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Flash Review 3, 10-30: Brazilian Movement
Corpo Incorporates the Music

By Darrah Carr
Copyright 2002 Darrah Carr

NEW YORK -- Brazil's "Grupo Corpo" is a celebration of dance for dance's sake. Working under the premise that dance is nothing more than the incorporation of the music, choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras creates complex scores for the body with incredible musical sensitivity. The 21 company dancers are finely tuned instruments. Each is an athlete and an artist, delivering technical feats with amazing precision. Last weekend marked the company's debut performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it presented two lengthy works, "21" and "O Corpo," as part of BAM's 20th Next Wave Festival.

Of the two dances, "O Corpo" is a more cohesive, fully integrated work. Popular Brazilian musician Arnaldo Antunes combines text, organic noises, and electronic sounds in his complex, polyrhythmic score, while artistic director Paulo Pederneiras (Rodrigo's brother) contributes a striking, blood-red lighting design. Groups of dancers stalk across the stage, casting sidelong glances at the audience before kicking high above their heads with a ferocity that rips the air. Most of the work's eight movements highlight such bold physicality -- spines whipping through rhythmic undulations, heads thrown back leaving throats exposed -- that watching all this rigor one is both thrilled and curious about chiropractic bills.

Halfway through the work, in contrast to the previous extreme dancing, three dancers in black unitards with long fringe slip onstage, their bodies swaying gently to low vocals. They move in front of a large white square projected on a scrim. The figures and the box of light continually cross the stage and return. It is a simple but absolutely mesmerizing effect. After a while, one feels there are only three things left in the world: the white square, the black curves, and the haunting vocals.

In "21," Pederneiras creates mesmerizing effects with more bodies. At one point, the entire company moves across the stage with the slow motion control of Butoh dancers. One woman lunges in the opposite direction. Suddenly, the entire picture is reversed and everyone backs away at twice the speed. It's like seeing a reel of film run backwards. Pederneiras sets up many interesting pictures throughout the work. Nevertheless, there is a disjointed feeling to the order in which they are presented, as if he had a bunch of ideas to try, but then dropped them without further development.

To a large extent the work is an intellectual study, an exploration of the number 21 and its divisions, primarily 3 and 7. Dancers flit from group to group creating complex puzzle patterns. The eye barely has time to adjust to one arrangement when the next magically appears. Dressed in yellow unitards, the dancers are energetic squiggles of motion, constantly shifting direction and responding to different rhythms in the music. During the last section, however, the piece begins to feel chaotic. The dancers change costume; some wear striped unitards, some don flowered leggings, and others put on neon tights. A brightly colored set with a patchwork quilt design dominates the scrim. The entire cast whips into an impressive, but exhausting frenzy. When the final moment of unison arrives, it's a welcome relief.

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