For nearly three decades the Pederneiras family, and their gifted colleagues and O Corpo collaborators, have been supplying the world with rich feasts of rhythm, colour and sound. In the process they have fostered a fresh and vital understanding of Brazilian culture and human anatomy (corpo means ‘body’).
In its first UK visit in five years, Corpo will treat British audiences to a scintillating double-bill. O Corpo is an eye-popping ensemble dance cued to a brilliant acoustic/electronic score by contemporary pop-poet icon Arnaldo Antunes.
Lecuona is mainly composed of duets. Here Corpo reaches back to twelve love songs, plus a grand waltz, by prolific Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963). Expect flowing fabrics, vibrating colours and the intoxicating heat and beat of romance.
The history of the Grupo Corpo and how it has been very much a family affair is complemented by features on the work of the Company’s creative triumvirate: founder and artistic director Paulo Pederneiras, who is also the lighting designer; his brother and Grupo Corpo’s choreographer, Rodrigo Pederneiras, and Fernando Velloso, programme co-ordinator and set designer.
The contemporary dance troupe Grupo Corpo was, and still is, a family enterprise.
It was founded in Belo Horizonte, a city in the Brazilian province of Minas Gerais, in 1975 by the six Pederneiras brothers and some friends. To provide the new group with headquarters, their parents made room for them in their own home. Paulo Pederneiras, the general director, would also little by little make it his job to light the performances. Rodrigo Pederneiras, who would later become the choreographer of practically all of Grupo Corpo’s works from 1981 on, was at first only a dancer. Of the rest of the founders, several remain in the company to this day as key people behind the scenes.
For ten years, from 1989, Shell was the company’s main sponsor. The partnership brought Grupo Corpo a financial stability that allowed it to pursue ever-greater artistic ambitions. The Shell connection also helped promote Grupo Corpo worldwide, leading to annual tours to Europe and the Americas. It was this period that saw the formation of a core creative team consisting of Paulo and Rodrigo Pederneiras, set designer Fernando Velloso and costumer Freusa Zechmeister. Since 2000 the group has been sponsored by Petrobras, the same company that has supported the work of Brazilian dance marvel Deborah Colker.
Grupo Corpo continually renews itself by being able to keep changing artistic gears, yet it stays true to its own traditions. Company identity has always been linked to the idea of a national culture. Although it has undergone several creative sea-changes in its thirty-year history, the productions remain unmistakeably Brazilian. This has yielded a bounty of dances that are complex yet natural, high-spirited and viscerally charged – like Brazil itself.
The idea for the company had been a family enterprise: not just the six Pederneiras brothers, but their parents as well, who gave up the house they lived in to serve as Corpo’s headquarters.
Paulo Pederneiras, the general director, would also little by little assume the lighting of the performances; Rodrigo Pederneiras, who would later become the choreographer of practically all of Corpo’s works from 1981 on, was at this time only a dancer. Of the rest of the founders (including brothers and friends), several remain in the group to this day: Pedro Pederneiras, stage director; Carmen Purri, choreography and rehearsal assistant; Miriam Pederneairas, choreography assistant; and Cristina Castilho, responsible for documentation.