By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Those who may have missed Carnival this year need not feel despondent. Plataforma restaurant in Leblon puts on a cabaret show that promises to recreate the festival magic every weekend. Located on Rua Adalberto Ferreira, Plataforma is one of the oldest and best established restaurants in Rio, renowned as much for its food as for its lively performances and regularly attracting an audience from all over the world.
Once the lights are dimmed, the curtains open on a troop of beautiful girls dancing and parading in bejeweled, sequined bikinis and feathered headdresses. In a box above the stage, two musicians provide the vocal percussion to accompany the samba beat. The colors of the Brazilian flag are constantly visible in the costumes worn by the dancers and in the set design.
Despite embodying the sparkle and glitz of a Las Vegas cabaret, the show has a distinct cultural undertone. Much of its performance has roots firmly planted in traditional Afro-Brazilian folklore. Brazil is home to the world’s largest African diaspora population, and the country’s culture and history is largely interwoven with that of its African heritage.
These representations appear particularly strong in the costumes worn by the dancers, such as the leopard skin tunics that are typical of the African God Oxossi. Originally from the folklore of the Yoruba tribe in what is now Nigeria, the God Oxossi is a hunter, a warrior, and a shaman healer. African traditions persisted among the West African and Angolan slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese, and Oxossi became closely linked to nature and the spirits of the rain forests in Brazil.
Further examples of the country’s rich cultural heritage are vividly apparent in the shows Capoeira routine, performed by a group of men wearing trousers resembling the Brazilian flag. Capoeira is a traditional art form which merges martial arts, sport and music that dates back to around the seventeenth century. African slaves practiced the martial art to music to disguise it as a harmless dance for their Portuguese overlords who forbade any form of combat training. In this way, Capoeira emerged as a symbol of Afro-Brazilian resistance to slavery and colonialism.
The male cast members are seen executing gymnastic and martial arts moves with impressive poise and craftsmanship to the powerful tempo of a beating drum. The audience is encouraged to interact with the dancers by clapping a rhythm to which they perform more daring stunts.
Throughout the show, waiters are available should guests wish to order drinks, and the Caipirinhas, though a little pricey, are particularly well made.
The performance is perhaps more suited to the city’s visiting population, as opposed to its long-term residents who have probably seen much of it before. That aside, the evening is a fun alternative to simply going for dinner and is certainly worth a look-in. Tickets for the show cost R$130 which starts at 10PM and lasts for two hours with a short interval in the middle.
Although there is no age restriction, the late finish may not be suitable for very young children. For more information about the performance and alternative shows at Plataforma visit the website: www.plataforma.com/novo/index.asp.