Grupo Corpo returns to Park City with two new bodies of works
Back in 2009, the Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo took a Park City audience on a tour through traditional South American dance interwoven with a contemporary mindset.
The elements remain the same when the troupe returns for a performance at the Eccles Center on Saturday, but the focus has shifted.
Last year, Grupo Corpo, which translated means "Body Group," celebrated its 40th anniversary and its co-founder and choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras has put together an evening of two works that, much like the dance company’s mission, will pay homage to the past, while also looking forward to the future.
The works are "Suite Branca" ("White Suite") — a collaboration with former Grupo Corpo dancer Cassi Abranches — and "Dança Sinfonica" (Symphonic Dance"), Pederneiras said in an email interview with The Park Record.
"’Suite Branca’ is the first collaboration between Cassi Abranches with Grupo Corpo," Pederneiras said. "In our works both Cassi and I try to evoke feelings and emotions, from a gist. Cassi was a Grupo Corpo dancer for 12 years and she uses her experience as a basis for creating her own language. She played a lot with the gravity concept."
"Dance Sinfonica" celebrates the 40th anniversary of Grupo Corpo, Pederneiras said.
"The choreography is the expression of our story, with references to the choreographic universe and the people who participated in this course," he said. "The set is a giant panel of pictures, with more than 1,000 photos of our daily life. I’ve revisited our traditional movements and also inserted new ones.
"[Since] this was the program we selected to celebrate our 40th anniversary, it is very special to us," he said. "Therefore we choose to bring it to Park City!"
Pederneiras said Grupo Corpo’s four decades have been a long — and unexpected — adventure.
"We didn’t think about longevity when we founded the company, we were building it step by step. But today, we are very proud of it," he said. "The permanent collaboration between the direction, administration, the artistic director, the choreographer, dancers, lighting designer, scenic artist and costumes designer has grown ever closer and the new works have gained each time greater harmony and unity."
Grupo Corpo was originally established to fill a void in its local community, according to Pederneiras.
"Belo Horizonte is our hometown, and Grupo Corpo was founded as a family enterprise," he said. "We didn’t have there a professional contemporary dance company, and therefore we had to create a company to dance our own creations."
Throughout the past 40 years, Pederneiras has been able to separate the company’s biggest challenges into three phases.
"Our first phase was a narrative one, which was very important for us to learn," he said. "We had two works, ‘Maria Maria’ and ‘O Ultimo Trem,’ both choreographed by Oscar Arais, and produced by his Argentinian team.
"In the second phase, in early ’80s, I assume the role of resident choreographer and you can see a drastic change on the movements and the [dance vocabulary] I used," he said. "Until the beginning of ’90s we always created choreography with erudite music that, I may say, were neoclassical creations."
The third phase is the most important, according to Pederneiras.
"[It] was marked by the search of our Brazilian identity, the search for our own personal way," he said. "Corroborating with this idea, all of the soundtracks since 1992 were especially composed for our creations by Brazilian musicians, with exception of Philip Glass and Carlos Nuñez. So, the most important challenge [was to] create our own language, which today, is so well know as Grupo Corpo. Once you achieve recognition, the doors are opened easily to you, and that [becomes] an endless circular process."
Even before Pederneiras founded the Grupo Corpo, music and movement fascinated him.
"My world was always guided by music, and most of my knowledge came through Johann Sebastian Bach," he said. "Focusing on dance, the choreographer that really had a big influence on my work was the Argentinian Oscar Araiz. He was my first and great master."
When Pederneiras began choreographing his own works, he looked at how the dancing could impact the stage.
"Since my initial works, I began to create a spatial design, drawing imaginary lines from the entry and exit points of the dancers on the stage, testing my control over structures and movements," he said. "Classical ballet techniques are the basis of my work, but the idea was to mix it with movements from popular dances and parties, transforming and adapting it to contemporary dance and to bring this new form to the stage. I didn’t want to reproduce those movements but transform it into a new language."
Today, Pederneiras is ready for Grupo Corpo to take the next step.
"The whole idea of inviting Cassi was to refresh the company, to create new possibilities," he said. "I believe she will fulfill our expectations."
The Park City Institute will present Grupo Corpo at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. Grupo Corpo, which translated from Portuguese means Body Group, blends traditional Brazilian dance with modern Western styles. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and can be purchased by calling 435-655-3114 or visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org .
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