“Laudato si’” dance show brings rhythms of the favelas to St Peter's Square
By Joseph Tulloch
A group of dancers, artists and capoeira performers from Brazil is touring Europe with a show entitled “Laudato si’: The Space of Life on Earth”.
The group hails from Marcos Moura, one of Brazil’s roughest favelas, where crime and poverty abound.
They bring a message of hope, stressing the importance of “integral ecology”, a key Pope Francis concept emphasising the interconnectedness of environmental, economic and social issues.
Marianna Beltrami, who helped organise the group’s European tour, spoke to Vatican News about the trip.
The group’s story begins many years ago in a favela by the name of Marcos Moura, in the north-east of Brazil “It’s a place”, Beltrami stresses, “with exceptional levels of violence and difficulties.”
A group of nuns, the Sisters of Providence, set up a community centre, a place for young people to learn dance and drama, a place “to build community and to foster hope in a really, really, really difficult context.”
One of their alumni, Rodrigo Baima, went on to become a dance teacher himself. After the Covid-19 pandemic – Beltrami continues – which sent violence in the favelas through the roof, he began to ask himself “what can we do to bring hope and to bring life to this place again?”
His answer was to design a show entitled “Laudato si’: The Space of Life on Earth”, bringing together dancing, acting, and capoeira, together with traditions from Brazil’s indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.
Meeting with the Pope
There was a “flash of colour and joy” at this week’s General Audience, Beltrami says, as the Laudato si’ show put on a performance for the Pope.
They played the drums and danced throughout the Audience, and had a chance to meet with Pope Francis afterwards. Laughing, he asked them “Do you do you not get tired of jumping and dancing around?”, to which the dancers responded by shouting “No!”.
As the Pope made his way over to them, the performers sang the Rap da Felicidade, a well-known Brazilian song condemning violence in the favellas.
It was “extremely emotional”, Beltrami says.
“Like the World Cup”
She adds that these emotions were felt by the dancers’ friends and families back in Brazil.
“Everyone was calling us”, she says, “and they had set up a screen in the main square of the favela, and they followed the whole audience. And people were dancing, singing, celebrating – they said it felt like the World Cup.”
The opportunity to perform in St Peter’s Sqaure, Beltrami says, was “extremely special” for the dancers’ community back home.
“it's not just the lives of these kids that are that are performing here,” she stresses. “It's the whole community that helped them, that supported them, that created the costumes, that helped raise funds for them to buy a suitcase.”
When they go back, she says, “they're going to bring so many new ideas, so much hope for the whole community, not just for them as individuals.”
Amazonia: The Space of Life
Together with her mother, Lia, Beltrami is working on a film about the dance group, entitled “Amazonia: The Space of Life” and set to be released early in 2024.
It will follow its leader, Rodrigo Baima, detailing his artistic process, and his meetings with indigenous peoples who inspired parts of the show.