February 10th, 2011 5:30 pm | by HEATHER WISNER Arts & Books | Posted In: Dance

Live Review: Grupo Corpo at the Schnitz

GrupoCorpo2Grupo Corpo - Photo by José Luiz Pederneiras.
Brazilian dance just had a heartbreaker of a week, due to the fires that torched some of Rio’s samba schools right before Carnival. But Brazilian dance also had a triumphant week, at least in Portland, which celebrated the Belo Horizonte-based company Grupo Corpo with a standing ovation Wednesday night at the Schnitz.

Brazil, of course, is a big country, and its dance scene isn't limited to samba. Portland dance presenters White Bird have already made that point by bringing in the Bahian capoeira specialists Dance Brazil and hip-hoppers Bruno Beltrao/Grupa de Rua. Although Grupo Corpo’s music and movement do exhibit samba influences, the company works primarily from a jazzy contemporary base. For its fourth White Bird visit in the last decade, the 19-member company brought two works: 1997’s Parabelo, which it danced in its 2001 Portland debut, and the 2009 work Ima.

The former opened with the full ensemble crab walking under a panel painted with enormous sculpted heads. Parabelo was a mesmerizing study in contrasts, with fluctuating tempos, a color scheme that graduated from dark to light and large group sections that gave way to intimate couplings, such as a limpid pas deux lit as if it were unfolding underwater. At times the dancers resembled jumping-jacks, their torsos held steady as their limbs flew up and out in frequently recurring movements, such as a flexed-foot high kick. Elsewhere the dancers showed off the sharply arced rib cages and sinuous swiveling hips that their country is better known for.

Ima, meanwhile, was suffused with a kind of chic modern tropicalia; it wouldn’t have seemed out of place at Fashion Week or a hip cocktail lounge. LEDs in shifting hues bathed the stage in visually appealing counterpoint to the bright, pared-down costuming: hot pink against lime green, tangerine against violet. An excellent score by +2 | Moreno, Domenico, Kassin was musically all over the map, from the tinny guitar sound of West African highlife to accordions, jazz flute, reverb, horns and layered percussion.

The dance afforded several pleasures, not the least of which was watching beautifully chiseled bodies whip through fast turns and split jumps with cool composure. Choreographer Paulo Pederneiras also took advantage of having a large group not only to stage big unisons, but to stagger movements and tempos within a section, a neat trick that suggests a slow-motion passage within a flurry of activity. Grupo Corpo showed real style on this latest visit—Brazilian, yes, but with a delicious twist. 

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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