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A CurtainUp BerkshiresBerkshire Feature
Grupo Corpo at Jacobs Pillow
by Elyse Sommer

The Porches Inn

In its honorable commitment to all the heritage of Brazil, Grupo Corpo has purged falsehoods and indignities that have too often attached themselves to images of Latin America. In presenting a more complete and candid image of Brazilian culture, the company underscores the fact that the truth, no matter how unvarnished, always contains a more profound beauty than does the most beguiling caricature
--- Suzanne Carbonneau, in Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival's program notes for Grupo Corpo's July 10-14th performances.
Grupo Corpo Grupo Corpo, 7 or 8 Pieces for a Ballet (Photo: Jose Luiz Pedernierasza)
Brazilian dance! If those words still evoke images of Carmen Miranda and her tutti-frutti headgear and "Chiquita Banana", you probably haven't seen Grupo Corpo, the little family dance enterprise established more than twenty-five years ago to create a truer, less over the top image of the diverse strains of Brazilian life and culture. It all began as ae dance academy that was started up in the home of the Pederneiras family in the provincial capital of Belo Horizonte, some 300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, is yet another thrilling example of a little engine that could. The academy envisioned by brother Paulo, currently the Grupo Corpo lighting designer and Rodrigo, its the artistic director and choreographer in chief, is now headquartered in a facility that includes a 200-seat theater, an art gallery and studios. The Grupo Corpo dance company has taken its Afro-Brazilian flavored fusion of ballet (the training background of all its dancers as well as Rodrigo), jazz and modern dance all over the world, winning enthusiastic converts at every stop.

To help Jacob's Pillow celebrate its 75th anniversary, Grupo Corpo, is premiering its newest work, Santagustin at the Pillow instead of in Brazil. The forty-minute piece is a scintillating display of the company's lightning body work (Grupo Corpo means body work) -- a blend of high energy, amazingly balanced and coordinated movements.

From the opening image, which has the look and feel of a beach party, through the subsequent duets which evoke all the faces of love between mixed and same sex couples, Santagustin could easily be a series of excerpts from a Broadway musical. Tom Ze and Gilberto Assis, whose rocking score incorporates ringing cell phones, animal sounds and Brazilian vocals provides the "book" from which the choreographer's ideas spring. Watching the nineteen dancers coupling and uncoupling, you are not only mesmerized by their control of movement but their vivid characterizations which need no lyrics to be interpreted. The Samba sequence has the flavor of a Broadway show's grand finale.

The new work, the company's twenty-fourth, is well-paired with 7 or 8 Pieces for a Ballet, also choreographed by Rodrigo Pedermeiras, this time with music by Philip Glass. The hypnotic, repetition laden score is a collaboration by Glass and the musical group UAKTI which usess many found instruments. It is made to order for the stylized movements of the group in variously striped and solid colored unitards and mini helmets.

With the success of the musical Contact, with its use of recorded music and virtually no dialogue, pointing to the closing of the gap between musicals, ballet and modern dance, it's easy to imagine Rodrigo Pederneiras and his talented troupe actually crossing over to the musical stage. One would have to go no further than the story of the company's emergence from home-based dance business to international sensation for such a show's book. The musical theater could certainly benefit from such an infusion of talent and originality.

Grupo Corpo's colorful double bill comes to an end this Sunday. Since the performances are sold out, those living in New York, or planning a visit there, can catch them in October, when they are scheduled to appear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Music: Uakti by Phillip Glass
Set: Fernando Velloso
Grupo Corpo in SANTAGUSTIN (2002)
Music: by Tomi Zé and Gilberto Assis
Choreography for both pieces: Rodrigo Pedermeiras
Costumes (both): Freusa Zechmeister
Lighting (both): Paula Pedermeiras
The Company: Alessandra Mattana, Ana Paula Oliveira, Danielle Pavam, Dejalmir Melo, Edgar Dias, Edson Hayzer, Everson Botelho, Ivelise Tricta, Juliana Meziat, Silvia Gaspar, Ana Paula Caneado,a Cassilene Abranches, Danielle Ramalho, Diogo de Lima, Edson Beserra, Elias Bouza, Flavia Couret, Janaina Castro, Peter Lavratti. Val Santos
Running time: 40 minutes each piece, plus a 20-minute intermission
Jacob's Pillow, Lee, MA Box Office(413/243-0745
Web Site:
Performances: July 10-142002; Wed-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm
Reviewed by Elyse Sommerbased on July 11th performance
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