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Mark Foehringer Dance Project/SF
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
June 2005

by Renee Renouf
copyright ©2005

Diadorim Music: Heiter Villa-Lobos; Egberto Giamonti; Raimundo Fagner; Antonio Carlos Johim; traditional ritual music
Choreography: Mark Foehringer
Costumes: Susanne Douthit
Lighting: Matthew Antaky
Riabaldo: Jekyns Pelaez
Diadorim: Tatiana A’Virmond
Riabaldo’s Godfather: Carlos Sierras
Mestre Lucas: Carlos Venturo
Ze Bebela: Michael Separovich
Inn Owner: Daniel Santos
Joca Ramiro: Frank Shawl
Hermogenes: Brandon Freeman
Ricardao: Brian Fisher
Camp Follower: Phaedra Jarrett
Otacilia: Katherine Wells
Mae de Santos: Carlos Venturo
Devil: Joseph Copley

Mark Foehringer Dance Project/San Francisco has been performing the choreographer’s unusual works for a decade. The tall, Brazilian-raised, Minnesota-born choreographer teaches down the Peninsula where he has another performing arm called Western Ballet. It is clear is that his choreographic voice is his own, not a watered-down this, that or the other. Performing for a decade, the Project has been graced by some of the Bay Area’s most unusual and gifted modern and balletic talents and they execute their Foehringer assignments with evident relish.

Diadorim, inspired by Brazilian novelist Joao Guimaraes Rosa's Grande Sertao: Veredas, possessed an intricate plot displaying many levels of narrative, relationships, social and ritual practices, all intertwined with glimpses of Brazilian folk life. The program notes stated the sertao is the rural backwoods of Brasil and its dwellers, believe that the devil lives in the dusty whirlwinds. The backwoods has its share of jugunco, frontier gunmen in Sertanejo dialect. Diadorim means little devil; this character is a woman disguised as a youth to escape her station. The paper filler provided a detailed intricate story line, and a map showing the Brasilian area of the action. Witnessing a string of striking, disparate scenes, lit like sun and moonlight constantly filtered by leaves and branches, the cultural puzzle took 90 evocative minutes, non-stop, to complete.

Helped across a river by a young man , Riabaldo had a series of developmental scenes to establish why he became a jugunco, joining Joca Ramiro’s pack train; Hermogenes and Ricardao also belonged. Diadorim was part of the pack train. Riabaldo and Diadorim play around, bonding, arousing the antagonism of Hermogenes, which Riabaldo returned. The Riabaldo- Diadorim pas de deux was punctuated by effective lifts, rolls, and lunges.

When Riabaldo discovered Hermogenes receiving ritual protection from an Afro-Brasilian Macumba ritual, he took refuge in a church asking for protection from the Virgin Mary. He then experienced a courtly and amorous encounter with Otacilia which is interrupted by Diadorim; the youth managed to force Otacilia away in a pas de trois with Riabaldo.

After a scene with Joca Ramiro testing his men for loyalty, Riabaldo was seduced by a camp follower, danced with supple knowing by Phaedra Jarrett. Another scene with Diadorim extended lifts, leaps and jetes occurred before they settled down to sleep for the night.

Ze Bebelo is caught but escaped. Hermogenes slits the throat of one of Ze Bebelo’s men. When Ze Bebelo was recaptured, Joca Romiro sent him into exile, causing Hermogenes to manipulate Ricardao into killing Romiro during a drunken brawl. The Hermogenes- Ricardao pas de deux was a spectacular ebb and flow of argument,anger, hesitation, persuasion.

In the hunt for Hermogenes, Riabaldo mistook a devil to be a saint, but acquired the protection to move against Hermogenes. The fight between the two gangs covered the stage, the exits and entrances possessing an absorbing, eerie force similar to Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid, enhanced by capoeria ‘s floating qualities. A knife-drawn confrontation between Diadorim and Hermogenes saw Diadorim stabbed but in a final burst of energy Hermogenes’ throat was slit before Diadorim died.

Riabaldo discovered Diadorim’s gender on the death bier, and embraced her naked body. He was surrounded by street people moving like the wind. When they are gone, Otacilia found him, raised him slowly to his feet to set him walking once more.

This awkward recitation conveys little of a haunting story ballet, beautifully performed to the evocative music of Villa-Lobos and fellow Brasilian composers. Tatiana A’Virmond danced Diadorim as a cocky young lad, intense and ready, her underlying feminine appeal most apparent in the pas de trois with Riabaldo and Otacilia. It was a remarkable portrait. Jenkyns Pelaez was well cast as Riabaldo, the link between the disparate scenes,fallible as well as resolute, a figure to identify with. The Freeman-Fisher bad men were danced with the same surety which has marked everything they have ever danced anywhere, beautiful foils for Riabaldo and Diadorim. Katherine Wells’ Otacilia supplied a lyric feminine ideal. Frank Shawl brought his half-century plus theatrical experience to Joca Romiro with a focus long notable.

Foehringer’s story telling capacity was clear, if the beginning threads had to rely on program notes to be totally clear. His ability to fuse Brasilian music and movement to ballet vocabulary gave the narrative an illusive power, grace and believable humanity. I would love to see it again.

After the June 24-25 performances at Yerba Buena Theater, Diadorim will be performed at the Joyce Soho, New York City, June 30, July 1-3 and in Monterey CA July 18.

June 2005
copyright ©2005 The New York Times
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