Margit Edwards is a dance scholar and former Viver Brasil Company member. She is in town to support our new members as they embark on a very large show, at the Hollywood Bowl. While she's here, we thought we'd have our consultant Dr. Anna B. Scott coax a few gems from Margit's beautiful mind. Here's what she had to say.
When did you join VB? How did it come about?
I joined VB in 1997. I was one of the founding members. Viver Brasil was evolving out of the Cheremoya Escola de Samba which was a youth group; they wanted an adult company. I had been taking Badaro’s community class for about a year. Before that, I took class from Abby Almeida and Ayanna Contreras. That was where I met Linda and Badaró. This was in 1995-96. But it was in Abby’s class that I really began to learn Afro Brazilian Dance. With Ayanna I was reconnecting with the Dunham technique I had learned as a kid. Then I was ready for Badaro’s class. I don’t remember the very first show I did with them, but I think it was a school show and the first Orixa I danced was Omolu.
How long were you with the company?
Well, I danced with the company from 1997-2003, then left for a year or so and became as rehearsal director and did some choreography from 2005-2008. Then I shifted being a board member from 2008-2012.
Before joining, where and with whom else had you danced?
I danced a bit in New York in the 1980’s with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Co. and with a few choreographers, but I let dance go to become an actress. Then I got married and moved to LA. Finding Afro Brazilian dance brought me back to dance.
Once inside of Viver Brasil, how did you transform as you learned more about the orixás? What are they to you?
Well that’s a huge question! I think the form and the content are inseparable…you can learn the steps but if you don’t know or understand the stories, the cosmic context, the history and then add your own special spice, then you’re not providing enough information for orixá to be fully realized in your performance. I think the first important early understanding I got was that when you are dancing the orixás on the stage, you are not performing ritual, you are performing a representation, and yet, the energies are there and they must be acknowledged.
What are some things that you now realize about AfroBrazilian dance that would change how you approach learning and performing it that only aging has provided you? How do those things reverberate across the rest of your life?
Hmm… I think I need to think about this a bit more…Aging is “interesting” on a personal level. Well one thing I can acknowledge now is the importance of the music, not just knowing what rhythms go with what, but the musicality of the movement and the physicality of the music, this is what has become more accessible to me. That they are an organic whole. The flick of the wrist or a glance of the eye is part of the music-dance-dance-music as much as the choreographies. There is more to say but I gotta mull a bit…
OK! Perhaps we’ll hear from you in your own blog entry, hint hint! So, what's one of the most hilarious memories you have of performing with VB?
One of my favorite moments was dancing at the Getty Museum and having to run through the gallery with 18th & 19th century romantic statuary changing from a Bahiana into a Samba Reggae dancer. A lot of stories have to do with costume changes or costume malfunctions!
What are you doing now and where?
I am now living in New York pursuing my doctorate in Theatre specializing in African Atlantic theatre and performance and Dance dramaturgy.
The company is headed back to the Hollywood Bowl after an almost 20 year hiatus. You were part of that original cast. What advice would you give the dancers headed into the Sergio Mendes show about performing at the Bowl?
Dance bigger than you’ve ever danced in your life. I mean BIG, so big that you will have literally expanded two inches in every bone! Big, give everything you’ve got, leave all on the stage. The rehearsal in the big empty theatre was more frightening than the Bowl full of people, once the people are there, it is much less intimidating.
Last thing, for now at least: so much of what VB does is about turning the audience into participants and sometimes collaborators. How has this impacted how you as a dance scholar think about dance making and community?
We are in a moment in which collective action is having a resurgence, bodies in the streets and all that represents, the violence and degradation; the creativity and the power. Bodies in the streets taking up space through literal, metaphorical, political, and spiritual means, is fundamental to the Samba Reggae/Bloco Afro tradition. It makes me think about the importance of power, of beautifully organized bodies expressing political action through the art form. And also that political and social activist organizers and artists need to work together. Artists are not the added entertainment to political action. They are political action.
Viver Brasil performs tonight with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Friday August 12 at 8:00 PM in AN OLYMPIC CARNIVAL: SERGIO MENDES & 50 YEARS OF BRASIL ‘66.
About Viver Brasil's Presentation in An Olympic Carnival
Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaró, Artistic Directors
era Passos, Choreographer
Rachel Hernandez, Rehearsal Director
Nagode Simpson, Dance Captain
Simon Carroll and Kahlil Music, Musical Directors
Exclusive fabric design, J. Cunha
Costume designers, Maria de Lourdes Silvestre dos Santos and Rosalba Gamma
Costume construction assistance, Angelica Flores
Paula Santos, Project Manager for fabric construction with Alberto Pitta
Dancers: Laila Abdullah, Adebola Afolabi, Anita Akhavan, Ashley Blanchard, Chandra
Chase, Samantha Goodman, Samad Raheem Guerra, Analecia Guthrie, Myeshia Hall,
Rachel Hernandez, Marina Magalhães, Julie Malinksy, Sarah Marsh, Laura McMillan,
Natali Micciche, Bianca Medina, Ajah Muhammad, Vera Passos, Nicolea Pettis, Joseph
Reynolds, Jade Schuster, Emeka Simmons, Nagode Simpson, Haniyyah Tahirah,
Rosalie Tucker, Jordyn Wheeler, Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, Rachael Wong
Musicians: Luiz Badaró, Simon Carroll, Kahlil Cummings, Bobby Easton, Bryant
Evangelista, Drew Love, Marco “Gibi” dos Santos, Fabio Santana de Souza
Singers: Katia Moraes and Kana Shimanuki