Yes, there were flying kicks and dazzling head-spins and brilliant back flips, and the whole affair was enlivened with a sense of sheer exuberance. But when Compagnie Käfig blazed across the stage of the Shubert Theatre Friday night in its Celebrity Series debut, it wasn’t just shallow physical virtuosity on display. Under the artistic direction of Mourad Merzouki, the choreography for these eleven engaging and athletically skilled young men from Rio de Janeiro thrums with underlying contextual allusions that gave the two works presented not just a visceral charge but emotional depth.
“Correria” (Running) explores the simple act of running. Or is it simple? Are the dancers running to or from? Are they stuck in place, or trapped by centrifugal force into endless circles? We see disembodied feet pedaling mid-air. Partnering sends dancers upside down or hoisted aloft, their churning legs going nowhere. At one point, a dancer runs in place in front of a film that shows his image gradually accruing extra legs, lifting him into the clouds. Hard-soled shoes on the ends of sticks give the dancers two sets of legs to stomp and kick. And amidst all this intriguing imagery, there is extraordinary dancing, a blend of hip hop, street dance, and Brazilian forms, mostly samba and capoeira, set to music that ranges from groove-heavy percussion to an opera aria. Acrobatic flips and tumbles segue into solos of sinuous ripples and jagged isolations, as if bolts of lightning were pulsing through the dancers’ bodies.
“Agwa,” as the title implies, has water as its loose focus. The work opens with dancers moving among hundreds of clear plastic cups. Stacked, they form wiggly towers. At other times, they are gleefully knocked down, forming a lake of glistening crystal, prompting a dancer to proclaim with mock dismay, “We must redo everything.” Lined up, the cups form channels through which dancers sashay with fleet footwork and shimmying hips, and the extraordinary Wanderlino Martins Neves flips through them end over end. Periodically, water is poured from the cups in shimmering streams. And thankfully, at work’s end, it is drunk by the dancers in grateful gulps.
The company ended the evening with a raucous finale that gave every dancer a more free-form moment to shine, smiles lighting up the theater.Karen Campbell can be reached at email@example.com