Deception. Duplicity. Danger. By the end of Bale Folclorico da Bahia's show at the Orpheum Theatre Friday night, you will have experienced all that, and probably danced along with it. Lest the raucous rhythms and superb athletics of the dancers make you forget, Brazilian dance disciplines like capoeira and maculele did not have roots in dance. They were born out of war, kidnapping and slavery. But, like so many arts (in this century, think of the example of Holocaust literature), these dances testify to the strength of the human spirit to defy horror and desire joy.
Capoeira was a form of martial arts brought to the Western hemisphere by Angolan slaves who eventually disguised it as dance and performed it for their masters, forming a just, if circular, irony: They were able to practice and teach the art right under the boss's nose. Around the world today, dancers use the form to train their bodies in the sinewy, seamlessly flowing and lightning-swift acrobatics you will see on the Orpheum stage. The maculele, with its clacking sticks and flashing swords, is overtly militaristic, using formalized deployment of masses of dancers in groupings around the stage and intermittent pitting of combatants against each other.
What's it going to take to make you get up and dance? Maybe it will be the music -- five master percussionists working their berimbaus raw. Or Miralvo Couto's and Dora Santana's steamy singing. How about Janete Silva's exuberant solo in the finale's samba reggae? Reports are that last time Bale Folclorico came to town, it even had the cops dancing in the streets outside the theater. Wouldn't a conga line with Phoenix's Phinest be cool? I gotta be there for that. Just don't tell Sheriff Arpaio.