Grupo Corpo interpret Brazilian rhythms at Harbourfront’s World Stage Festival.
SEM MIM & IMA by Grupo Corpo, presented as part of the World Stage Festival, at the Fleck Theatre (207 Queens Quay West, Harbourfront Centre). Opens February 19 and runs to February 23. Tuesday - Saturday 8 pm. $15-$50. 416-973-4000. harbourfrontcentre.com. See listings.
When the Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo lands in Toronto next week, they'll be bringing the heat. Hot, athletic, sexy: these descriptors are regularly applied to this 22-member company that fuses classical technique with the hip-swaying moves of Brazilian popular dances like the samba.
As part of the World Stage Festival, the group brings two new works by resident choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, a former company dancer whose artistic director brother Paulo founded Grupo Corpo in 1975.
Speaking long-distance from the company's home base of Belo Horizonte in the south of Brazil, Pederneiras explains that the troupe's schedule is so insanely busy - the company tours internationally six or seven months of the year - that he can only create a new work for Grupo Corpo every two years.
"I can only make something new when we are all here in Belo Horizonte," he says, "never when we are on the road. It's too difficult."
Pederneiras's methodology is unusual. He always works with a composer first, commissioning a score that's pretty much finished by the time he gets into the studio to plan the physical aspects of a new dance piece.
"The movement is the last thing I think about," he points out. "By the time I start working with the dancers, the music is already fully part of the creation."
Pederneiras is proud of the fact that all of Grupo Corpo's commissioned composers (with the sole exception of Philip Glass) come from the vast galaxy of Brazilian musical stars - from Milton Nascimento to Lenine, Carlos Núñez and José Miguel Wisnik, who worked on Sem Mim (Without Me).
That part of the World Stage double bill is based on the lyrics of a Galician song cycle from the 13th century. Says Pederneiras, "The songs are all about a woman crying by the sea because her lover has been taken. She hopes the sea will either bring him back or bring a new lover."
Sounds melancholy, but Pederneiras says the piece is more introspective than sad.
Sharing the program is Imã ("magnet"), with music by the Rio free jazz collective the +2s (Moreno, Domenico, Kassin).
"It's a very simple piece based on the idea of attraction and repulsion," Pederneiras explains. "Here the score is very strong and energetic," driving the cheerful push-pull dynamism of the dance.
Though conceptually and musically worlds apart, both works embody Grupo Corpo's unique approach to integrating miscellaneous source materials, mixing elements from the diverse legacy of Brazilian popular culture with Pederneiras's own interest and background in neoclassicism.
Even long-distance, his satisfaction is palpable, "I think we have been able to develop a new and different way to move", says Pederneiras, "even for Brazil."