Nancy de Souza e Silva (AKA Dona Cici) was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dona Cici frequently visited Salvador, Bahia in the 1960s and permanently moved to Salvador in 1972, after her initiation into the Candomblé Temple of Ilê Axé Opo Aganju led by Babalorixá (Priest) Daniel Balbino. Even before her initiation into the Candomblé, Dona Cici was very interested in Brazil’s Black history and very concerned with the preservation of its historical and spiritual inheritance. Dona Cici is a sacred daughter of Obatalá, Oxum and Ewa, revered deities of the Yoruba tradition. She holds the title of Otun Iyá Ilê Fun [one who is responsible for the efun, the white powder of Obatalá], painting the sacred designs on new initiates of the Candomblé and also holds the responsibility to paint the participants who perform the axexe, funeral rites/ceremonies for those who have passed.
Dona Cici was introduced to Pierre Verger, the French photographer/ethnologist and adopted son of Bahia in the 1960s. She worked with Verger comparing over 11,000 of 62,000 Verger’s photos and matching hundreds of legends and stories with these photos from North and West Africa and Brazil. Dona Cici’s own work at the Pierre Verger Foundation revolves around the compilation and comparison of the stories, legends, prayers, dances, chants between the traditions of the Yoruba and the Fon and their development in Salvador, Bahia. In 2005, she traveled to Los Angeles to work with Viver Brasil Dance Company under an inter/arts grant from the NEA and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and performed with VB, her first ever stage performance. In 2008 Dona Cici returned to Los Angeles to participate in the World Festival of Sacred Music with Viver Brasil, conducted storytelling and dance workshops and lectures at UCLA, UC-Irvine, and Santa Monica College and in community dance workshops throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. In 2010 she performed with Viver Brasil at the premiere of Alaafia/Harmony at the Ford Amphitheatre and again in 2011 for the World Festival of Sacred Music’s Honoring the Sea, a collaboration between Viver Brasil, Swing Brasil, Capoeira Batuque. Dona Cici is one of the most sought after storytellers of Afro-Brazilian culture sharing her cultural knowledge for all who are interested in deepening their interest and knowledge of this extraordinarily rich tradition in Salvador, Bahia. Dona Cici has worked with numerous artists and researchers principally in the fields of music and dance as well as in the disciplines of religion, sociology and medicine.
José Ricardo Sousa
José Ricardo Sousa (guest musical director / composer) is the musical director, composer, musician, and instructor of traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and music for Bahia’s celebrated company, the Balé Folclórico da Bahia. José Ricardo initiated his arts career in percussion and dance under the tutelage of Mestre King at the SESC Dance Group in 1985. José Ricardo has extensive touring and teaching experience in Brazil, Europe, and in more than 120 cities in the United States, Australia, Malaysia, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Canada and Benin. In the winter and spring of 2007, he toured nationally as Viver Brasil’s guest musical director and returned to compose and to perform with Viver Brasil in the fall of 2007, summer of 2008, travelled to Mexico with the company in 2009 and composed and performed with VB in 2010. Along with Luiz Badaró and Mario Pallais, José Ricardo received the prestigious Lester Horton award for excellence in music for dance in 2009. José Ricardo has conducted percussion and dance workshops with Viver Brasil’s Bahia Travel Program since 1997. In the summer of 2012, he was a guest instructor at California Brazil Camp in Northern California. José Ricardo is one of Bahia's most sought after master instructors of traditional Afro-Brazilian music and dance.
Nildinha Fonseca (guest dancer), from Salvador, Bahia holds the title of soloist with Brazil’s premier regional dance company, the Balé Folclórico da Bahia. She is responsible for training the company in modern dance techniques, Afro-Brazilian traditional and contemporary dance as well as conducting master classes when the company tours. She began her dance training at the well known, SESC School of Dance and Music under the tutelage of Raimundo B. dos Santos, aka Mestre King. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in Dance from the Federal University of Bahia, has a certificate in the Silvestre technique, studied ballet with José Carlos Arandiba, aka Zebrinha, studied African dance with Chuck Davis and Germaine Acogny and modern dance with Judith Jamison. Nildinha has extensive touring experience performing in Brazil, throughout Europe, and in over 120 cities in the United States, Australia, Mexico and Canada. She has been a guest instructor at California Brazil Camp in Northern California and taught in Viver Brasil’s Bahia Travel program. She has performed as a guest artist with Viver Brasil since 2009.
Rosangela Silvestre (guest choreographer) is internationally renowned for her demanding dance training, the “Silvestre Technique and Symbols in Motion Process.” She has rigorously researched dance and music in India, Egypt and Cuba as part of her ever-evolving and eclectic movement palette. A graduate of the Federal University of Bahia, she has studied and helped to evolve an “Afro-Brazilian” dance with Mestre King, Clyde Morgan and Mercedes Baptista beginning in the late 1970s. She has initial training in classical Ballet as well as Modern dance in the Horton and Graham techniques. In the 1990s, Silvestre toured extensively with jazz musician Steve Coleman and his group the Five Elements. She has set choreography on Brazil’s lauded company, Balé Folclórico da Bahia, as well as Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico Repertory Company, American Academy of Ballet, Roots of Brazil, DanceBrazil, Viver Brasil, Muntu Dance Theater, and the Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble. Silvestre is based in Salvador, Bahia and the U.S. and conducts dance training programs in the Silvestre Technique and Symbols in Motion Process throughout the US, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Africa, Canada and Europe.
Vera Passos (guest dancer) is considered one of Salvador, Bahia’s most elegant and eloquent contemporary Afro-Brazilian dancers. The Los Angeles Times recently called Vera “... exotic, strong but sylph-like.” Her extensive technique seamlessly encompasses modern dance, classical ballet, dança afro, jazz, and traditional Afro-Brazilian. Vera has danced for Jorge Silva Dance Company and the acclaimed Balé Folclórico da Bahia touring throughout Brazil, Europe, Asia, the US and South America. Vera began her dance training at the age of fourteen at the State of Bahia’s Escola de Dança. In 1992, Vera began training in the Silvestre Technique with Rosangela Silvestre and soon became Rosangela’s protégé. Vera has taught the technique since 2002 in Salvador, São Paulo, Argentina and the US. Vera performed with the eclectic American musician Steve Coleman throughout Europe in 2002 and 2003. She also choreographs for Tocandomblé and danced in the opera Lidia de Oxum, choreographed by Carlos Moraes. In 2010, Vera participated in the first annual Viver Brasil Institute in Los Angeles. She has been a guest artist with Viver Brasil since 2010.