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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews

Grupo Corpo at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: review and musings by Robert Abrams

by Robert Abrams
October 24, 2002

Grupo Corpo at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: review and musings

Performance: October 22, 2002

By Robert Abrams
October 23, 2002

Why do we attend live dance performances when we could just as easily watch the same performances on tape in the comfort of our living rooms?

Grupo Corpo can help provide an answer to this question.

Ordinarily, when reviewing dance performances, it is my practice not to review tapes or program notes ahead of the show. The idea is to let the show speak on its own terms, and not colored by preformed notions, difficult as this is to do. In the case of Grupo Corpo, I did see a tape of the show ahead of time. The tape showed dances which were interesting and colorful, but ultimately somewhat lacking.

What was lacking on the tape was the energy of the dancers. Seeing the dancers perform live, their very ample stock of energy poured forth. Another reason to see Grupo Corpo perform live, or other dance performances performed live, is the magnificent space of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The last time I was there was for a Eubie Blake tribute. The space is no less grand now that I am a foot or so taller than I was then.

Grupo Corpo started the evening with "21". They danced like frenetic pollen. There were passages where the dancers became slow clocks. There were many abrupt transitions from movement to walking. One such passage was particularly notable because it was like the dancers were walking down the street in very slow motion, with all but one dancer moving in the same direction. When the dancer moving against the current reached the other end of the stage, the dancers sped up to normal time and rewound their movements to the beginning. This did seem an avante-garde use of movement, but when examined closely, the movement is normal, it is just the timescale that is unusually macro. One hallmark of good ballroom technique, especially in Latin, is to have sharp definitions between slow and fast movements. Usually, this occurs within the space of one or two beats of music. Grupo Corpo just took those two beats of music and stretched it out into an entire passage of music.

Grupo Corpo's choreography has a number of signature movement conventions. Whiplash head snaps - whose only equal I have seen would be those of Julia (as in Bob and Julia the champion Latin dancers). Raised bent legs, which is consistent with the Modern dance impulse to develop choreographic principles in opposition to traditional norms. Interesting drops, along with dancers dramatically leaping into each others arms. Some of the pairings started to look like creatures - similar in some ways to Momix. Hip-hop influenced arm movements. Grupo Corpo has a unique style that they dance full out. At times the best way to describe the dancers would be as hyperactive rag dolls - so much energy and motion coexisting with a relaxed fluidity.

The final piece of the night, "O Corpo", could have used a stronger climax, and the extended dim red lighting poses a risk to those busy New Yorkers who haven't gotten enough sleep in the past week, but other than that the entire evening was spectacular and eye-opening. I would also like to see Grupo Corpo try something with a narrative, but that's a criticism I have with most modern dance companies.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Grupo Corpo
Photos Courtesy of Jose Luiz Pedeneiras

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