By Katia Moraes | Translation: Andrea Alves
Linda believes her orixá dolls dance during the night giving her energy while she sleeps. Each doll tells a different story about Bahia and keeps her passion of Brazil alive. The Co-Artistic-Director for Viver Brasil Dance Company (together with Luiz Badaró) was born in a Jewish family in Danville, Illinois and today lives in Los Angeles, California. She studied ballet, jazz and tap dance when she was a little girl and likes strong colors such as hot pink, red and golden yellow.
The first time Linda got in touch with the Brazilian culture was through an LP of MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) recorded by Israeli singers, during her visits to Israel between 1977 and 1981. A few years later, Linda read an article about the political importance of the Blocos Afro (Afro-Brazilian carnival groups) from Bahia. While studying at the University of Illinois, Linda watched a dance concert performed by the dance anthropologist Pearl Primus who was introducing African culture through dance. At that time Linda was studying Psychology and Dance, but after watching Primus’ show she understood that the discovery of another culture, the possibility of knowing the world and communicating with other people would be part of her life forever.
One day someone told Linda that her birthplace was a geographical error. She smiles when telling me this story and answers me quickly when I ask her what comes to her mind when I mention Brazil. “Orixá, the ocean, Salvador.”
Two years after she arrived in Los Angeles to study dance ethnology at UCLA, Linda had a life changing experience while taking in a course called Dance in Latin America with Susan Cashion. She also had the opportunity to see the show ‘Bahia Magia’ presented by Reni Flores and Rita da Silva in Irvine, California. In the same year Linda traveled to Salvador, Bahia and felt the warmth in Renni and Rita’s house. From that point on Linda started studying dance and learning from her Brazilian friends, teachers and family like Mestre King, Augusto Omolu, Rosangela Silvestre, Mãe Alice, Joselita Moreira Cruz da Silva, Luiz Badaró, etc. (so many names for such a small article).
Besides being the Co-Artistic-Director for Viver Brasil Dance Company, Linda is also a member of the dance faculty at Santa Monica College where she teaches Afro-Brazilian Dance. She was very proud when Viver Brasil was awarded a Lester Horton Dance Award 2000 for best achievement in a company performance in the non-western dance category. The Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the Durfee Foundation and the Los Angeles County Arts Comission have also recognized Viver Brasil.
Between 1993 and 1999 Linda Yudin was also the Co-Director of Cheremoya Escola de Samba (Cheremoya Samba School in Hollywood) with Lee Cobin. The group was formed with young dancers and musicians who were a part of this after school program. She is very proud of this group and its accomplishments.
Linda’s orixás are Oxum (river goddess/yellow) and Oxossi (hunter/green and blue) which explains her determination in getting what she wants, her faith in making things happen, her leadership capacity besides her adoration for beautiful things. Through Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion), Linda found that her native religion (Jewish) was also strongly bonded to nature. Today she understands that she can feel transformed through prayer and songs from the Jewish tradition as much as when she attends a Candomblé ceremony and witnesses the devotees manifesting the orixás.
Linda feels that she is an adoptive daughter of Brazil, both proud and challenged by embracing another culture. Communication is one of those challenges in friendships, love relationships, research, and in conducting business. The Brazilian and North American sensibilities are two completely different worlds. “We have to learn another value system, another way of the world, to understand Brazilians. I am finally learning to listen carefully to understand better. No matter how much I think I know or understand on a deep level, I have to remember that I am a foreigner even with all the love I have for the culture and its people.”
I am a foreigner even with all the love I have for the culture and its people.” Patience is also necessary when Linda brings groups of dance and music students to Brazil. After working for the Caribbean Music and Dance Program for three years, Linda decided to start her own educational tour with Viver Brasil. VBDMP offers two trips to Salvador, Bahia per year. One in July called ‘Woman To Woman’ in collaboration with the ‘DeAlmas Womens Group’ from New York.
The other trip is in August and is called ‘Bahia Folklorica, Roots of Brazilian Dance and Music.’ This two-week trip is perfect for people who want to deepen their knowledge about Brazilian culture through intensive study of dance and music. “One of my desires is to see people respecting another culture without comparing it with their own.”
Linda has visited many universities as a dance ethnologist and instructor including Florida A &M University, University of North Carolina (Charlotte), University of Cape Town (South Africa), Stanford University, University of California, Riverside Moopark College and UCLA.
This petite woman who is strong as a bull (she was born in May 3rd, Taurus) has been an individual artist grant recipient from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and serves on the board of directors of the Dance Resource Center of Greater Los Angeles. If she had just one option, Linda would bring a Gilberto Gil CD to a desert island. To eat, she would bring a cozido with pimenta (vegetable and meat stew and hot sauce). To read, she would bring ‘Mama Day’ by Gloria Naylor. To feed her inner child she would bring an orixá doll. And in her heart, the love and respect Luiz Badaró has for her.
Viver Brasil Dance Company was co-founded in 1997 by Linda Yudin and Luiz Badaró, and is an award-winning dance company firmly rooted in the traditional and contemporary forms and techniques of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The company specializes in bringing to life the beautiful and complex stories of the orixa, African sacred energies that are the engine of Afro-Brazilian culture, in addition to presenting jubilant samba, contemporary Afro-Brazilian dance, and carnival.