The Spirit of Brazil

Los Angeles’s premier Brazilian dance company, Viver Brasil, will join forces with Sambaguru founder and singer-songwriter, Kátia Moraes, for a high-energy night of colorful rhythms and powerful movement at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo on Saturday, May 30. As the last of the 2014–2015 Aratani World Series performances, I promise you that it’ll be nothing short of an explosive season finale!

This week on Rhythm Planet, I was joined at the KCRW Studios by Linda Yudin and Kátia Moraes, who brought with them honored guest and keeper of the sacred candomblé (Afro-Brazilian) tradition, Dona Cici.

Viver Brasil is an integral part of LA’s rich multicultural landscape. Together with choreographer and partner, Luis Badaró, Linda co-founded this award-winning concert dance company in 1997, with its mission to honor and increase awareness of Afro-Brazilian music, dance and culture through their performances, residencies, lectures, workshops, and cultural immersion program to LA’s sister city, Salvador, Bahia.

I first met Linda back in 1999, when Viver Brasil famously launched the KCRW World Festival. Her dancers streamed in full regalia down the center and side aisles of the Hollywood Bowl to Afro-Brazilian beats in an initiation rite that brought Brazilian superstar Carlinhos Brown here for the first time. I was the LA Philharmonic’s new Program Director of World Music at the time, and this was truly one of the most exciting shows that I ever took part in.

Viver Brasil has since become a local institution that also works with young Angelenos of all ethnicities to teach them the beautiful Brazilian music and dance traditions. Linda once told me about some of her at-risk youth being approached on their way to rehearsals by neighborhood gang members inviting them to join. Her students would respond with “No, I have to go to dance practice.” Viver Brasil gave these kids a sense of belonging and purpose, years before Gustavo Dudamel would later bring El Sistema to L.A.

The theme of the May 30 show is “Peace Transcends,” honoring the great river goddess, Oxum, and Dona Cici, for her deep contribution to the preservation of Bahia’s historical and spiritual inheritance, and for her role as a peacemaker. As one of the most sought-after storytellers of candomblé, Dona Cici is a sacred daughter of the orixás (spirits): Obatalá (also known as Oxalá, creator of the earth and mankind); Oxum (goddess of the rivers, prosperity, and beauty); and Ewa—all revered deities of the Yoruba tradition. So it was our good fortune to have such a cultural treasure perform sacred chants to Oxum and Oxalá on Rhythm Planet

Carioca singer-songwriter Kátia Moraes is a native of Rio de Janeiro, who shares the “joy, love, and the spirit that is Brazil.” With her sensual, melodious vocals, she will join Viver Brasil and Dona Cici to invoke the spirit of Oxum, performing some of her own Sambaguru favorites.

Aratani World Series Curator and Producer Judy Mitoma certainly knows her stuff. She previously ran the UCLA Dance department and later the Department of World Arts and Cultures. In bringing Viver Brasil and Kátia Moraes to the Aratani Theatre, she celebrates a rich legacy of Brazilian culture, and Los Angeles is the better for it.

The Aratani World Series has generously offered a special rate for Rhythm Planet fans for tickets to the “Peace Transcends” show on May 30. For more information and to purchase your tickets, please click HERE.





Tom Schnabel