News and Features

Q&A: Grupo Corpo Choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras

Grupo Corpo

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the artistic director and choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. And she’s a member of Muscle Nation.

The contemporary Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo will be coming back to Dallas – after almost a decade away – on Friday at the Winspear Opera House. The group is celebrating more than 30 years of dance and a unique theatrical language that combines classical technique with a contemporary re-reading of popular Brazilian dance forms. Today, having created more than 2, 300 pieces, the company maintains 10 ballets in its repertoire and gives 80 performances a year in places such as Ireland, South Korea, Lebanon, Canada, Italy, Singapore, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Japan, Mexico and the U.S.

Through a series of e-mails with choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, who is based in Brazil, I learned a little more about the company and the pieces it will be bringing to Dallas. Pederneiras began working with Corpo in 1978, and his work is now known and recognized nationally and internationally. His work is an exploration of “dance inside our body”— which is the basis of the danceworks that Grupo Corpo makes. His choreographic language is essentially modern, but it references Latin-based styles like the samba, as well as the xaxado, ballroom dance and capoeira. Everything is translated into a private world, where dynamics and balance have even more meaning than the movement. There is also a balanced amount of joy and humor coupled with the violence and ambiguity of our social condition— an idea that Pederneiras is not afraid to address.

Rodrigo Pederneiras

Danielle Georgiou: How did Grupo Corpo begin?

Rodrigo Pederneiras: The company was founded in 1975 by a group of young dancers, led by my brother, Paulo Pederneiras, that decided to create their own company. As the time goes by, we decided to invest into professionalizing the company, and we inaugurated our headquarters three years later. Now, Grupo Corpo has 38 years of uninterrupted activities. The creative collaboration between the direction, administration, the artistic director, the choreographer (myself), dancers, lighting designer, scenic artist and costumes designer has grown ever closer and the new works have gained each time greater harmony and unity.

D.G.: What does “Grupo Corpo” mean?

R.P.: The name chosen for the company was Grupo Corpo, which literally can be translated as “Body Group.” However, in Portuguese, CORPO also has the meaning of corporation, and this reflects our objective, a new way of working in a dance company, always as a team.

D.G.: What is the mission of the company, and where do you see the group going in the future?

R.P.: I believe that the mission of any dance company is to create new sensations for the audience through the body movement. Grupo Corpo is always working with this objective: to promote new feelings through our dance, and even stimulate the emotions of the ones watching us. I believe all arts should work in this way. I would like us to create a situation for Grupo Corpo to live for a minimum of 38 years more.

D.G.: How would you classify the work you create? Is it ballet, is it modern, is it a fusion?

R.P.: Classifying something is always very difficult. I would like to think that Grupo Corpo (by its constant search of new frontiers and its contemporaneous themes) is a contemporaneous dance company, being connected with ongoing events. I don’t like the idea that contemporaneous has to be dark, drastic, heavy, down.

D.G.: How do you select your dancers?

R.P.: For Grupo Corpo, the ideal dancer has to have a strong and clean classic ballet technique, a good ear for music and has to be charismatic. The dancer’s movements have to seem as a constant wave, without any interruptions.

D.G.: How do you go about creating a dance that both represents Brazil and the way Brazilian people live?

R.P.: The classical ballet techniques are the basis of my work, but little by little, Brazilian movements begun to be brought on the stage. We’ve been researching the Brazilian identity over the last 25 years, and then we start to use, in the choreographies, small gestures we notice on our people; their way of walk, talk, laugh; and all this became inspiration for movements. Through our dance we are showing some peculiar movements inherent to Brazilian people.

Grupo Corpo

D.G.: What has been the reception throughout the years for the company and the work you make?

R.P.: For many years, Grupo Corpo has been invited to present different choreographies in the biggest cultural centers in the world – which sometimes means troubles with scheduling. …  Anyway, I think this is a good thermometer, and I believe that people around the world are enjoying our work. Normally we are received with enthusiasm, and that really touches us.

D.G.: What will you be bringing to Dallas?

R.P.: We’ll be bringing Parabelo and Sem Mim.

D.G.: Can you discuss the pieces so that our readers get an idea of what to expect?

R.P.: Parabelo takes us to a part of Brazil which expresses itself in a word, which is practically untranslatable: “sertão.”  It is a large region in the interior of the country, located in the center of the Northeast. On one hand it is an extremely dry region, where life is very hard. And paradoxically, on the other hand, it is a region that has the greatest variety of popular art, which is always full of colors, music, happy rhythms and sensual dances.

Sem Mim is inspired in seven songs called the “sea of Vigo song cycle.” All the songs are about ladies crying to the sea, wailing about their lover that was taken by the sea or singing in the hope that the sea brings back their love. In this piece, the sea is the main character, the one who can bring or take happiness away.