Q&A: Rodrigo Pederneiras of Grupo Corpo

GrupoCorpoThe choreographer of Grupo Corpo, which performs for TITAS this week, discusses the company’s unique movement language and Brazilian dance culture.

Dallas — For more than 30 years Grupo Corpo has been enthralling audiences worldwide with its distinctive style. Dance enthusiasts in Dallas will get the chance to see this company in action on Friday, March 8, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House, part of TITAS’ 2012-13 season.

Established by brothers Rodrigo and Paulo Pederneiras in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1975, the company has become internationally known for its physicality, verve and unmatched blending of classical ballet techniques with Brazilian dance styles. To date, the company has created 35 pieces and has given performances around the world, including Iceland, South Korea, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Japan, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Rodrigo Pederneiras started off as a dancer with Grupo Corpo before becoming the company’s choreographer in 1978. Always guided by music, Rodrigo breaks the classical movements in an intensely Brazilian way; however, entirely free from the exotic, from boastful and from easy identities, according to the company’s website.

Pederneiras  has choreographed for the Ballet do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, the Ballet do Teatro Guaíra, the Ballet da Cidade de São Paulo and the Companhia de Dança de Minas Gerais. Outside of Brazil he has worked with the Deutsche Oper Berlin Company in Germany, Gulbenkian  in Portugal, Les Ballets Jazz Montréal in Canada, Stadttheater Saint Gallen in Switzerland and Opéra du Rhin in France.

TheaterJones asks Rodrigo Pederneiras about the company’s distinct movement style, the inspiration behind his pieces Sem Mim and Parabelo, both of which Grupo Corpo will perform in Dallas, and how the Brazilian dance culture has changed over the last 30 years.

TheaterJones: Grupo Corpo is known throughout the world. To what to do you attribute the companys universal appeal?

Rodrigo Pederneiras: The creative collaboration between the director, administration, the artistic director, the choreographer, dancers, lighting designer, scenic artist and costumes designer has grown ever closer, and I believe that this is reflected in each of our works. Grupo Corpo has also been developing its own choreographic language since the ’90s that mixes very strong Brazilian characteristics and classical ballet technique which has created a solid identity for us.

Do you find it challenging to blend classical ballet and contemporary with Latin dance styles?

Courtesy of Grupo Corpo

Courtesy of Grupo Corpo

I am persuaded that the classical techniques can give the dancers much more possibilities to perform in a contemporary language. As time went by it became clear to me the necessity to break the lines and forms giving more importance to the movement dynamics. So, I started to use the rips as the movement’ starting point because this is a strong characteristic of most Brazilian popular dances. And by doing that we are finding out great treasures in our own backyard.

Did you always want to be a choreographer?

Not really. At the first I wanted to be a musician, but after watching a few striking dance performances I ended up driving myself into this. 

Can you tell me about the inspiration behind your pieces Sem Mim and Parabelo?

Parabelo takes us to a part of Brazil which expresses itself in a word, sertão, which is practically untranslatable. It is a large region in the interior of the country located in the center of the Northeast. On one hand it is an extremely dry region where life is very hard and paradoxically, but on the other hand it is the region that has the greatest variety of popular art which is always full of colors, music, happy rhythms and sensual dances. 

Sem Mim is inspired by seven songs called “Sea of Vigo Song Cycle.” All the songs are about ladies crying to the sea, wailing about their lover that was taken by the sea or singing on the hope that the sea brings back their love. In this piece the sea is the main character; the one that can bring or take happiness away.

What would you like the audience to take away from these pieces?

In our works we don’t develop histories, rather we try to evoke feelings and emotions throughout our dance. Our main goal is to touch, to move and to captivate the audience. With that said I hope the audience leaves the theater touched.

What are some of the challenges you encounter when collaborating with composers?

Actually, there aren’t any difficulties. It’s the opposite. The close collaboration with composers during the creation of a work and the recordings just brings me new ideas and inspires me even more each time.

What qualities do you look for in a dancer?

The ideal dancer has to have a strong and clean classic ballet technique, a good ear for music and has to be charismatic. The dancer’s movements have to appear as a constant wave without any interruptions.

Courtesy of Grupo Corpo

Courtesy of Grupo Corpo

How does the Brazilian dance culture differ from the dance culture here in the United States?

The differences are in its roots. While U.S. has the Anglo Saxon cultural influences Brazil has the Latin influences.

How has the Brazilian dance culture evolved over the last 30 years?

Over the last 30 years the dance culture in Brazil has grown immensely with various and different approaches developed by talented people. Over the years the private companies have realized that it’s possible to have a good return on image by sponsoring dance companies which has allowed the dance to develop in the country.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

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About kddance

I am a dance fanatic living in Dallas, TX. Not only do I teach dance but I also love writing about it. My love for dance started at the age of six when my mom signed me up for my first dance class. I have training in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern and acrobatics. In college I minored in dance and majored in journalism. I have had articles published in Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher and the Dance Council of North Texas' DANCE publication. Let me share my stories with you.
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