Dance: Brasil Brasileiro, Sadler's Wells, London
The Pharaoh's Daughter, Royal Opera House, London
The Golden Age, Coliseum, London

An excuse for bump'n'grind

T he sexiness of Brazilians dancing hardly needs to be remarked on, but what constantly surprises is how innocent they make it seem. They can do attitude, but attitude is a far smaller ingredient in the eroticism of a Brazilian dance than it is with tango, salsa or almost anything similar. In samba, lambada, forró - a role-call of dirty dancing - being hot is simply natural. With Brasil Brasileiro, a compendium of Brazilian dance and music at Sadler's Wells, the Argentine director Claudio Segovia tries to tell the story of how samba evolved. The word samba itself is perhaps a combination of two African expressions meaning "to communicate with the spirits" and "pelvic thrust" but, after a brief flirtation with seance - in the exquisite opening batuque, where white-turbanned women melt in the circle of their partners' arms - the show cleaves pretty closely to the bump'n'grind. Indeed, there is an awful lot of cleaving going on.

In one of his earlier shows, Tango Argentino, Segovia similarly told the story of how his native dance evolved, but this slightly scholastic method doesn't work as well here, partly because of the vast amounts of geography he must cover in addition to the history. Several of the dances and musical styles appear displaced. Capoeira, for instance, with its lightning roundhouse kicks, is exciting to watch and has obvious links to hip hop, which also appears, but seems out on a distant branch of samba's family tree.

The show also limps occasionally when Segovia tries to prove that samba can be melancholic. But whereas Buenos Aires has more psychiatrists per head of population than any city outside the United States, Rio probably has the fewest. Brazilians don't fetishize their misery so much, or mistake it for spiritual depth - melancholia is something you try to fit in between parties.

Elza Soares, the once nationally-reviled mistress of the legendary footballer Garrincha, and a kind of Brazilian Edith Piaf, has certainly known despair. With her leonine head, growling voice and intermittently distant eyes, she sounds like she is simultaneously channelling the spirits of Cleo Laine and Louis Armstrong. Nevertheless, when she sings, and Tereza Azevedo, Ivi Mesquita and Pamella Vidal join her, their bodies shuddering like cars starting up on Christmas morning, they vividly illustrate the old saying, that it takes 43 muscles to frown, but only a few - specifically, the glutes - to raise a smile.

There is a lot more to smile at - whether the kid-in-a-sweet-shop insatiability of the whip-thin Elaine Lúcia, working her way through five suitors in record time, or the irresistible lubricity of Marcelo Chocolate as the dapper Latin American rake and folk-hero, Malandro, with his dainty spatted feet and his grin like a flick-knife. (Marcelo Chocolate, Ivi Mesquita - you hardly need to see the show, when merely reading the cast-list is a sensual pleasure in its own right.) With three more singers alongside Soares, a large, brass- and percussion-heavy band and more than two dozen seriously uninhibited dancers, Brasil Brasileiro seduces even as it fails to instruct. Occasionally Sadler's Wells will rip out its stalls seating, and misses a trick by not doing so here. Brasil Brasileiro is an invitation as much as a performance - it feels unnatural to watch it sitting down.

At the Royal Opera House, the Bolshoi Ballet opened with its own brand of rabble-rousing. The Pharaoh's Daughter is a cheerfully deranged fantasy about an English explorer who, after taking a hit from an opium pipe, dreams that he is transported back in time and falls in love with an Egyptian princess. It was Marius Petipa's first big hit in St Petersburg in 1862, when it lasted 4 hours and needed a cast of 400. Neglected and eventually lost under the Soviets, it was remade in 2000 by the French choreographer and director Pierre Lacotte, who has kept little of the original except its Pugni score and its absurdity.

There is the personification of the River Nile, for example, like disco-Jehovah in his white beard and silver catsuit, as well as a lion and a cobra, each meant to be terrifying, that would have the most undiscriminating viewers of CBBC throwing their rusks at the telly in derision. And even among a cast trimmed to a mere 200, the production has more costume changes than London Fashion Week. It would take the genius of a born-again Petipa to navigate any meaningful choreography through that lot, and instead Lacotte usually settles for swapping solos and duets about in a prolonged game of anything-you-can-do, I-can-do-better. At least the Bolshoi is blessed in its choice of players, and one of the unexpected pleasures of opening night was seeing Svetlana Zakharova, the most consistently awe-inspiring ballerina of her generation, being upstaged with some regularity by Maria Alexandrova, as her slave.

This is not to say that Zakharova's princess was less than stunning. The physique of dancers is very different now, but in spirit she accomplishes what Lacotte does not: she takes Russian ballet back to its Imperial golden age, with dancing so assured that, however impossible the balance, or prolonged the lift, she somehow manages to make her partner look like an optional extra. All the more credit to Sergei Filin for holding his own, as the drugged-up lover, with such buoyant nonchalance.

As the Bolshoi arrived, the Mariinsky/Kirov bowed out from the Coliseum, with another lost-and-remade ballet, Shostakovich's football-based The Golden Age. It opened well, with tenderly mirrored steps for a reunited pair of ageing lovers and their younger, remembered selves. But as it wore on the choreographer, Noah D Gelber, ran out of ideas until at last there was nothing to watch but a projected photograph of Shostakovich, dwindling and fading like the close-down dot on an old-fashioned black-and-white television set. What began with a promise of champagne ended with the assurance of a tepid mug of cocoa.

'Brasil Brasileiro', Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0870 7377 737) to 20 Aug

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor