Adoring crowd welcomes Grupo Corpo's warmth on a wintry night

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A DanceHouse production. At the Vancouver Playhouse on Friday, February 7. No remaining performances

Brazil’s Grupo Corpo came into town like a blast of tropical sunshine, and that had to be one of the reasons it earned such a hearty standing ovation from Vancouverites locked into a wintry long weekend.

In the opening Ima, a nonstop stream of virtuosic dancers jumped, gyrated, and kicked their feet out to the driving Brazilian jazz rhythms, the guys with bare chests, the women in bright T-shirts set against alternating blue and purply skies. This was hugely accessible dance, almost deceptively easy-breezy: in fact, Rodrigo Pederneiras’s choreography is as complex a hybrid of styles as you are going to see. It’s almost impossible to dissect where the Afro-Brazilian moves, classical ballet technique, and samba or bossa nova stylings begin and end. Think long extensions and airborne lifts, stamping and flexed feet, whipsawing heads, and deep, sensual dips. Yes, theirs is a unique voice that could not have evolved from anywhere else but the rich hothouse of cultures that is Brazil.

This was the second visit by the troupe here in two years, a real feat with about 20 dancers coming north. The program was split into the light, playful Ima and the more melancholy Sem Mim—both with such driving, whirlwind rhythms that they flew by in a flash.

Ima toyed with the theme of magnets, with dancers snapping together then flying apart, but it was just as much about the performers  celebrating the eclectic Brazilian rhythms of the jazz group + 2.

Sem Mim is a gorgeous, sepia-lit work that takes place under a shimmery diaphanous mesh that sometimes resembles an ocean mist, other times a fishnet, and, at one point, an ethereal tent that envelopes a whirling pas de deux. The dancers are dressed in tight, skin-toned body suits emblazoned with scrolling tattoos—images drawn from ornamentation from the Middle Ages. Carlos Nunes and Jose Miguel Wisnik’s music is a rendition of medieval Galician-Portuguese sea songs. It’s a fascinating score, by turns giving voice to women lamenting the absence of their husbands on ships, at others sounding almost joyfully Celtic.

The dancers’ bodies ripple like waves; even a performer simply walking backwards across the stage flickers with intensity, some force working its way from her ankles up through her shoulder blades, turning her body to roiling liquid. Duos, trios, and vast group numbers turn this into a piece that’s lulling and hypnotic.

Even with its rich themes, though, this is not darkly probing or heavily high-concept dance—just honed bodies flicking and turning across the stage to beautiful music. And if you could lose yourself in the rhythms, it was the perfect foil for a freezing February night.

 

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