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Gangs of Brazil and Their Feud,
in Realistic Style

Mark Foehringer Dance Project/SF
Joyce SoHo, New York City
June 30-July 3, 2005

by Jack Anderson
copyright ©2005 The New York Times

Give Mark Foehringer credit. This San Francisco-based choreographer is bold, reckless, even foolhardy. He took many dramatic and choreographic risks in his "Diadorim," which the Mark Foehringer Dance Project/San Francisco brought to the Joyce SoHo on Saturday night.

Mr. Foehringer, who grew up in Brazil, subtitled the production "The Devil to Pay in Backlands" and based it on "Grande Sertão: Veradas," a novel by the 20th-century Brazilian writer João Guimarães Rosas. The novel is unknown to me. But the dance, to a taped collage of shrewdly chosen music by Brazilian composers, told a wild tale of love, violence and revenge.

Riobaldo, the leader of a gang of gunmen (Jekyns Pelaez made Riobaldo both sturdy and sensitive), thinks himself in love with the elegant Otacilia (Katherine Wells). Yet he finds himself mysteriously attracted to Diadorim (the chipper Tatiana A'Virmond), a gang member who is really a woman in disguise, although he does not discover this until her death. Riobaldo's gang feuds with a rival group that kills Riobaldo's mentor, Joca Ramiro (a stern and upright-looking Frank Shawl). Seeking success in his feuds, Riobaldo makes a pact with the Devil (who, as portrayed by Joseph Copley, posed like a Greek god in jockey shorts). Bloodshed results.

You may not believe the tangled plot. But you can easily believe the bloodshed. Mr. Foehringer's characters are not simply dancers in picturesque costumes by Susanna Douthit. They look like real people, people you might see brawling, carousing and cutting throats, people you can imagine growing weary, famished and drenched with sweat.

There's nothing tame about "Diadorim." This 80-minute work hurtles along with almost hallucinatory delirium. But the narrative is stuffed with so many incidents that the production sometimes grows dramatically incomprehensible and aesthetically indigestible.

Yet if "Diadorim" might set you sighing, "This is much too much," it is at least too much of something substantial and not just a lot of nothing.

Published: July 4, 2005
copyright ©2005 The New York Times
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