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Grupo Corpo

October 27, 2012
Sem Mim

Sem Mim

Ímã (Magnet) and Sem Mim (Without me)

Reviewed October 26, 2012

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performance October 27, 8 p.m.)

I have never been disappointed by this Brazilian troupe and the choreography Rodrigo Pederneiras stamps on the company’s 21 dancers is a distinctive work of creation not to be missed.

Grupo Corpo dancers are rigorously trained in classical dance as well as popular Brazilian movement, such as capoeira, a system emphasizing leg and foot movements that originated among Brazilian slaves, and the samba of the Rio de Janeiro dance halls rooted in complex African folk dance. Take the choreographer’s fascinating translations of these dance forms and fuse them with the musical and creative vision of his brother Paulo, who founded Grupo Corpo in 1975 and directs and designs for the company today, and you have one of the most unusual dance troupes on the planet.

The opening work of the evening, Ímã, which means magnet, was created in 2009 by Rodrigo Pederneiras. It begins with seven couples shuffling horizontally across the stage, stuck together like strange insects with uncountable numbers of limbs twisting and jerking this way and that. The sense the dancers have a deep comprehension of Pederneiras’s vision is unmistakable. They are like the ink flowing from the creator’s pen before it appears on the paper. They are a troupe that move as one. The dancers are telepathically connected, pushed into harmonious rhythm by the energizing, innovative soundtrack composed by + 2, a trio of musicians who fuse guitar, strings, percussion and synthetic tones in an appealing melody that is at times bucolic, at times explosive, at times dissonant, always insistent.

Vibrant colours brush the backdrop and side panels of the simple set, all designed by Paulo Pederneiras, infiltrating the dance, blending in with, complementing or setting apart the dancers, who are dressed in tight dark jeans and bold coloured T-shirts that change colour with mood.

Lighting, music, costume and movement all form an integrated whole.

The flexibility, strength, musicality and rhythm of the dancers, especially as a group, is mesmerizing. Their signature limberness, hip swinging and jazzy African feet mark this work as well as the second, more recent work, Sem Mim (Without me).

A more sombre work that premiered last year, Sem Mim opens with a silver net curtain ballooning over the stage, which gradually pulls up as dancers in tattooed flesh-coloured form-fitting costumes enter the stage in a continually ebbing and flowing movement. The stage is dim, the backdrop black, and an ominous glow deals an other-worldly surreality over the dance. With a constant rolling motion, the dancers form a thrusting and receding wave. Their gorgeous costumes, designed by Freusa Zechmeister, are inked with textures and inscriptions based on ornamentation of the Middle Ages. The dancers become symbols, individual works of art really.

And they are driven by the enchanting original score of Carlos Núñez and José Miguel Wisnik, who base their composition on Galician-Portuguese secular songs dating back to the 13th century. With the shimmering net cloud hovering above the stage and the wind-infused accompaniment, there is a distinct maritime flavour to the rolling movement that defines this piece.

At one point, the glimmering net folds down onto the stage enfolding a couple in a magical see-through tent, within which they perform a balletic duet.

The full troupe participates in both works. While their individuality shines through, these dancers work best as a whole. Grupo Corpo is dance at its best.

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From → Contemporary

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