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I will not soon forget Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker, the Brazilian group performing its original piece Dog Without Feathers at the Kennedy Center. Neither will you, but you’d better hurry: They finish their visit tomorrow.

A non-narrative piece that explores the power of — and mankind’s relationship to — The River, Dog Without Feathers stirs and stirs; the water stays muddy, don’t expect it to clear.

Combining extensive on-location, Amazon-y video footage with thundering music and occasional voiceover, the 70-minute performance, which was based on a poem by João Cabral de Melo Neto, invites the eye to wander as the performers contort, pound, and, a repeated motif, grapple and tumble in male-female pairings. The stage is largely bare, the costumes little more than dirty-looking body suits, but the production feels full — no ebb tide here.

The chorus of dancers is rendered all but anonymous in dusty face paint and silty stockings. The men all look like Tough Mudders, the women all look like Furiosa. Some dance as sugar-cane harvesters, others dance as cranes. In the opening, they pray for rain; in the closing, they burst out of confining favela huts done up as cages. I particularly enjoyed the group efforts required to make the cages themselves pirouette.

The score, which I’m not sure to whom to credit, is magnificent. Musical direction is from Jorge Dü Peixe and Berna Ceppas, “with special participation by Lirinha and Arto Lindsay.” … k. Company namesake Deborah Colker created, directed, and choreographed it all, but whence the music? Regardless, it’s a treat: percussion heavy, but still making time for strings and, at the end, a transcendent piano.

Dogs Without Feathers is dance without regret, even when things go wrong. At Thursday’s opening night, there was a problem with one of the flies and a quick-reacting dancer had to duck a dangling cable before it swung into her head. Yikes. Fitting, though: This one keeps you on your toes.

 

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