Campus & Community

Brazilian dance troupe offers free public workshop Monday on campus

As part of its visit to Denver in conjunction with the citywide Biennial of the Americas arts and ideas festival, Brazilian dance company Companhia Urbana de Dança (CUD) will host a  free public dance workshop on the University of Denver campus on Monday, July 13, starting at 4:30 p.m., at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 E Iliff Ave. No registration or previous dance experience is necessary.

“We want as diverse a group as possible from the campus and community to get together with our Brazilian visitors,” says Stephen Seifert, executive director of DU’s Newman Center Presents series, which is sponsoring the troupe’s visit to Denver.  “Sonia Destri, the choreographer, will lead a very fun session while the dancers will work with small groups. By sharing movement, everyone shares their stories, making new friends and creating an international community.”

The workshop comes in advance of a CUD performance at the Newman Center on July 19 and several other Biennial-associated appearances by the troupe, including an evening performance on July 17 with Denver’s Wonderbound dance company, a master class for Front Range dancers at Wonderbound, classes at the Cleo Parker Robinson Summer Dance Intensive and a public dance workshop at Youth on Record, a nonprofit music education organization founded by Denver hip-hop and rock band the Flobots.

Based out of Rio de Janeiro, the troupe was formed in 2005 by dancer and choreographer Sonia Destri Lie, who pursued her artistic studies in her native Brazil before turning professional and moving to Europe. On her occasional visits home, Seifert, says, Lie accepted various choreography assignments for public events. One such gig tasked her with providing a dance presentation to complement a fashion show.

“They wanted an urban street vibe, and they opened up auditions to street dancers from Rio. These were street kids from the favelas [or slums] of Rio,” Seifert explains.

The collaboration between the conservatory-trained professional artist and the self-taught street dancers provided opportunity for everyone to stretch artistically. It also planted the seeds for a lasting creative partnership: “One of [the dancers] challenged her: ‘Instead of parachuting in here and just providing us this one occasion and event, why don’t you come back here and create a company?’” Seifert explains.

Intrigued, Lie did exactly that, and since its inception, the company has earned enthusiastic reviews all over the hemisphere. CUD made its U.S. debut in 2010 at the Fall for Dance Festival in New York, which was followed by critically acclaimed appearances in 2013 and 2014 at Massachusetts-based Jacob’s Pillow, home to a world-renowned international dance festival. In recent years, the group has ventured to North America several times, making new fans everywhere from California to North Carolina.

The company’s Biennial of the Americas and Newman Center performances mark CUD’s first appearance in the Rocky Mountain region. The Newman Center performance will showcase two works, including the much-hailed “I. You. We… All Black,” a piece that reflects Rio’s complicated race and class issues and that may, Seifert points out, resonate with U.S. audiences grappling with similar tensions. The second piece, “Chapa Quente,” which translates as “Hot Plate,” promises to be more light-hearted but just as athletic and exciting.

“What makes this different from either a contemporary dance company or a street performance is that it has taken elements from both worlds to make something new and different,” Seifert says.


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