CRACKz is a tough one to write about. My immediate response to watching the show was one of awe. Bruno Beltrao promises to reinvent street dance and he delivers.

CRACKz © Bruno Beltrao
© Bruno Beltrao
Motifs that can only be described as wonderfully weird emanate from the work and the company cannot be faulted in their ability. However, CRACKz is one of those works about which your thoughts towards it change a day or two later. Given time to think, flaws in the piece begin to materialise and coincide with the innovative choreography Beltrao – and his Brazilian company Grupo de Rua – presents. Dancers selected random actions from the internet, which they copied and developed to create the piece, and it is this stimulus which establishes Beltrao's unique and remarkable movement vocabulary, but also what causes imperfections in the piece.

The distinctive movement arrives in the form of travelling sequences. The company travel with a rapidity that implies that they have been shot out of a cannon. Transferring weight between their feet and a hand, dancers move in peculiar half formed cartwheels, and scatter through the space like nocturnal creatures suddenly exposed to light. Similarly, the company hurtle through the space with an arm outstretched while they hold up the other at a right angle. Their sheer speed and agility likens the movement to the helicopter seeds that fall from maple trees mimicking the swift whirl of helicopter blades. The movement borders on the extraordinary, however there is something that is incredibly natural and organic residing within CRACKz.

CRACKz © Nika Kramer
© Nika Kramer

Apart from a small cage of light that illuminates the second section with warm hues of orange and pink, CRACKz is free from any elaborate components that could embellish the piece. Costume is rudimentary and the stage is bare without the use of props or elaborate set. The Sadler’s Wells stage is utilised in a way that I have never seen it used before. The wings and backdrop have been removed, making the space much bigger than usual. This also means that when members of Grupo de Rua are not dancing, they congregate visibly at the sides of the stage. With the simple lighting during the first section, this brings an informal quality to the piece, and makes it seem like a rehearsal as opposed to a performance. However, once the lighting develops in the second half, accompanied by a costume change, the work delves into darker territory.

Although the influence of the piece derives from the company copying twenty-eight video clips from the internet, the second section appears to have a different stimulus. As the stage darkens, so does the atmosphere. A reoccurring motif hints to the favelas of Brazil – a place that both Beltrao and the company identify with – as the dancers hold their arms up to resemble holding a shot gun. A menacing demeanour transpires from the dancers and the choreography and reflects the stigma surrounding Brazil’s infamous favelas. In comparison to the first section, a hostility pervades this portion of the performance, while a gentler aesthetic is still present elsewhere.

CRACKz © Tito Lacerda
© Tito Lacerda

Beltrao’s beauty lies in his duets. A noticeable change erupts from them and sets them apart from the speed of the first fragment and the intensity of the second. The company implement krump vocabulary (krumping is a style of street dance) and a tension that stiffens the bodies that participate in each duet. However, a tenderness accompanies the tautness. Not once do the dancers stray from each other, instead they lean on and support one another, portraying an interdependence. The reliance adds a soft quality even amidst the krump movement and establishes a relationship between the dancers.

However, the quality of the duets and the differing sections contribute to the flaws within the piece. Beltrao presents flashes of visually stunning choreography, but the correlation between them is missing. There isn’t a parallel between the first and second half of the piece. In retrospect, one seems akin to a rehearsal while the other is a full on performance. The second section with its slight narrative direction trumps the first half, however it is in the beginning that we see the distinctive style that sets the work apart from its street dance counterparts. Perhaps the choice of video clips – that were chosen ‘regardless of aesthetic value’ – alludes to the lack of cohesion. The only part where the inconsistency succeeds is when the company break out into freestyle at the end of the show. Each dancer’s unique way of moving thrills as head slides and windmills fill the stage. The lack of structure is the only aspect that tarnishes CRACKz. There is no doubt that Grupo de Rua excel as they produce a collection of movement that has never been seen before.