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Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer  |  January 17, 2018

Grupo Corpo bringing spirit, movement lexicon of Brazil to Playhouse Square (preview)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - People don't just speak in different languages. They dance in them, too.

Take Grupo Corpo, for example, the company appearing this weekend on the DanceCleveland series at Playhouse Square.

Born and bred in Brazil, and prominently featured in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 43-year-old troupe is famous for conveying the spirit and flavor of its homeland, all without speaking a word.

"It's a very special way of moving, even of walking, when you start to pay attention," said Rodrigo Pederneiras, Grupo Corpo's longtime chief choreographer and co-director, by phone from the company's offices in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

"There's a special kind of sensuality about it. The movement starts with the hips and the rest of the body goes along with it. It's become our specialty."

Pederneiras didn't just make that up, of course. He and his dancers have become masters of repurposing what they see in the world around them, and combining it with classical ballet.

Unlike the U.S., Brazil is a dancing culture. There, dance is part of everyday life, an activity both formal and casual, a pastime for the young and old alike. No wonder a place like that has a style of dance that looks and feels unique.

"It's a kind of dancing that we use in street parties, even in religious parties," Pederneiras said. "People here go out to the street and dance a lot."

As a company, Grupo Corpo itself is unique, too. Not necessarily for its incorporation of Brazilian dancing but for its longevity and cohesiveness.

It's the rare group, after all, that not only lasts 43 years but also preserves over decades the sense of intimacy and closeness engendered by its founders.

"For me, it's a really special company," Pederneiras said. "We are a really very tight group of people. For me, that's one of the most important things we have. To us, that dynamic is more important than the movement itself."

As it happens, that history and unity are the subjects of "Danca Sinfonica," one of two works on Grupo Corpo's Cleveland program, presented in part by Cuyahoga Community College. (The other is "Suite Branca," a white-on-white dance by former Grupo Corpo member Cassi Abranches exploring the concepts of gravity and starting afresh.)

Created by Pederneiras three years ago for the company's 40th anniversary, "Danca Sinfonica" highlights the troupe's repertoire and centers around photos of the 1,000-plus dancers, staff members, and technicians who've been part of the ensemble over the years.

(Preview continued by clicking on the link)


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