By Brianna Duggan
Behind the Neighborhood Theatre’s stage is a backdoor looking out over a gravel parking lot. At 8 o’clock this Saturday the door swung open and all of the night’s performers –samba dancers dressed in their feather headdresses and high heeled boots, capoeira dancers in all white, drums and berimbau in hand, and musicians with their guitars and pandeiro—they all passed through that door and into the cool night. About forty of them in all climbed down the metal stairs, wound around the perimeter and stopped at the front of the venue. The long line of people waiting to enter cheered the sight of such tropical presence in the middle of February.
Several initial drum beats and the parade erupted in a flurry of music and dance. Curious passers by stopped and watched as the performers entered through the front doors and slowly weaved their way through the crowd, inviting the audience to participate.
Standing beside the stage, I watched the audience as all this unfolded.
The Neighborhood Theatre is divided into two areas. In front of the stage is a dance floor lined with chairs and then there is a raised area that overlooks it. I saw the first spark of curiosity at the sudden music and I watched it as it spread through the audience. People looked at their friends, then looked around, trying to understand where the noise was coming from.
The parade first wound through the raised area, alongside the artisanal vendors, the Brazilian Bakery and Amor de Brasil Steakhouse. People smiled on, or tried out their newly learned samba moves (Thanks Movimentos de Samaba!), while they drank capirinhas and ate picanha.
Those who were seated in front of the stage near me smiled, but with a tinge of jealousy.
“I want them to come close to us!”
And they did. The crowd stood up and cheered as the parade wound, singing and dancing, down the aisles and to the dance floor where they formed a circle. The circle heaved for about five minutes, samba girls dancing through the middle, swapping places with their friends who would then take their place in the center. Capoieristas danced with musicians, Carolina Latin Dance moved beside Movimentos de Samba, Reinhaldo Brahn sang alongside Just Brazil.
The circle finally caved in and all forty artists blended into one mass that eventually slid past me and into the backstage. As the last of them passed through the curtain, Jonathan and Jucelia stepped on stage and announced,
“Welcome to a Night in Rio 2012!”
“Boa Vinda a Uma Noite Carioca”
And so the night began, our third sold out A Night in Rio event, an appropriately vibrant beginning for an equally exciting night.