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Samba in the Streets Feb. 21 – March 6 in Birmingham, Selma, and Lowndes County

Special to the Signal

Viver Brasil (pronounced “Veevay Brasil”) Dance Company, an award-winning Afro-Brazilian dance theater company based in Los Angeles, will dance and make music with hundreds of Alabama community members of all ages in cultural centers, neighborhood plazas, a church, schools and other public spaces across Birmingham, Selma, and Lowndes County through its free Samba in the Streets Alabama residency. Feb. 21 through March 6.

Led by Viver Brasil’s vibrant company of dancers and musicians, community members of all ages will learn and perform celebratory Afro-Brazilian dance and accompanying drum rhythms through Samba in the Streets Alabama.

Samba in the Streets Alabama is a collaborative project undertaken by Viver Brasil’s artistic directors, Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaró; Alabama born and raised civil rights movement foot soldier and anthropologist of dance Dr. Joan Burroughs; the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame; The Ballard House; Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee organizer Catrena Norris Carter, and other Birmingham Civil Rights District cultural organizations.

The project promises intense exploration of expressive acts (dance, music, rhythms) born of Afro-Brazilian social and cultural history. Home base for Samba in the Streets Alabama workshops in Birmingham is St. Paul United Methodist Church, a historic Civil Rights District church.

Viver Brasil’s Samba in the Streets Alabama workshops are organized on the model set by Bahian blocos afro, Afro-Brazilian parading organizations that introduce communities to Afro-Brazilian history through traditional and contemporary dance and music.

The residency honors Birmingham and Selma’s pivotal role in the American Civil Rights Movement, which subsequently inspired young Brazilians in Salvador, Bahia to address social injustice during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) through rhythm, song and movement.

The transformative political eras of Birmingham and Salvador, Bahia occurred within a decade of each other (1960s-70s). During Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, blocos afro groups formed in Bahia’s black neighborhoods, creating beautiful expressive acts through song and dance that affirmed and exalted their African heritage.

Young activists like Viver Brasil’s co-artistic director, Luiz Badaró, one of the 1970s innovators of blocos afro style movement, looked to America’s Civil Rights Movement, wherein Birmingham and Selma were in the forefront, as inspiration for resistance and expression. “The Selma Bridge Crossing was a defining historical moment for many of us in Salvador, Bahia as we began to develop our own civil rights discourse,” says Badaró.

“Samba in the Streets offers an opportunity to develop and foster firsthand experiences with arts expression that articulate and explore the historical and cultural significance of the blocos afro to people in African-American communities in the United States.  Participants will learn dance, song and rhythms from Bahia’s Black Consciousness Movement, which was inspired by the U.S. Civil Rights and Black Arts/Black Power Movements,” says Yudin. “Samba in the Streets Alabama links and engages two distinct African diaspora audiences whose history and culture can be directly traced to west and southwest Africa,” she adds.

Public school students in Birmingham and throughout Lowndes County will experience Viver Brasil’s signature educational arts performance, Cooking Samba. Student audiences gain firsthand experience with professionally performed works that are grounded in and inspired by Bahia’s social history. After witnessing Viver Brasil’s performance of complex dance and music rhythms, the young audience will be invited to do the movement, rhythms and music.

Viver Brasil creates a stronger humanity through bold, soulful, and thought-provoking Afro-Brazilian dance theater, exploring contemporary social/cultural themes of race, gender, and social equity. Its company of dancers and musicians give form to the beautiful and mythic stories of Afro-Brazilian culture through dance, music vocabulary, and repertoire that is grounded in Afro-Brazilian dance and music forms (orixas, samba, dança afro, bloco afro). Viver Brasil has produced nine premieres since 2003, tours nationally and internationally, and continues to perform on Los Angeles’ biggest stages, including the Hollywood Bowl, The Music Center and at the Ford Theatres.  Viver Brasil has created a living bridge for social and artistic exchange between Los Angeles and its sister city, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, for the past three decades.

Samba in the Streets is supported by Engaging Dance Audiences and administered by Dance/USA and made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Samba in the Streets Alabama is also supported by the Alabama Council on the Arts. Samba in the Streets Los Angeles, in partnership with KAOS Network, receives support from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Artists Activating Communities Grant from the California Arts Council.

Samba in the Streets Alabama Itinerary

Monday, March 5

Cooking Samba in Lowndes County public schools.

Tuesday, March 6

Cooking Samba in Lowndes County public schools.

For more information, the public may call 205-563-2969.

Viver Brasil Press Contact:

Allison Van Etten, 323-449-5030, allison@ravenscroftpr.com.

Birmingham Contact:

Dr. Joan Burroughs, 205-914-5459,  jhburroughs@aol.com.