Grupo Corpo (Tour - Salford)
David Cunningham sees a dance piece unlike anything else he has seen before at the Lowry.
Grupo Corpo are a contemporary Brazilian Dance Company and something of a cottage industry with artistic director Paulo Pedernerias joined by his brother Rodrigo as choreographer. Whether it is due to the ethnicity of the Company or the family atmosphere but Grupo Corpo has a most unusual dance style.
The actual dance is only part of the elements involved. The music is essential providing much more than a beat to cue the movements of the dancers. The score for Sem Mim by Carlos Nunes and Jose Miguel Wisnik is organic moving from a dreamy new age style opening through more earthy sounds of Spanish guitar to pounding rhythmic drums.
There is a surprising Celtic influence with drones and pipes and at once stage the dance switches into a lively jig. Jose Miguel Wisnik with Tom Ze gives a much more contemporary backing for Parabelo with throbbing electronic rhythms and chanting.
The elemental theme for the first piece is reflected in the striking unitards worn by the dancers that are dyed to match their individual skins tones. By contrast the second more modern dance features simple entirely black or maroon unitards suggesting greater anonymity and loss of individuality.
The dancing does not conform to classical or modern styles – there are few high leaps, solos or duets. It is organic in nature with the movements subtly starting at the dancers' feet and flowing through their bodies, which weave and pulse snake-like as the rhythm passes through them. Whilst the upper body is supple with shrugs and twitches the legs are stiff – puppet-like they move straight up with the foot flexed to the front and side of the body but to the rear bend sharply as if the dancer is trying to kick him/herself in the head.
Rodrigo Pedernerias's choreography emphasises the work of the group. The dancers move in unison with military precision. The subtlety and similarity of the dancers' movements limits the opportunity for individual expression and solos. The sight of 20 dancers moving in perfect lines and twisting their bodies into identical shapes looks, at times, like Pedernerias has composed a painting rather than a dance.
There is a strong sense of ritual to the opening number Sem Mim with the dancers entering in formal tightly controlled procession. With no high leaps the dancers remain anchored to the earth but their sinuous movements suggest a growing urge to escape. Finally there is the glorious release of a couple, encased in a gauze screen, allowed to cut loose and simply dance a duet. Their increasingly passionate movements generate a strong sense of simple relief after so much restraint.
The uniform movement of the dancers has a more sinister edge in Parabelo where the similarity suggests a modern anonymity. It opens with the cast performing what looks like a yoga class all dressed in identical dark clothes and making the same movements.
The choreography has a closer resemblance to conventional modern dance with the cast taking high leaps but the emphasis on group work remains. There is a stunning sequence of a slow-motion duet performed by a couple lit by flickering lights and the dancers are finally allowed the release of exchanging their drab uniforms for brighter clothes and more joyful dancing.
Grupo Corpo combines the controlled choreography of Rodrigo Pedernerias with the passionate skill of the Company to give a stunning display of art and discipline.
Grupo Corpo is at the Lowry until 18 October.