Coffee With Paulo and Carmen : A Slice of Life With Grupo Corpo

Groupo Corpo is a contemporary dance company forged in the cultural melting pot of Brazil; its traditions, cultures and passions call out through the music and movement of this celebrated company. Founded in 1975 by Paulo Pederneiras, and based in the city of Belo Horizonte, the company gives 80 performances all over the world.

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The dancers all come to the company with a strong technique; often the result of a background in classical dance training. Daily ballet classes are attended by all members of the company and this classical movement vocabulary is the rigid backbone of the dancers; their sissonnes, attitudes and their cambré back press lifts. Through choreography and workshop sessions this is manipulated and developed, movement is brought to the dancer’s hips, a focus is placed on the grounding of the work and the ethereal poise of their ballet technique transforms into a scintillating blend of grace, rhythm and athleticism; in short it becomes Brazil.

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Each dancer comes to the company with their own dance history which runs through their blood and is ingrained in their movement quality. Instead of forcing dance onto their bodies, house chorographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, gets to know the dancers natural movement style and uses these corporeal idiosyncrasies in his choreographic sessions.This is a company where the dancers are valued and respected, there is no first dancer and no hierarchy for the performers which creates a sense of family and a wonderful creative atmosphere. As a result many of the dancers stay with the company for the majority of their career, rehearsal director Carmen Purri’s role in Grupo Corpo has progressed through the performance element to the creative team behind the work.

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Just as rhythm is synonymous with Brazilian culture, musicality is at the heart of Grupo Corpo. It has been said, Choreographer Rodrigo has a unique connection with the music, audiences often comment on how the dance appears to be a moving music score, a statement reminiscent of the famous Balanchine quote ‘See the music, hear the dance’. Inevitbly new dancers are often intimidated upon entering the ranks of the company as the level of musicality is so high, it takes time to attune their ear to the standard required.

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With such strong musicality and high level technique inevitably comes a demanding rehearsal process. It is of great importance that the dancers display high levels of precision due to the fluidity of the movement. While this may seem a contradiction in terms the fear with elegant unbroken movement is that any one dancer, one arm movement, one toe out of time will make the performance seem messy. To ensure the choreography is not lost, precision is the key. Each rehearsal is recorded with every inaccuracy noted, by Carmen, the following day a one hour correction rehearsal is held to iron out issues.

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The two pieces that will be performed in the company’s UK tour this autumn, Sem Mim and Parabelo provoke two very different moods to the evening’s performance. The music of Sem Mim is based on a narrative poem set by the sea. The contrast between calm and fury, the longing and the ever-flowing waves are seen through the quality, motion and rhythm of the movement, and dynamics between the dancers. Parabelo takes its influence from North East Brazil, and the rural communities therein; rhythm, traditional instruments, chants and feet stamping make this make this high energy contemporary dance come alive with Brazil.

Grupo Corpo will be at The Lowry on Fri 17 and Sat 18 October.

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