Brazilian dance company Balé Folclórico da Bahia has been devoted to celebrating the heritage of its region’s indigenous, African and post-colonial cultures for almost 30 years. Now on its eighth world tour, the company comes to Penn State to perform “Bahia of All Colors” on Feb. 14.
Brazil’s only professional folk dance company, Balé Folclórico da Bahia is a 26-member company of dancers, musicians and singers who perform a repertory based on cultural manifestations in the northern state of Bahia. The troupe made its debut in 1988 with “Bahia of All Colors,” and with this program, Balé Folclórico revisits its African origins with nods to traditional slave dances, capoeira, samba, religious rituals and Carnival celebrations.
Formed in 1988 by general director Walson Botelho and Ninho Reis in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, the troupe is now led by Artistic Director José Carlos Arandiba and has earned international acclaim with tours to several continents.
“The BFB was formed from the idea of creating a professional dance company that would rescue and spread the folkloric manifestations and popular culture of Bahia around the world,” Botelho said.
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Botelho started his dance training at age 12 and became a professional at 17, when he started working with Grupo Viva Bahia. Parallel to his career as a dancer, he has experience as artistic director for internationally known Brazilian music stars Daniela Mercury and Carlinhos Brown.
The cast of Balé Folclórico da Bahia is an integral part of its staff, working an average of six hours per day, between classes of the most varied dance techniques and repertory rehearsals.
“Each tour is always a challenge because our responsibility to show our cultural values most popular to the audience with fidelity and respect is our main goal,” Botelho said. “For this, we rehearse exhaustively to give them the best we can.”
For all the company’s performances, Botelho hopes to give people something more than what they would or could normally expect to see and hear from a culture that is different, but at the same time, might be similar to their own.
“In addition to bringing fun to the people who watch us, we like to show another side of Brazil that is often unknown to most people in the world,” he said. “The truly cultural, artistic side that goes beyond soccer, coffee and carnival.”
Bale Folclorico has always had a wonderful response from the public around the world, Botelho said.
“Dance, because it has a universal language, can easily cross the barrier and make people around the world understand our message through movements,” he said. “This is good because communication becomes more direct and faster.”
Performing at a college campus venue is sure to bring a diverse audience, and Botelho thinks they will leave the auditorium enlightened.
“They are sure to leave with great joy for having participated in a unique experience,” he said. “To be integrated with the artists and to dance with them at the end of the show.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Balé Folclórico da Bahia’s “Bahia of All Colors”
- When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14
- Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
- Info: www.cpa.psu.edu