PAP Curatorial Team Visits Brazil
July 25, 2011 • 5 minute read
From March 25 to April 1, 2011, NPN staff, Performing Americas Program (PAP) U.S. curatorial team, NPN Partners and members of La Red de Promotores Culturales de Latinoamerica y el Caribe (La RED) executive committee traveled to Brazil to see a dance showcase in São Paulo and the International Theater Festival in Curitiba. This trip, hosted by Celso Curi, the current La RED President, was supported in part by the Association of Arts Presenters (APAP) and the São Paulo State Department of Culture.
São Paulo, the team’s first destination, is a sprawling city of 11 million inhabitants, high-rises, high prices, traffic jams, smog, and crime. It is also the largest metropolis in Brazil and the heart of its financial, economic, commercial and cultural life with explosive energy, artistic creativity and relentless activity. Home to millions of immigrants, São Paulo is one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world, reflected in the mix of cuisines, theatres, opera and dance companies.
Founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1554, São Paulo remained dormant until the 19th century when the coffee commerce attracted financial interests and waves of immigrant workers. The city’s urban expansion at the cusp of the 20th century was not regulated by urban planning and today’s landscape is characterized by a rapid dynamic of construction and destruction resulting in a chaotic and eclectic mix of national heritage buildings and modern masterpieces by celebrated architects.
The team was lodged in the historic center of town, half a block from the famous Copan building by Oscar Niemeyer with a roof top café overlooking the city and the Italica building, the tallest in São Paulo and in walking distance from Praça de la Republica and the Municipal Theater, a jewel of baroque architecture. Despite the unforgiving heat and humidity, the presenters took in as much as the city as time permitted by the intense program curated by Celso Curi which offered an interesting and diverse overview of the current dance groups working in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The works ranged from young and upcoming solo hip hop artist Diego Granato who, with charm and humor, improvised pieces for indoor and outdoor spaces, choreographer Marcos Abranches who questions the idealization of the body in dance from his perspective as a person with a disability, and performer/visual artist Michel Groisman who creates dances for the objects he designs, to mid-career choreographers Marcia Milhazes who, in collaboration with visual artist Beatriz Milhazes, creates elegant pieces about Brazilian culture, to icon Angel Vianna who after dancing with Rudolf Nureyev, established a school in Mina Gerais which trained many of the choreographers and dancers on the Brazilian stage today.
As most of the showcases took place in the beautifully renovated cultural center of the State of São Paulo Department of Culture, located in the Jewish neighborhood next to La Luz, the team had the opportunity to visit this area which is undergoing major gentrification and urban transformation. Predominantly inhabited by poor, working class population living in illegally rented dilapidated and over-crowded apartments with shared bathrooms and kitchens, prostitutes, crack addicts and other creators of informal commerce, La Luz has been identified by the City as priority for a political program of urban renewal with the intention of transforming it into a “cultural neighborhood.” The first projects include the renovation or re-utilization of La Luz’ several historic buildings such as the Luz train station which was recently renovated to include the Portuguese Language Museum, the renovated Pinacoteca do Estado, and the partially reutilized, Júlio Prestes train station which includes the Sala São Paulo concert hall, home to the State Symphonic Orchestra. The first housing demolitions are under way, leaving gaping holes waiting for new construction.
In addition to showcases, the team attended full-length productions at various SESC facilities such as Pompeia, a converted factory designed by Italian architects Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi, and Pinheiros, an impressive facility inaugurated in 2004. This gave the team the opportunity to meet Danilo Santos de Miranda, the visionary SESC director, and understand the structure of this unique national non-profit organization which is the largest provider of social and cultural activities in Brazil.
Created in 1946 to “inspire fraternization and bring together mankind,” the Social Service of Commerce (SESC) is funded mainly by Brazilian commerce and service industries through a mandatory tax passed in 1946 which dictates that every company pay 1.5% of its total payroll into the SESC Fund. SESC. São Paulo alone has the highest annual operating budget of US$598 million, with 32 centers, the largest concentration in the country.
After three whirlwind days of meetings, showcases, full productions, museum visits and dinners, the U.S. and La RED teams left São Paulo for Curitiba accompanied by Celso Curi, our host. After a shaky arrival where the team was lead in a treasure hunt for an open restaurant, we were taken to a comfortable hotel to get ready for the opening of the Curitiba International Theater Festival. A Hollywood-style event organized in the spectacular setting of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the festival was inaugurated with speeches by the Ministry of Culture, the director of Itaú Bank, the main festival sponsor, the Mayor and the Festival Director, followed by an open air performance of Richard III directed by Gabriel Villela, a well known and respected director, followed by a party for a thousand guests with food, drinks and a dreamy atmosphere.
The following days the team attended the rehearsal of Debra Colker’s Tathyana, a new work commissioned by the festival and based on Evguêni Oniéguin, a novel in verses by Aleksandr Púchkin; Argentinian company Timbre Quatro’s Tercer Cuerpo, a work about loneliness and disfunctionality directed by Claudio Tolcachir with intelligence and wit; Newton Moreno’s The Book, a work about the process of going blind performed with great skill by Eduardo Moscovis, a well-known TV actor; and Cia Atores de Laura’s, Adultery directed by Daniel Herz and inspired by the universe of playwright Luigi Pirandello.
As the shows took place in spaces throughout the city, the team had the opportunity to visit different areas, its parks and museums. After the chaotic experience of São Paulo, the team landed in a oasis of tranquility. The antithesis of São Paulo, Curitiba is the Capital of the state of Paraná (state) with a population of almost two million people. Although it lacks the excitement and energy of São Paulo, according to The Reader’s Digest, it is the best place to live in Brazil. Unlike São Paulo’s uncontrolled urban expansion, pollution and administrative corruption, Curitiba is well organized, clean (in 2007, the city was placed third in a list of “15 Green Cities” in the world, according the U.S. magazine Grist, and is considered an international model of urban planning, transportation and environmental sustainability, boasting 554 sq ft of green space per inhabitant. Curitiba Master Plan was adopted in 1968 and designed by Jaime Lerner, who later became mayor. The plan suggested strict controls on urban sprawl, a reduction of traffic in the downtown area, preservation of Curitiba’s Historic Sector, and a convenient and affordable public transit system. Curitiba was recently recommended by UNESCO as a model for the reconstruction of the cities of Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded in 2001.
These two very different experiences made the trip an enriching experience. The grace, kindness and generosity of our hosts made it memorable.