Grupo Corpo Wows Audiences at UMass Amherst

Gina Mantica '16

Staff Writer

The contemporary Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo, performed choreography by Rodrigo Pederneiras on Feb. 24 at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Grupo Corpo’s show was an intriguing and enchanting artistic reflection on human nature. While the two pieces differed drastically, there was a beautiful sense of fluidity between them that captured the attention of the audience and kept them on the edges of their seats.

The first piece was titled “Sem Mim” and was a powerful reflection on friendship and the people or things that human beings confide in. The music by Carlos Núñez and José Miguel Wisnik was a composition of medieval Galician-Portuguese secular songs that discuss the feelings of young women awaiting the return of their lovers and/or friends, and the comfort the girls obtain from their proximity to or envelopment in the waves of the ocean at Vigo. This breathtaking music, with its added meaning and Latin flair, deepened my understanding of the piece’s theme and perfectly complemented Pederneiras’s vivacious choreography.

The choreography was fast, and at points the lower body moved so quickly that the dancers almost looked like cartoon characters. The choreography included many jumps, attitudes and positions involving flexed feet. In addition, there was an emphasis on the usage of the hips that blended seamlessly with the choreography and matched the Latin flair of the piece very well.

A very quiet, composed and graceful upper body on all of the dancers impeccably juxtaposed the swift lower body movements. The choreography involved simplistic arm movements, and the dancers carried themselves upright for a majority of the piece in an almost balletic manner. The head was the only part of the upper body that moved in a similar manner to the lower body, and this staccato movement further contributed to the Latin feel of the piece.

This juxtaposition between the movements of the upper and lower halves of the body was mesmerizing. The Grupo Corpo dancers were technically advanced with incredible extensions and clear strength, and their mastery of the choreography enhanced the audience’s experience of the piece.

The strongest aspects of this piece were the use of space and the appearance of stops in the movement. For much of it, there was a distinct separation between males and females. While their paths did cross at points as they traveled across the stage, this clear separation alluded to the piece’s focus on women awaiting the return of their beloved relations.

The occasional pauses in the movement were awe-inspiring. Since the choreography was continuous, with nonstop transitions on and off of the stage, these moments of stillness were extremely powerful tools to suck audience members back into the piece. These moments of total stillness contrasted excellently with the sustained movement of the rest.

The other piece in the show, “Onqotô,” contained a variety of contrasting elements that depicted humanity against the enormous backdrop of the cosmos. The use of space suggested perplexity by depicting both chaos and order. The movement of the dancers as a tightly clustered and ordered unit around the stage excellently contrasted their more diffusive movements away from one another into a semicircle or across the stage in duets or solos.

In addition, there were several vertical transitions, including eye-catching jumps that landed spectacularly on the floor and contrasted with horizontal movements across the stage, further stressing the mysteriousness of human nature. There was one point when there were two duets set across from each other that perfectly depicted the theme of the piece. The duets had very different dynamics and depicted the opposite notions of roughness and tenderness. The man/woman couple had a rough and thrashing quality that conveyed a sense of helplessness, while the woman/woman couple had a gentle, affectionate energy that suggested nurturing and love. This contrast was the highlight of this piece for me, and it brought me close to tears.

What really made “Onqotô” distinct from “Sem Mim” was the music and the backdrop. The music of “Onqotô” had a jazzier feel than the secular music of “Sem Mim.” The upbeat composition by Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik harmonized the piece. Specifically, the concluding section of the music brilliantly captured the theme of the choreography with its mention of the Big Bang theory. In addition, the backdrop for the piece was a grey fabric with slits in it, through which the dancers were able to enter and exit the stage. This interesting choice for the flow of movement onstage and offstage was intriguing and reminded me that, no matter where or how we may enter or leave this world, we are all supposedly equal while we are living here on earth, and we should live our lives to the fullest extent possible.