Wearing a full tattooed body suit intended to portray images of sea and waves, the dancers of Grupo Corpo; Brazil’s internationally renowned dance company, performed movements throughout their show of tribal ceremonies mixed with minimal Samba moves. Split into three “stories” the performance subtly mixed an unusual concoction of medieval sounds, Northeastern Brazilian music rhythms and modern ballet. The stories intended to portray a Brazil we have not seen or experienced before.
Groupo Corpo (literally meaning Body Group) is an incredibly talented group of dancers who enacted a choreography carefully designed by the Pederneiras brothers, who have built on local Brazilian cultures. The movements throughout the 2 hour performance however were quite repetitive, not enabling the dancers to demonstrate their full talents and break through to new dancing styles.
The first part, Sem Mim (without me) tells the story of the Sea of Vigo that carries friends and lovers away and brings them back, which consequently injects some life and emotion into the character. Rocking movements combined with whole-body turns communicated their feelings through the stage. Like waves the dancers flowed onto the stage, alone at times, and then moving in with a tribe-like crowd. Sadly though, there was little or no connection between each emotive movement and so it lacked some storytelling, leaving the viewer confused.
Sem Mim was accompanied by a musical score composed and recorded by Galician flutist Carlos Núñez and Brazilian Zé Miguel Wisnik. This was by far the most fascinating part of the performance. Influenced by a 13th century Galician songbook, the audience was musically catapulted back into the European medieval ages and experienced some beautiful troubadour, including a touch of old Brazilian gospel sounds.
The second part of the performance, Parabelo, almost continued the same movements, though the music style changed. This piece was heavily influenced by the Northeast of Brazil, including some elements of Forró; a traditional and regional dance characterised by the accordion and Pandeiro. Composed by Brazilian singer-songwriter Tom Zé and Zé Miguel Wisnik, the music often tried to stir the audience with discordant sounds of scratching sandpaper and washboard instruments. With such an inharmonious combination of fluid movements and jerking sounds it was often not clear to what purpose the sounds were chosen.
Unfortunately Grupo Corpo’s performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome missed a wow factor, an eclectic mixture of sounds and musical rhythms is left deflated by unexceptional dance variations. I will admit an element of bias that clouds my judgment because I usually don’t like inharmonic sounds. Perhaps for someone who does, such a performance might be more appealing. The choreography attempted to modify the clichés we hold of Brazil, however some traditional dance moves wouldn’t go amiss and would most likely enrich our learning experience more than anything.