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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

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.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style