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Grupo Corpo

'Ima', 'Onqoto'

by David Mead

September 13, 2011 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

Colourful is certainly an apt description of Rodrigo Pederneiras’ “Ímã” that opened Brazilian company Grupo Corpo’s recent visit to London. With the dancers dressed in just about every hue imaginable, and an explosion of lighting that at various times had the stage bright green and the backdrop and flats purple among other combinations, it really was a sight to behold.

The dancing was top impressive too. “Ímã” opens with the dancers moving across the stage, initially on fours. The title translates as ‘magnet’, the work being inspired by the laws of magnetism whereby particles repel or attract one another. Sure enough, any attempts to move apart were met with a sharp jerk back together, just like magnets. At this point it’s all rather grey but the colour and Latin feel soon kicks in though, as we are treated to a feast of vibrant dance with the hips and pelvis to the fore. Particularly impressive were the incredibly fast footwork and great partnering during which the dancers quite fearlessly swung each other around and that also hinted of capoeira.

It was certainly thrilling and exuberant, and the precision and togetherness was quite outstanding, but the longer it went on, the longer one wanted a little respite, a taste of something different. Pederneiras has a rather limited movement vocabulary and solos, duets and whole company sections were all pretty indistinguishable save from the number of dancers on view.

Just how limited Pederneiras’ choreography is became apparent in the rather more serious “Onqotô”. The title refers to the first of a slangy series of existential questions in the dialect of Minas Gerais, the capital of which, Belo Horizonte, is the company’s base. The work is based on a score by Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik that combines songs, percussion, a phrase from a football commentary and other everyday sounds, and that raises a host of questions about man and the universe including big bang, the battle between the sexes and Brazilian football. How’s that for a range of subjects in one work?

“Onqotô” does offer some respite from Pederneiras’ high-octane approach, notably in a most moving duet for two men and a rather out of place solo that gives everyone a glimpse of male nudity. If anything the dance is even more aggressive than in “Ímã”, the highlight being a particularly steamy duet for two of the ladies, but in essence it is more of the same with the potentially powerful themes never really being developed. The best part was Paulo Pederneiras’ (the company is very much a family affair) superb designs that had the stage framed by a semi-circle of black ribbons of rubber that suggested the action was all taking place is a black void, and through which the dancers appeared and disappeared.

The choreography may be light but Grupo Corpo is fun, and there is plenty to be said for that. The energy of the dancers is unbelievable and the Sadler’s Wells audience responded accordingly.

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