AN EVENING WITH GRUPO CORPO
Esplanade Theatre/Last Friday
Grupo Corpo is a company of hybrid dancers who effortlessly combine the discipline of ballet with the laid-back allure of Latin America.
They thrill with their all-out athleticism and exuberance as they integrate these disparate influences into their malleable bodies.
The Brazilian company, which returns to the da:ns festival after seven years, has been run by members of the Pederneiras family for more than 30 years. There is a palpable camaraderie within the troupe, whose name translates to mean Group Body.
Most of the evening's choreography is for the mass ensemble, which is well suited to the company's idiosyncratic style of loose-limbed, fleet-footed ebullience. The dancers have a voracious appetite for space, bounding across it with the agility of gazelles.
Their fearless, yet calm attack is evident in every chin toss, hip thrust and gasp-inducing jumps to land on (padded) knees. When all 21 of them are moving in high-kicking, graceful unison, their enthusiasm becomes the audience's as well.
However, such remarkable virtuosity gradually fades into oblivion as movements are repeated in various permutations, with hardly any emotional heft.
The effect is regrettably numbing and both pieces on the double bill seem overlong at 45 minutes.
There are, of course, moments of exception. The central duet in Sem Mim is breathtakingly beautiful. Shrouded in Paulo Pederneiras' organza cloud, a couple revolves in each other's arms to the lilting strains of music inspired by Martin Codax's Sea Of Vigo song cycle.
They achieve stunning amplitude in the lifts, with the female propelling her body skyward before fanning into a perfect split.
Onqoto surprises when the stage is instantly emptied as the ensemble dives into a semi- circular curtain of elastic ribbon-like strands.
The work's emotional core comes in the form of two simultaneous, contrasting duets between a pair of female dancers and another of mixed gender. Languorous and tender passages morph into impulsive aggression, illuminating Caetano Veloso and Jose Miguel Wisnik's eclectic score in more ways than one.
Both works see episodes of angst or tenderness alternate with group dances of irrepressible zest and precision, but these come in succession with no apparent logic or continuity.
There is no opportunity to indulge in the intent before being swept up again by the infectious energy of the shimmying, sprightly dancers. And soon, one starts to seek a little respite.
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