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Grupo Corpo: The spirit of Brazil embodied in dance

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Grupo Corpo: The spirit of Brazil embodied in dance

The Brazilian contemporary dance company Grupo Corpo crafts compositions specific to Brazilian history, culture and spirituality. This month, the group returns to Boston for the first time since 2018 to perform two Boston premieres.

Grupo Corpo’s chief choreographer, Rodrigo Pederneiras, has been with the company since its founding in 1975. He choreographed both of the new compositions, “Gira” and “Gil Refazendo.”

Grupo Corpo sancers performing “Gira.” PHOTO: COURTESY JOSE LUIZ PEDERNEIRAS

“Gira” is inspired by Brazil’s unique blend of religions. Umbanda is a religion that pulls on traditions from West African practices, Catholicism and other influences. In some Umbanda rituals, participants release control of their bodies to the spirits of ancestors or deities in what’s described as an altered state of consciousness.

“Umbanda is only in Brazil,” says Pederneiras. “People receive spirits, they change totally and they dance a lot. And each spirit has a different way to move, to dance.” The study of these energetic spiritual movements led to the “Gira” composition.

Grupo Corpo dancer performing “Gil

The second piece, “Gil Refazendo” is an homage to Gilberto Gil, groundbreaking Brazilian Tropicália musician and former Brazilian Minister of Culture. Gil’s music fuses samba, bossa nova and rock, and in this Grupo Corpo piece, an element of electronica is added as well. “Gil Refazendo” is a follow up composition to a 2019 piece simply titled “Gil.” Pederneiras was inspired to recreate the piece after the pandemic shutdowns.

“It’s more abstract,” says Pederneiras. “The idea is, it starts with one dance with slow movements, and the piece is going to grow and grow and become faster and faster and faster. At the end, the group is like just one person. Everybody’s together.”

“Gil Refazendo” performed by Grupo Corpo. PHOTO: JOMAR BRAGANC

Having a large group of people move as one at the end of the composition illustrates the way Gil’s music brings Brazilian people together. This feeling also applies to the Grupo Corpo spirit. Pederneiras describes the company as a family, a tightly connected group of artists and friends who work in unison to highlight the intricacies of Brazilian culture through movement. Instead of following trends, the group is focused on national history and artistry and all that is unique to Brazil.

Grupo Corpo will perform Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sunday Oct. 29 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre, presented by Celebrity Series of Boston.

Gary Dunning, Celebrity Series of Boston’s president and executive director, says, “With themes of spiritual, musical and cultural renewal, this new performance acknowledges how everything has changed since we last welcomed the company. Yet, their signature unique blend of Afro-Brazilian culture and innovative choreography retains its power to inspire and ignite audiences.”

arts, Brazil, choreography, dance, Grupo Corpo
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