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Interview with The Original Bomber Crew about tReta


An interview by Mariana Duarte in Publico Portugal about the performances of Original Bomber Crew taking place in early May at the Dias da Dança festival in Porto, before they travel to Utrecht. “The groundbreaking collective from the Grande Dirceu neighborhood in Teresina makes its debut in Portugal with the ‘performance invasion’ tReta, this Thursday at the Coliseu do Porto.”

In the street language of the periphery of Brazil, especially in the Northeast, “treta” means “trouble,” something that has gone wrong. Treta is the harassment by the police and the violence that is almost always around the corner; it’s the struggle between gangs and between neighbors; it’s the class prejudice of white middle/upper class Northeasterners against peripheral Northeasterners; it’s a “black, brown, poor, and Northeastern” Brazil where the wounds of colonization are still vividly red, especially in Piauí, where the Portuguese colonial enterprise was particularly devastating for the approximately two dozen indigenous ethnic groups that inhabited the area.

tReta is also the name of the show that the breaking collective Original Bomber Crew brings to the DDD Festival Dias da Dança, this Thursday at 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm at the Coliseu do Porto, in a co-production with the SPRING Performing Arts Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands.

“Bullshit is a word that has been in our consciousness and in our daily lives since we were children,” says Allexandre Bomber, director of tReta and co-founder of the Original Bomber Crew, born and residing in Teresina, capital of the state of Piauí, specifically in the Grande Dirceu neighborhood, “a very artistically active periphery,” to PÚBLICO.

“When we went to Casa do Hip Hop, the largest of its kind in Piauí, there was a conflict with a former police officer who wanted to take over the house to do something else. We were in charge of coordinating the space and there was some bullshit going on,” explains Allexandre. This is how tReta originated, linked to “personal, neighborhood, and global geopolitical bullshit.”

“The show emerged from the need to bring out what we were experiencing, because the media do not attach much value to certain urban cultures,” notes the director of the show. “We made this work to talk about the place of this mess and the difficulties that young artists from the periphery face.”

Created and performed by seven members of the collective (Allexandre Bomber, César Costa, Javé Montuchô, Malcom Jefferson, Maurício Pokemon, Phillip Marinho, Vini Nei), tReta draws from hip-hop culture, particularly the breakdance style, to show “a small part of the reality” of the daily lives of these artists through actions and choreographic frictions spread throughout the space, according to Malcom Jefferson, one of the youngest members of the group, who also works with street art. “The show brings the darkness of the street, which is unlit and bumpy. It brings that danger, but that danger is where we live. It’s part of our lives,” says Allexandre Bomber.

The original music for the performance, composed by César Costa and Javé Montuchô, brings part of this atmosphere to the stage. It is a collage of sounds from daily life in the neighborhood, from the collective’s meetings, police sirens, “inappropriate searches,” and voices from evangelical churches, “very present in the city.” It is “a very organic work, which serves more to confuse than to help, but which, dramaturgically, is part of our dance creations,” explains César Costa, one of the other founders of the Original Bomber Crew.

The musical composition matches tReta’s “broken dance,” a “methodology of experiment and creation” developed by the collective. It is a choreography with a burning floor, circulating through the space in interaction between the cast and/or the audience, using objects that are part of the neighborhood’s experiences, such as disposable materials “or things considered as waste.” The group “gives these objects a new meaning and function,” notes César.

“Broken dance comes from our reality. It’s about deconstructing what is considered correct, the perfect body,” adds Allexandre Bomber. In this process, the language of breaking (which will make its debut at the Olympic Games in Paris this year) is reconfigured, César notes. “It’s also an idea to break the audience’s expectations. It’s a dance that you think is going in one direction, but it’s not,” emphasizes Allexandre. At DDD, it’s the first time the collective is performing on a more conventional stage. “We usually perform in places that are bombed out, in former orphanages that are now artistic venues, but at the Colosseum, we’ll try to do everything to break it anyway.”

Historical Recovery?

Allexandre and César, connected to hip-hop culture and capoeira since they were 15, founded the Original Bomber Crew in 2005 as part of the Interação Ralé community, a volunteer project for artists from the periphery with classes and activities in breaking, DJing, and graffiti. In 2006, the group received a boost thanks to Núcleo do Dirceu, an artists’ collective and platform for research in the performing arts founded by Marcelo Evelin, a well-known name in Brazilian contemporary dance, originally from Teresina.

“Marcelo Evelin had a very good idea, which was to recognize the artistic groups in the outskirts of Teresina,” says César Costa. At that moment, the Original Bomber Crew began to collaborate with the city theater and with creators from different countries, from the Netherlands to Portugal. “Núcleo do Dirceu was a milestone in the art scene in Brazil, and Teresina became a center for contemporary art,” says César. A few years later, when the Núcleo ceased to exist, “several fruits” remained in Teresina, with young people starting to set up their own projects, including the Original Bomber Crew “as a pioneering reference.” It’s street culture as a means of literacy and empowerment, resistance, and perseverance.

The collaboration with Núcleo do Dirceu has allowed the collective to intersect street art – which, incidentally, is the true metabolism of culture made in Brazil – with “contemporary art experiences that don’t reach the periphery,” says César. “The Sesc [Brazil’s main institutional art network] in our city is totally different from other Sesc’s in the country.

The choices are not in favor of people from the periphery. It’s a space that is more made for white people from the center,” notes Allexandre. “Hip-hop culture is already very integrated because there is music, dance, and graffiti, but the fact that we are at Núcleo do Dirceu has brought a hybridity to our work, strengthening it with other means, and it has become a third thing, which is, for example, the work we bring here,” summarizes César.

The journey with Núcleo do Dirceu has also enabled the collective to perform internationally. With DDD, they are traveling to Portugal for the first time, the country that has marked Brazil’s colonial and slave history the most. The “performative invasion” they talk about in tReta inevitably takes on different meanings here.

“When you come to Europe, this invasion is very important,” Allexandre agrees. “We think about it because in my reality, nothing good has come from this invasion. Despite all the genocide, something good could have happened, but no: everything was used and left behind,” he notes. “Even to enter Portugal, I had to be searched three times without being polite, to say where I am staying, when I am coming back.” Despite “this messy parade that colonization was,” and all its “ailments” in the present, Malcom Jefferson points out, “it is incredible for everyone to be here.”

“Even though we have this historical side, we come with the greatest love and affection because it is important for the future we are building now,” says César Costa. “It’s about recognizing ourselves as a power, that we are here and can be anywhere on the planet.” At a time when reparations to former colonies are a hot topic in Portugal, tReta comes at exactly the right moment.


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