Review: Compagnie Kafig leaves dancers and audience exhausted and euphoric

Friday, June 28, 2013
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Compagnie Kafig, featuring 11 athletic Brazilian dancers, is at Jacob’s Pillow for a return engagement of their crowd-pleasing 2012 program.
Compagnie Kafig, featuring 11 athletic Brazilian dancers, is at Jacob’s Pillow for a return engagement of their crowd-pleasing 2012 program.

— Compagnie Kafig inspired Jacob’s Pillow’s artistic director, Ella Baff, to depart from her usual practice when planning a season.

Typically, Baff will not have the same company perform in consecutive years, unless the ensemble returns with a completely different program.

That was not the case for Compagnie Kafig, the Brazilian/French hip-hop sensation that dazzled audiences last year. The all-male ensemble, directed by Mourad Merzouki of France, returned with an encore performance of “Correria” and “AGWA,” the two works that sent those lucky enough to see them stomping, cheering and begging Baff for a sooner-than-normal return trip.

Compagnie Kafig

WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $69-$39, $10 for 17 and younger

MORE INFO: 413-243-0745,

Happily, she complied. And now, those who missed Compagnie Kafig last year will have a chance to experience this explosive, charming and diverse group of 11. The troupe is a must-see.

The artists are amazing technicians with astonishing skills. They stir with all the tricks of the style, from back flips to head spins, from rolling boogaloo to clownish krumping. And while each artist is unique, Merzouki shapes the men into a forceful package that still allows for the strengths of individual performers to shine.

Regulating the heat

This is a testament to Merzouki’s finesse as a director/choreographer. He creates electric moving tableaux in which this all-Brazilian cast glides or rocks as one. But then he regulates the heat, up or down, by inserting a solo for one of his outstanding dancers.

Also, Compagnie Kafig’s fusion of musical styles is unique. In one sitting, opera, bossa nova, gospel, Middle Eastern and Euro pop can be heard in a seamless and atmospheric soundscape. The astute combination of choreography, artists and music is irresistible.

The program opened with “Correria,” the work in which running is the leitmotif, defining the space and creating the work’s anxious pace. It began with a trio on its back, six legs bicycling in the air. With light illuminating only their sneakered feet, the scene was quiet and serene, like a solitary run along an unpopulated path.

Merzouki slowly increased the pace with the runners who circled the men on the floor. The tempo picked up and the sound of the pounding feet along the boards became louder and more strident.

As the dance progressed, Merzouki added in a few artificial legs, manipulated to run by the dancers, as well as some eye-popping solos. Diego Alves Dos Santos (known as Dieguinho) stunned with his rippling frame as he sent continuous waves from the top of his head to his ankles. Fidelis Da Conceicao (or Geovane) offered up some comic relief with his operatic lip-synching — the highs punctuated by his hip moves.

“AGWA” topped it. This is a beautiful work — an ode to the source of all life.

In it, the dancers flip, fly, pop and lock with precision among hundreds of clear plastic cups, set up in rows.

The work climaxed again and again, sending the audience into fits of screaming applause. When it finally did end, with a toast and a drink of water, everyone, performers and the audience, was exhausted with euphoria.

After the curtain call, the dancers came back for a freestyle feast that will likely have audiences beseeching Baff for another Compagnie Kafig return.

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