Dance review: Grupo Corpo at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo raised the temperature a degree or two when it made its Dorothy Chandler Pavilion debut Friday as part of the Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center series.
The company was founded in 1975 in the interior city of Belo Horizonte by Paulo Pederneiras, who remains artistic director, set and lighting designer. Its earliest works, by the Argentine Oscar Araiz, were politically engaged, but as Brazil has become less oppressed and more democratic, the trend has been toward a general hot joie de vivre.
For better or worse, credit brother Rodrigo Pederneiras, choreographer since 1978. Emphasizing plotless, music-based works, he has kept classical ballet as the root technique, but modified it by including abstracted national folk and social styles.
The company — whose name means “Body Group” — is very much an ensemble troupe. There are no “stars,” and none of the 19 dancers were individually highlighted in the program booklet. When any dancers emerged for short solos or duets, others usually quickly entered, picking up the same movements and repeating them in canon or in various permutations.
The effect could be numbing.
There were two works on the program. “Ímã,” which means “magnet,” explored ideas of attraction and repulsion, often treating the dancers, for all the sensual overlay, more as mechanisms than as personalities.
The title of “Parabelo,” according to a company spokesperson, refers to a handgun and by analogy to the lethal power of the hot Brazilian sun. The work was said to be inspired by votive offerings found in countryside churches.
Both works followed a similar structure. They began with floor work and ended with upright sexy strutting and shaking. Costumes went from drab to bright, from covered up to let it all hang out. Neither explored personal relationships.
Still, each had at least one prominent duet. “Ímã” contained an extended pas de deux by Helbert Pimenta and Silvia Gaspar, which began in quiet fixity but evolved into disturbing manhandling push and pull.
In “Parabelo,” the erotic overtones of a male duet by Alberto Venceslau and Pimenta were subdued by cool athleticism. Indeed, in both pieces, for all the preening self-display, there really weren’t any credible connections.
Still, the scenic designs were intriguing. “Ímã” had two backdrops — first, a series of five darkly-lit, enigmatic foam head forms, and second, far more interesting, large, torn, tattered period photos pasted onto a varnished wall.
Especially arresting was the gorgeous batik-like quilt in the second half of “Parabelo.” Its rich, dark tones splendidly set off the bright reds, yellows, blues, pinks and blacks of the dancers’ costumes.
The music for “Ímã” was a repetitive, jazzy score by +2, a trio made up of Domenico, Kassin and Moreno. For “Parabelo,” it was a varied and bouncy soundtrack by Tom Zé and José Miguel Wisnik.
The costumes for both pieces were created by Freusa Zechmeister.
The audience in the half-filled Pavilion went crazy over the company. But there were diminishing returns for at least one viewer.
— Chris Pasles
Photos of Grupo Corpo, from top: Helbert Pimenta, left, and Alberto Venceslau in “Parabelo,” the ensemble and Mariana do Rosario in “Ímã.” Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times