Grupo Corpo

"21" & "O Corpo"
Choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

Presented by DanseDanse
Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts
Montréal, Québec

November 14, 2002
By Lena Marie Stuart

Brazil's Grupo Corpo took the Montréal audience on a marvellous journey on Thursday night. It was a delicious excursion, travelling far, far away from the grey winter that has been slowly enveloping the city, winding its way down to the balmy climes south of the equator. Like warm ocean surf, Grupo Corpo's works wash over you in inviting waves. And judging from the suppleness and the close-to-180' extensions exhibited by many of Grupo Corpo's dancers, one has the feeling that if you're looking to join the company, only those with a solid ballet base need apply. The choreography is decidedly contemporary but it demands dancers that are ultra flexible and can really cover space – that includes the men and the women on both counts.

21 was the first work on the roster for the evening. Choreographed in 1992 by Rodrigo Pedereinas, it's a lively examination of mathematical patterns with a distinctly Brazilian flavour. It opens with sixteen dancers on stage, all in long sleeved yellow unitards with the women's hair twisted up into little Björkesque topknots. The dancers undulate and ripple along to a cheerful musical score marked by the bright notes of a xylophone. The endless repetition of syncopated phrases lulls you into thinking that the work is going to be technically simple in scope, but it's soon apparent that there is an significant amount of complexity. The dancers go from phrases of small confined gestures to large, expansive movements with speed and focus. I only noticed one tiny error, and the dancer seemed to realize it as she was doing it, holding a half a count to get back in sync with the group. This is the kind of work where your brain has to be working as hard as your body or you'll be in trouble in no time flat.

The partnering that happens in 21 is explosive. In catching their airborne partners, the dancers stretch the moment against the beat of the music, leaving you with the impression that the time spent aloft is a breath longer than what seems possible; it's particularly effective because so much of the previous choreography is performed in sync with the pulse of the score. Another instance of the many inventive displays of timing that occur in 21 comes to the forefront in a section that has a group of dancers in yellow moving from stage right to stage left with a single dancer in green moving against the flow in the opposite direction. When the lone dancer reaches her end point at the side of the stage, the group speeds up to double time moving in reverse to their initial positions. It's very clever; it's not only surprising but amusing as well.

The final section of 21 has the dancers clad in bright colours juxtaposed against a back panel of vibrantly painted quilting. When the dancers move full-out in this section, it's intoxicating. Though they are all extremely proficient and talented, no one stands out as the star – it's a jubilant celebration of ensemble work that takes precedence.

O Corpo was choreographed in 2000 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the company. The punchy opening sequence is punctuated by a pattern of flashing red lights on the back syc wall. The dancers are costumed in punky black leos with shirred shorts and tops that have stray threads, which bob and sway as heads jut and thrust sharply and torsos move in opposition to dynamic shifts of weight. The choreography is gymnastic at times, bouncing right along with Arnoldo Antunes' brilliant rhythmic score. A small dancer who has curled herself into a ball is manoeuvred across the stage by her partner who moves sideways like a crab, hoisting and thrusting his tiny cohort along with him. At one point the men, lying on the floor, shoot into the air by whipping their legs upward, suspending in diagonal handstands before retreating back to the ground.

O Corpo has some very mesmerizing segments. You find yourself being inextricably absorbed in the trancelike landscape of languid, fluid bodies. One section has three women moving upstage in tandem in a series of long, rippling movements that flow from side to side, back and forth across the stage. Watching this continually repeated sequence becomes an hypnotic experience. A square of light follows them from behind, expounding on the spellbinding effect. There is little else to do but be drawn in.

It's unfortunate that the ending doesn't have quite the same oomph as the beginning. Through no fault of the dancers, it loses a little of its choreographic power and seems to peter out. I would have liked to see a return of some of the spark that accompanied the beginning of the work, along with the red flashing lights.

Grupo Corpo is a charming company of energetic dancers. The works presented were pure movement without any heavy subtext, but they were certainly full of life. While light in subject matter, they do achieve a mandate of entertaining and captivating their audience. This show will most definitely be remembered as one of the hits of the season.


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Edited by Malcolm.

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