Dance review: Grupo Corpo, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Balletic, contemporary, Brazilian: Grupo Corpo meld it together into something special. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Balletic, contemporary, Brazilian: Grupo Corpo meld it together into something special. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Tight, colourful, flexible and intricate – adjectives which describe the lycra catsuits worn by Grupo Corpo, but which could just as easily be attributed to the people inside them.

Grupo Corpo - Edinburgh Festival Theatre

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The Brazilian company ended its UK tour in Edinburgh this week, and clearly five weeks on the road had done nothing to diminish their energy. Because regardless of how their movement comes across – relaxed, effortless, languid – make no mistake, it’s the result of tireless rehearsal.

All the dancers have a classical ballet training, on to which choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras places contemporary movement. Then, injected in between these two dance forms is something quintessentially Brazilian which is hard to put into words.

Imagine the Latin dance you see on Strictly, smoothed out, funked up and drenched in meaning, and you’re halfway there. It really isn’t hyperbole to say the Grupo Corpo style is without peer – nobody else does it quite like this.

Choreographed in 2011, Sem Mim was inspired by 13th century poetry about the sea, or more specifically the women awaiting the return of their fishermen partners. A giant gauze, reminiscent of a fishing net, hovers over the stage. The movement is all about ebb and flow: shoulders roll back, hips undulate forward, feet are flexed contemporary style, then suddenly fly high with balletic grace.

At one point the gauze is lowered, trapping two lovers inside. The duet that follows is a highlight of the evening, a mesmerising hybrid of ballet pas de deux and Latin partner dance with elegant lifts and throws.

Parabela came next, a cleverly structured work from 1997. One criticism sometimes levelled at Pederneiras is that his movement is too samey, but whilst there are definite similarities in his steps, the one thing he constantly shifts is the dynamic. Solos, duets, trios, large groups – it’s the patterns he creates that hold our attention (although the dancers do a pretty good job of that, too).

Taking the traditions and cultures of rural north-east Brazil as its starting point, the piece benefited from interesting set and lighting design by Rodrigo’s brother, Paulo Pederneiras. Photos of families, sourced from small churches in the area, peered out at us, along with five giant carved heads.

On the stage, the dancers changed costumes to reflect the mood of the music, taking us from dark and atmospheric to an almost carnival feel full of reds, yellow and oranges.

The heat on the stage was matched by the warmth of the audience – and deservedly so.

Seen on 04.11.14