The Lions of Batucada Tenth Anniversary Show August, 2006

It wasn’t a performance to sit back and watch.

With a roar of percussive power, the Lions of Batucada, Portland’s Afro-Brazilian style drum and dance ensemble, celebrated its tenth anniversary with two Saturday shows at the Wonder Ballroom. The group’s 32-member bateria, or drum section, propelled its 11 costumed dancers into perpetual motion, and the spectacle of samba the sound, flash and movement of carnival street parades was everywhere at once.

Turn away for a moment, and something new suddenly appeared.

Look! Four women dressed in elaborate blue costumes have filled the stage while the percussion section was building a tight rhythm. Wearing gold high-heeled platform shoes, their circular headdresses rose above like the ruffled crests of exotic birds. Their leggings, armbands and skirts were studded with tusks and covered with patterned beads, dyed feathers and tall ostrich plumes.

Then the beat shifted, and four more dancers, dressed in short red skirts, joined the others, huge red hats fluffed around their heads like feathery fros. Hips swiveled, bare arms waved, and a lone male dancer appeared among them, leaping and twirling in sparkly green pants.

Stationed in a swaying group on the ballroom floor below the stage, the bateria powered the choreography with an array of beats. Sticks and hands struck drum skin in a blur. Batucada the percussion section in samba comes from a Portuguese word that means beating.

Wait! Now the dancers in blue are among the audience, shaking hips and moving headdresses with undulating shoulders. Dancing children surround each one, and the atmosphere is saturated with rhythm.

Thirty minutes after the opening fanfare, the first number came to a crashing finale, but the Lions barely paused. The next ensemble piece, a samba that begins with chanting before drums summon the dancers, rumbled to the beat of the bass surdo and tall timba drums that support the sharply syncopated snap of the lead.

A brief respite was provided by Grupo Capoeira, whose members performed the ritualized combat moves of this danced form of martial arts accompanied by a single-stringed berimbau and hand-clapping. And a song by Brazilians Jorge Alabe and Carlinhos Pandeiro de Oro (who played a child in the movie Black Orpheus) added variety, though its melody was also accompanied by the percussive roar that, all too soon, carried the Lions’ moving theater followed by its samba-ing crowd — down stairs and outdoors, where they brought the first show to a close on the sidewalk.

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