Grupo Corpo, LA

Written by:
Karen Weinstein
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Grupo Corpo

Artistic Director: Paulo Pederneiras
Choreographer: Rodrigo Pederneiras
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles Music Center
Jan. 28-30, 2011

Vibrant colors, synchrony beyond belief, dancers who defy gravity and whose bodies seem to lack the same rigidity generally found in mammals—all are present in Grupo Corpo, the dance troupe performing as part of the Glorya Kaufman Dance at the Music Center series. “Grupo Corpo” translated literally from the Portuguese means “body group.” It is an apt description of this Brazilian company, who move, for the most part, as if one.

Unlike many other contemporary companies, such as Diavolo Dance Theatre (seen recently in Santa Monica), Rodrigo Pederneiras’ choreography does not borrow heavily from the world of acrobatics, hip-hop, or martial arts. The sensual movements based on popular dance come from the streets of Brazil, not New York. The dancers are obviously well trained in classical technique, but Pederneiras’ dance vocabulary is unique. For example, in a pas de deux from “Ímã,” the first selection, it would be trite to say that the two dancers were as one. In the low light it was hard to see where Helbert Pimenta’s body stopped and Gabriela Junqueira’s began. She was wrapped around him, slid impossibly around appendages, and was draped over him more like a flaccid corpse or a human-sized Gumby than an actual body. The dancers are all so loose-limbed that their movements alone create a singular vocabulary of undulation. They are so light of foot they must be working with different gravity than the rest of us mortals. The only sounds made by the dancers were those that intentionally added to the music—but more about the music later.

Each of the evening’s two pieces, “Ímã” and “Parabelo,” opened with the dancers on the floor sliding, writhing, bobbing, hunching, bunching, propelling themselves in unity like a swarm of insects. Although there are attributions of meaning in the written program, they seem forced. Grupo Corpo is about the joy of perfectly tuned, inexhaustible bodies moving in virtually perfect harmony. The colorful costumes by Freusa Zechmeister and equally colorful lighting by Paulo Pederneiras complemented the vitality of the dancing and rendered the tacked-on meanings even less important. The emphasis is on working as a unit. Grupo Corpo has a one-for-all credo, and they are reluctant to identify individuals (making it extremely difficult to credit performers who shone in particular). But several performances stood out, even in this talented body.

There is so much positive to be said about the dancers and the company it hurts to interject notes of disappointment, but this is a critique so interject I must. What distinguishes their performance is the throbbing energy, technique, and discipline displayed with a casual flare. What drove some audience members crazy was the throbbing music and unrelenting beat. Although Grupo Corpo performed to more varied music elsewhere, presumably with more varied movement, the music by +2, and Tom Zé and Zé Miguel Wisnik, has driving rhythms that can become soporific despite the brilliance of the dancers.

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