Special to the Record
When you experience an Aché Brasil performance, you get much more than music and dancing.
You get the rich culture of the fifth-largest country on Earth.
Of Austrian descent and born in Texas, Aché Brasil cast member Daniel Zilsel nonetheless became enamoured with Brazil’s colourful heritage years ago.
Physically active all his life, Zilsel was attracted to the practice of capoeira, Brazil’s unique and world-famous blend of dance and martial art.
The jaw-dropping display of acrobatics, breath-taking kicks and lethal self-defence moves are accompanied by the distinctive hollow, twangy rhythm of the berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument.
“I love the berimbau,” says Zilsel in a telephone interview.
The capoeirista, percussionist and dancer will be part of a six-member Aché Brasil performance March 17 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay.
After beginning his studies in 2007 at the Aché Brasil Capoeira Academy in 2007, Zilsel was invited to be a performer.
Now described as charismatic onstage and a superb acrobat, Zilsel was helped down this path by studying capoeira, Afro-Brazilian dances and Brazilian percussion in South America.
“I’ve been to Brazil three times,” he says, adding that he can now speak Portuguese well.
He says capoeira creates “kind of a dialogue between people. There is a way of playing, which is just very free and it’s very representative of a Brazilian (model).”
Capoeira is an important component of Ache Brasil’s performance if only because troupe founder Mestre Eclilson de Jesus is a capoeira master.
As Zilsel notes, however, “It’s only one part of the show that we’re doing.”
Equally music, dance and spectacle, an Aché Brasil performance represents the culture, traditions, beliefs and music of the Brazilian people.
Capoeira and other elements of the country’s traditions were not always all fun and games. As Zilsel explains, one of the dances evolved from the repetitive movements of workers in the sugarcane fields. Another came from the technique of breaking tiny coconuts open to extract their oil.
“Actually, a lot of the culture that we share has its origins and its history in Afro-Brazilian culture. And it has its origins in the slave trade.
“As a way to make the pain of working a little bit less, people would sing and dance as a way to pass the time more efficiently and it eventually became hallmarks of the culture.”
Aché is a Yoruba word meaning positive energy and an Aché Brasil performance is dazzling, energetic and uplifting.
“The musicality is a lot of fun,” Zilsel adds about the nation’s culture. “There’s a playfulness; there’s a lot of word play – they’re very verbal, a lot of jokes.”
The troupe has played to enthusiastic audiences and critical acclaim all over North America, receiving a recent nomination for Live Performers of the Year at the West Coast Music Awards.
It’s performed in thousands of festivals, theatres and special events, including 19 shows for the 2010 Olympic Games Celebration; jazz and folk festivals and many international children’s festivals as well as many TV programs.
Aché Brasil has also performed in more than 5,000 elementary and secondary schools.
Rave reviews have followed:
“Vancouver-based Aché Brasil opened its production before a packed house in Toronto and the engaging … troupe had the kiddie set eating out of its hands … High kung fu-type kicks and fierce lunges are interspersed with hand and head stands of amazing endurance.” Paula Citron, Globe and Mail.
“Brazilian acrobat Eclilson de Jesus took his body-space perception to the limit, twirling spears and kicking his feet within inches of front-row viewers, physically portraying how enslaved people used to practice martial arts in the fields, unbeknownst to their masters.” Kevin Dunn, Georgia Straight.
Aché Brasil’s Comox Valley performance will feature a highly visual six-person drum and dance ensemble presenting Brazilian percussion rhythms, singers and a combination
of acrobatics, martial arts, capoeira and traditional Afro-Brazilian dances with dazzling costumes.
Aché Brasil performs March 17 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay. The 2017-2018 Blue Circle Series is proudly presented by Acheson Law. For concert details and tickets, visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit 442 Cliffe Ave.