Grupo Corpo returns to Vancouver

Photo by José Luiz Pederneiras

The Brazilian contemporary dance company Grupo Corpo will present two works at the Vancouver Playhouse on Feb. 28 and 29. Hosted by Dance House, this is the company’s second visit to Vancouver, following a ten year absence.

[Grupo Corpo has achieved a] reputation recognized around the world, because they truly do a very unique movement style inspired by Afro-Brazilian rhythms,” says Jim Smith, Dance House artistic and executive director. “The influence of samba and Brazilian rhythms can be seen in their bodies when they perform.” Viewers may expect movement not only from samba, but a mix of sophisticated ballet techniques, dance inspired by African rhythms, and the unique talent that Grupo Corpo has developed over decades of work.

40th anniversary

Grupo Corpo is a family dance company, led by the Pederneiras siblings, and has performed 39 productions since it was created by Paulo Pederneiras in 1975. The choreographer and artistic visionary is Rodrigo Pederneiras, with some of his siblings taking on different roles, such as lighting, programming and costumes, says Smith.

The presentation is divided in two parts: the first is called Dança Sinfônica and has been performed by the company since 2015, while the second part, Gira, is a more recent work. Dança Sinfônica is the company’s second work with orchestral accompaniment. The score combines the sonority of the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra with the distinctive sound of instrumental group Uatki.

Dança Sinfônica has an introspective approach to Grupo Corpo itself, as the piece was created to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary. The 42-minute work brings in reminders of the company’s history, including a mosaic background featuring more than 1000 pictures of people who were or still are part of the company, captured in spontaneous and genuine snaps. The images are not related to performances, but rather reveal everyday moments such as travel, classes, and rehearsals. The stage is surrounded by wine-red velvet curtains which frame the mosaic. The dancers wear tights the same rich colour as the curtains, giving a sophisticated air to the performance. The choreography also revisits images and movement from some of the company’s previous works.

Brazilian and African influences in a minimalist atmosphere

The second part of the program, Gira, is deeply influenced by Umbanda, one of the most widely practiced of the Afro-Brazilian religions, combining aspects of Catholicism, Spiritism and African traditions. The ceremonies of this religion happen in places called terreiros, and include percussion- based music and dance, that are mirrored in the piece. The music for Gira is performed by the São Paulo group Metá Metá, who play 11 songs with a variety of rhythms guiding each moment of the choreography. The scenery is minimalist, as are the costumes: dancers of both sexes have naked torsos and wear white skirts.

Even though the company is entirely composed of Brazilians, Grupo Corpo is a well known dance company around the world, and has performed in nearly 40 countries. Their work is universal.

“When you see it, you can relate to it and connect in a really meaningful and personal way. Their movement style and the music they perform, the living elements used into the work compound a great opportunity to be introduced to the different aspects of the work that Brazilians do”, says Smith.

As a result of the combination of all the elements of Dança Sinfônica and Gira, this set of performances from Grupo Corpo is an artistic event for Vancouver residents of all nationalities.

“The opportunity to get a little bit of a Brazilian sound and see the performance of Grupo Corpo is a wonderful way of spending a winter evening at the end of February,” says Smith.

While in Vancouver, the company will offer masterclasses on Feb. 27.

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