Brazil's 'Grupo Corpo' uses tight, clean, dance choreography

BY LYNN HASSELBARTH
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 1, 2002

The history of a dance company is often just as important as what it presents on stage and Brazil's "Grupo Corpo" is no exception. Founded as a family enterprise with a dream to create a definitive form of Brazilian dance, "Grupo Corpo" presents a diverse style of movement rooted in the history and culture of Brazil.

The power of this weekend's performance lies in the charisma and electric energy of the company's dancers. The 19-member group exhibits a high level of technical ability and matches it with theatrical drama. Grounded in rigorous ballet training, "Grupo Corpo" displays tight, clean choreography as well as brilliant athleticism. With such a strong core the company can execute full ensemble works where the dancers moves as one cohesive body. Translated from Portuguese, the company's name means literally "body group," a perfect description of the dancers' synchronized movement. With this strong foundation, the company is capable of the more fluid, uninhibited Brazilian style of dance. Audience members will see flirtatious jazz and Brazilian samba as well as loose and earthy African-dance. Lively musical rhythms complement swerving hips and shoulders, all of which will transform the Power Center into an electric Brazilian dance party.

The company will perform "O Corpo," a recent piece that presents the urban, more modern appeal of the company. Choreographed in 2000, this piece is set to an original score by Arnaldo Antunes. Since its official founding in 1975, "Grupo Corpo" has had increasing opportunities to perform to refreshingly original music commissioned from some of the most talented Brazilian composers. This piece will combine highly technical dance moves with a sharp and edgy, urban flair. Though this is a departure from some of the more traditional Brazilian styles that the company is famous for, this piece shows the versatility of its dancers and their incredible competence in manipulating the entire body.

The second piece, titled "21" brings the company back to its Brazilian roots of spirited social dance bursting with energy and vigor. The heat and passion of this culturally diverse nation is seen in a wholly original way. Music, lighting, scenery and movement coalesce in a way that transforms any venue into a lively Brazilian community. Costumes and scenery are layered with vibrant colors and patterns that compliment the intertwining movements on stage. Thus, "Grupo Corpo" expresses its Brazilian culture through collaboration of all artistic aspects. From lighting to set design, costumes to music and of course, the unparalleled talent of the company's choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, "Grupo Corpo" presents the full range of artistry.

Founded in 1975, "Grupo Corpo" emerged from a nationwide movement that dominated the 1970s, a movement that sought to establish a true Brazilian culture. Having suffered through colonial domination dating back to the 16th century, Brazil desperately sought to establish its own identity. Brother's Paulo and Rodrigo Pederneiras were swept away by an intense national pride and decided to open a dance school in their parents' home, in Belo Horizonte, located 300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. When the two brothers felt established enough to create a professional company, their two siblings joined the group, Mariam as a dancer and Pedro as stage manager. Paulo is now the group's artistic director while Rodrigo maintains his role as the company's resident choreographer. Friends and other family members were recruited to complete the company, giving Paulo and Rodrigo the necessary support needed to lead "Grupo Corpo" to international stardom. Such humble beginnings have now become a fully range dance center that houses a 200-seat theater, an art gallery and multiple studios to accommodate the school's 400 students.