When the curtain rose on the Bale Folclorico da Bahia at the Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley last night, the sparse crowd applauded politely. Sandra and I were amazed that so few people had shown up.

Two intermission-less hours later, the oh so cool Berkeleyites were out of their seats dancing in the aisles. You weren’t a living, breathing human being if you weren’t.

Video (Click to watch, right-click and “Save as” to save to your computer and watch from there.)

The Bahianos bounced like they had shock transplants in their feet and double duty joints in their hips. Male capoeiros twirled in counter directions, their feet slicing through the air, clearing, just barely, their “opponent’s” heads, faster and faster to the frenzied beat of oundum drums, until together they were spinning human tops. I said to myself in my typical positive manner,” One false move and…”

It was the beginning of the final act when I first thought I spotted a woman’s bare breast. I blinked but it was still there, only suddenly there were two, four, six, eight… I imagined that every man in the audience was thinking at that moment, “Wow, bonus! And to think I almost didn’t come to this tonight!”

It was hard to imagine at that moment that this perfomance was taking place in a country where the accidental baring of one of Janet Jackson’s mammaries almost a year ago still makes the evening news. I actually found myself wondering if the Brazilian troupe would be allowed to perform again the following evening. The middle-aged ushers were so into the spectacle that they forgot about their main jobs, which after seating people, were supposedly keeping audience members from using their cameras. Towards the end of the show, anyone who wanted to was shooting photos.

There was nothing overtly nor covertly sexual about the performance. It was Las Vegas Brazilian Can-Can style with rubber band bodies and bare breasts. (Did I mention those already?)

“I’ve never seen anything so uninhibited in my life,” Sandra exclaimed.

Sandra, by the way, was the second one in the audience to stand up and samba in the aisles.

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