’ area and an extensive library collection of books, videos, and audio recordings.

The company are dedicated predominantly to mask theatre and to actor-led physical theatre, and create performance works (including Acorda Ze! (2010) which merges Commedia dell’Arte techniques with Brazilian music and dance, and Quiproco, which takes a playful look at North-East Brazilian folklore using storytelling and music) which have appeared in festivals across Brazil and worldwide. They also run an extensive education programme of workshops, presentations, exhibitions and lecture-performances. International exchange is close to their hearts, and the company encourage visits to their premises by artists from across the world.

Zecora Ura

The work of Anglo-Brazilian company Zecora Ura has been well documented in these pages! See Total Theatre Volume 23 Issue 02 for a resume of the company, and a detailed feature on the DRIFT residency hosted by Zecora Ura and Persis Jade Maravala. An update on late 2011 activity: the company’s keynote show, Hotel Medea, created in collaboration with Persis Jade Maravala, had an extremely successful run at the new Summerhall venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2011, selling out its weekend ‘midnight to dawn’ performances, receiving praise from critics and audiences alike, and scooping up a Herald Angel Award (as well as being shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award). They are currently preparing for the next DRIFT residency in Brazil, for February/March 2012.

Thelma Bonavita

Dance and live art practitioner Thelma Bonavita was recently brought to the UK live art scene’s attention with a two-night appearance at Chelsea Theatre’s Sacred festival. She is Brazilian-born and studied Laban technique at São Paulo University, then studied at Amsterdam’s School for New Dance Development. Currently based in São Paulo, she is a co-founder of Brazil’s Estudio Nova Danca and works under the auspices of the Desaba Platform.

Her work Eu Sou Uma Fruta Gogoia (I am a Gogoia Fruit), presented at Chelsea Theatre November 2011, was inspired by Gal Costa’s hit song about an imaginary fruit, and was billed as a ‘pop/fashion satire on the Tropicália Movement’. Spiky pot plants, ripe round fruits, black balloons, blonde wigs, clunky platform shoes, feathers, fans, a Casio keyboard, and sheets of coloured cellophane are all part of the mix in the creation of a Gogoia Garden of Delights which audience members are eventually invited to come and play in! Thelma’s appearance at Sacred was one of a number of Brazil-related shows and events: the venue/festival is committed to a year-round series of Anglo-Brazilian collaborations.

Gustavo Ciriaco

Choreographer, dancer, and live art practitioner Gustavo Ciriaco is best known in the UK for his collaboration with Andrea Sonnberger on performative walk piece Aqui enquanto caminhamos (Here whilst we walk) which creates a silent group walk that invites participants to ruminate on the possibilities of inhabiting the urban space differently through a shared experience. The piece has been presented twice by Chelsea Theatre, for Sacred Festival in 2007, and for Sacred in Transit July 2011. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Gustavo currently divides his time between Brazil and Europe. He has recently become artistic director of Teatro Cacilda Becker in Rio. Together with theatre-maker and producer Joelson Gusson, he also programmes the ENTRE_Lugares festival at Sergio Porto in Rio, who are Chelsea Theatre’s collaborative partner in their Anglo-Brazilian exchange programme.

Augusto Boal and The Theatre of the Oppressed

If we are talking of Brazilian theatre, how could we fail to mention Augusto Boal? Boal (1931-2009) revolutionised not only Brazilian theatre but also the theatre of the world. Key to his work is the notion that theatre should be a mirror that reflects an individual’s strengths and defects, and a society’s needs and concerns. The man himself may be dead, but the work lives on. Sited in a ramshackle building near the Arcos of Lapa – an inner city area of Rio that holds the beating heart of the city’s artistic community – Augusto Boal’s company continues to explore the role of the ‘spect-actor’ and his vision of The Theatre of the Oppressed, using methodologies and provocations that include ‘newspaper theatre’, ‘invisible theatre’ and ’the rainbow of desire’. For the English language version of the company website, see below:

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Issue 23-4
p. 24 - 25