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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 São Paulo Dance Company 

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 1TR                  

🗓 Friday 23rd February 2024



Theatre Royal Plymouth is known for bringing incredible dance to the South West and as a member of the Dance Consortium it also attracts some of the best contemporary dance companies from across the world. Right now it is playing host to the São Paulo Dance Company and last night I was invited along to watch and review their performance.

The company has its roots in ballet and although this is a contemporary programme there is a strong presence of that discipline here, especially so in the core strength displayed by the dancers.

The evening was broken down into three separate dances, with the first being titled Anthem and having a strong focus on community and hope and opened in near silence. All that could be heard was a breath and the music slowly but purposefully entered the awareness. 

The troupe of dancers moved as one as they gave a skilful execution of the choreography and as much as I appreciated their talent and sheer brilliance I did find my mind wandering throughout as the piece struggled to hold my attention. There were a few shift changes in the piece which brought me back though.

The entire show was a technical triumph and this piece was no exception as the lighting design really drove and enhanced the story. I did think that there were occasions throughout the evening where the production maybe relied too much on the lighting to tell the story, rather than letting the dance speak for itself.

The second piece Gnawa was by far the strongest of the three pieces for me. It was a lot more engaging and felt almost tribal but also was giving me flamenco vibes! As the story unfolded you could feel a strong inspiration of the four elements and again these were enhanced by a sensational lighting design.

The central couple of this dance were absolutely spellbinding and gave the standout performance of the evening. As their beautiful bodies entwined their sheer strength was mesmerising as they told their story.

The music here worked extremely well as the drums beating gave strong African vibes and created a real heartbeat to the piece. My description almost makes the piece seem all over the place which it isn’t. It’s just that there were so many elements to this which sounds confusing yet somehow they all married together wonderfully.

The evening finished with the colourful Agora. It was a real feast for the eyes and when the female dancers jumped into the arms of the male dancers it created, for me, the first and only real ‘wow’ moment of the evening. Unfortunately I found this piece quickly became repetitive, with similar movements and motives being used throughout, and I struggled to find a cohesive narrative within the piece.

I actually felt quite emotionless throughout, despite the incredible talent on display. I was surprised to learn that each piece had a completely separate creative team because there was a similarity to them all, but maybe this is why they were chosen for this programme.

I have to say that in struggling to find emotion or more than one ‘wow’ moment I was very much in the minority as the entire auditorium had a magnetic response throughout the entire evening. Maybe it was the cultural difference in the approach which I found daunting, or maybe I was just tired, but I just didn’t feel that connection.

I found landing on a star rating for this production a bit of a struggle if I’m honest. This is because although the costuming, music, lighting and the dancers themselves were all absolutely stunning and full of energy I felt they were let down by the choreography, and in a dance show the choreography should stand front and centre. I feel that giving a four star rating is the fairest for this production as it represents my misgivings as well as the many strengths on display.

If you are a lover of dance then I would definitely recommend grabbing yourself a ticket to see the São Paulo Dance Company as it really is a unique experience and there is no denying the sheer talent on display.

There is one more performance at Theatre Royal Plymouth tonight and there are still some tickets available. Click here to secure your seats.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.

My ticket for this performance of São Paulo Dance Company was gifted by the Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.


Alex Akapohi; Patrick Amaral; Joca Antunes; Dandara Caetano; Hiago Castro; Luciana Davi; Letícia Forattini; Clara Judithe; Gabrielly Juvêncio; Vinícius Lopes; Kaynan Oliveira; Carolina Pegurelli; Thamiris Prata; Matheus Queiroz; Daniel Reca; Mateus Rocha; Pamella Rocha; Ammanda Rosa; Nielson Souza; Poliana Souza; Yoshi Suzuki; Luiza Yuk


Artistic Director - Inês Bogéa

Anthem: Choreography by Goyo Montero; Music by Owen Belton; Lighting Design by Goyo Montero and Nicolas Fischtel; Costume Design by Goyo Montero and Fábio Namatame

Gnama: Choreography by Nacho Duato; Music by Hassan Hakmoun, Adam Rudolph, Juan Alberto Arteche, Javier Paxariño, Rabih Abou-Khalil, Velez, Kusur and Sarkissian; Lighting Design by Nicolas Fischtel; Costume Design by Luis Devota and Modesto Lomba; Restaging by Hilde Koch and Tony Fabre

Agora: Choreography by Cassi Abranches; Music by Sebastian Piracés; Lighting Design by Gabriel Pederneiras; Costume Design by Janaína Castro

RUNNING TIME (approx):

1 hour 30 minutes, including interval and a short pause

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions.


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