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Grupo Corpo

By Victoria Looseleaf


Grupo Corpo
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Los Angeles, CA
January 28–30, 2011
Reviewed by Victoria Looseleaf

 

Grupo Corpo in Ímã. Photo by José Luiz Pederneiras, courtesy Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

 

There’s safety in numbers. And the Brazilian troupe, Grupo Corpo (literally, “Body Group”), with its 19 dancers, plays it fairly safe. Which isn’t to say the indefatigable company doesn’t show off with slews of slinky shimmies, six o’clock kicks, and sambaesque moves in its joyous, though limited, movement vocabulary. But in a program of two lengthy works, the repetition became wearing, something akin to a trance-inducing but bad minimalist score.


Founded in the town of Belo Horizonte 35 years ago by Paulo Pederneiras, who also doubles as set and lighting designer, the company counts Paulo’s brother, Rodrigo Pederneiras as its resident choreographer. And while the high-voltage, ballet-trained performers also make use of native Brazilian dance traditions, they are not served well by the mostly superficial choreography.


Parabelo (1997), set to a taped instrumental and vocal track by Tom Zé and José Miguel Wisnik—pop-tinged lounge lizard music with heavy rhythmic infusions—began with dancers crouching on the floor before transitioning into spooning couples. A kinetic tour de force, the shifting patterns of primevally undulating torsos, stamping feet, and full-body wobblings kept interest high.


Numerous entrances and exits punctuated both works (think Grand Central Station), and while the stage was often crowded, Parabelo also featured several small group numbers, including sensual, same-sex duets. The set, two rows of side panels, was beautifully lit, with the performers, finally showing some skin, in action painting mode. The feel, though retro and at times bordering on cartoonish, nevertheless resulted in ebullient fun.


Although choreographed in 2009, Ímã, with its drab unitards (all costumes designed by Freusa Zechmeister) and unrelentingly banal score, by the band +2|Moreno, Domenico, Kassin (shades of bluegrass fiddling, pan flute, and synthesized pap), made for a rather monotonous ride. Dizzying spins and effortless leaps could not compensate for long stretches of quasi yoga poses, neo-Gumby writhings, and the troupe’s signature unisons. Even the backdrops—five disembodied heads and then pictures from what looked like a family scrapbook—could not save this work. Beginning with an exciting Pilobolean shape-shifting tableau, Ímã soon plunged into tedium.


In spite of the buoyant atmosphere, there was no dancing in the aisles at this Brazilian showcase.

 

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