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Originally published Friday, January 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

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Review: Grupo de Rua dancers hold nothing back

The nine young male dancers of Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão's Grupo de Rua hold nothing back in "H3," an hourlong piece at On the Boards in Seattle that has its roots in hip-hop moves, break dancing and good old-fashioned gymnastics.

Seattle Times arts writer

'H3'

Bruno Beltrão/Grupo de Rua perform 8 p.m. today-Sunday at On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle, $12-$24 (206-217-9888 or ontheboards.org).

The dancers' arms don't sweep. They swipe — as if they'd like to rip something open. Their lifts aren't lifts, but hurls — without much care for where the body being jettisoned lands. And their radiating sweat is an olfactory stage effect unto itself.

You can smell it right out in the audience.

The nine young male dancers of Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão's Grupo de Rua hold nothing back in "H3," an hourlong piece that has its roots in hip-hop moves, break dancing and good old-fashioned gymnastics.

Their action can seem more reckless than controlled at times — until it snaps into sudden unison. In structure, "H3" gets stuck at crescendo point for too long, even as it shows off just how much energy these guys can bring to their task.

Still, the whirling scuttles, glancing catches in midair, twinings and near collisions feel like a new kind of a movement vocabulary in the making. Beltrão also taps nicely into the idiosyncrasies of each of his performers — as if he'd taken his street-dance basics, put them through the blender, then custom-fit the sliced-and-diced results to each particular dancer's body-language DNA.

"H3" breaks down into half a dozen or so sections, with the opening sequence — performed to faint traffic sounds — much the quietest.

In a raw barren light, two casually dressed young men stare warily at the audience at length, before one eases into motion. He gradually works up to corkscrews of action and in-your-face antics around his still and skeptical companion ... who eventually launches into violent, bendy wrestlings with some inner demon of his own.

A third figure comes in, then a fourth and fifth, until all nine are onstage. The silence lapses. Deeper stage lights come on. An electronic score fills the room.

The action — insanely rapid, incredibly rough — kicks into hyperdrive.

It incorporates everything from trembles that prove contagious to "launches" of dancers into high-speed backwards-walking bouts. There are also head spins, one-armed handstands and angular "hangs," all elastically slung and flung together.

"H3" works as a study of pure male energy. It even has an intriguing bit of Eadweard Muybridge motion study about it. Where it falls short is in finding somewhere enticing to go after it's reached its third or fourth point of frenzy. Some of those repetitions — especially all that backward running — wind up diluting the effect.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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