In Lavagem Alice Ripoll creates a ritual of joyous resistance using, in a transgressive way, the working tools of house cleaners. The act of cleaning, both literal and metaphorical, is performed by a group of Afro-Brazilians addressing political questions related to both race and class and questioning unseen exploitative labour, post-colonial realities and the failed promises of capitalism.
The movements and gestures are both surreal (a reference to Magritte’s The Lovers passes as a glimpse) and (dys)functional. The cleaning tools are used against their logic – the dancers literally eat the soap and put the buckets on their heads – in an attempt to destabilise the rigid social structure keeping people in dead-end streets. They use the buckets, cleaning rags, soap and water to transgress prescribed functions and create a cathartic space of intimacy, touch and connection. Half-naked, covered in foam, sliding on the polyester floor, the dancers switch between being subjects and objects for each other. The touch is somehow desexualised while the manipulation is done with utmost care – with the positions and shapes of their bodies they form holes, tunnels and slides, then push each other through them, landing softly on the slippery floor and following the inertia of the movement. In this process a collective body emerges that breathes, moves and cleans itself – while hiding and crawling under the polyester floor or tying the cleaning rags around the heads. Human bodies become slow-motion extra-terrestrial creatures, with massive noses spitting out foam and bubbles. Their actions are playful, innocent, and tender, while at the same time deeply political. Thus, literally, the stage becomes a testing ground for other possible ways of being together.
In mid-2021, American Affairs journal published an article titled The Brazilianization of the World which argued that the social structure and extreme inequality of Brazil is becoming the model for the rest of the world, replacing social-democratic Eurocentric models. Alice Rippoll shows us how community can be formed in the face of adversity and that Brazilian doesn’t only mean unequal.