In the heart of Brazil, where the rich tapestry of Afro-Brazilian culture weaves together with mesmerizing rhythms, dance company Grupo Corpo stands as a beacon of artistic expression. With a legacy spanning decades, have enchanted audiences worldwide with creative genius and groundbreaking performances.
For the company’s October 28 and 29 performances at Boston’s Shubert Theater, presented by Celebrity Series of Boston, Grupo Corpo embarks on a journey into a captivating world where dance, music, and spirituality converge to breathe life into two remarkable New-England-premiere productions: “Gira” and “Gil Remaking.”
Gira: A Spiritual Odyssey
A production that first hit the stage in 2017, “Gira” is a testament to Grupo Corpo’s deep reverence for the Afro-Brazilian religious traditions. Choreographed by Rodrigo Pederneiras, this 40-minute performance delves into the profound rituals of “Umbanda,” a syncretic religion born from the fusion of “Candomblé,” Catholicism, and Kardecism. This melting pot of spirituality serves as the primary wellspring of inspiration for the aesthetic scene design of “Gira.”
At the heart of “Gira” is the omnipresent figure of “Exu,” the most human of the “Orixás” in African-origin religions. Without Exu, no ritual can unfold. It is Exu’s enigmatic presence that informs the eleven musical themes specially created by the music group Metá Metá.
While Grupo Corpo’s artistic creators delved deep into the universe of Afro-Brazilian religions for this theme, “Gira” is anything but a mere mimetic representation of these rituals.
Instead, Rodrigo Pederneiras reimagines and reinterprets the powerful glossary of gestures and movements he experienced during his exploration of the inspirational religious practices.
The result is a dance performance that reverberates with the spiritual and the supernatural, a trance-like embodiment of rituals both sacred and mysterious.
In this mystical journey, stage design mastermind Paulo Pederneiras transforms the performance space into a hauntingly ethereal realm. With black tulle covering the dancers off-stage and enveloping three walls of the black box, the boundaries blur between the corporeal and the otherworldly, creating an atmosphere of endlessness that resonates with the boundless dimensions of spirituality.
The costumes, designed by Freusa Zechmeister, are a visual testament to the ritualistic theme. The dancers are adorned with naked torsos, the lower halves of their bodies swathed in white skirts of primal design, crafted from raw linen. This uniformity emphasizes the unity of the cast, both male and female, and underscores the profound symbolism woven into every aspect of “Gira.”
Gil Refazendo: A Musical Renaissance
Following “Gira,” Grupo Corpo embarks on an entirely different creative journey with “Gil Refazendo (Gil Remixed),” a production that breathes new life into the music of Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil. The inspiration for the piece began in 2019, as the Pederneiras brothers, Paulo and Rodrigo, were captivated by Gil’s timeless melodies.
Their creative journey took a detour due to the pandemic, during which they reimagined the original piece. Like some aspects of our culture, the work emerged stronger than ever, transformed and revitalized.
As Paulo Pederneiras says, “It’s a new show now.” That spirit of rebirth reverberates throughout “Gil Refazendo.” Drawing inspiration from Gilberto Gil’s music, which the legendary musician and activist created for the piece by rethinking his own signature sounds and style (known in the 1960s as tropicália) the Grupo Corpo artists reconstructed the ballet from the ground up. The result is a familiar and fresh masterpiece of music and dance that encapsulates the essence of renewal and revival.
The scenography of “Gil Remaking” provides a compelling visual backdrop to the performance. A minutely shifting background image – a magnified depiction of sunflowers slowly coming back to life – stands as a metaphor for the creative resurrection at the core of this production.
The dancers, draped in raw linen, exude simplicity and purity, with female dancers wearing shirts over a two-piece knitted outfit and male dancers donning casual pants and shirts. A “simple white” light bathes the stage, highlighting the raw, unadulterated beauty of the performance.
Gil’s music takes center stage, each note and rhythm providing the canvas on which Grupo Corpo’s dancers paint corporeal pictures. Phrases and themes from Gil’s iconic songs emerge, reworked into recognizable variations.
The soundtrack incorporates ancestral drums, electronic distortions, the Afro-Brazilian instrument “afoxé,” melancholic “modinha” melodies, the resonant “berimbau,” and a jazzy woodwind section. The result is an auditory journey that traverses the cultural heritage of Brazil, from its African roots to contemporary beats.
In the heart of Brazil, Grupo Corpo continues to push the boundaries of dance, bridging the gaps between spirituality, culture, and artistic expression. With “Gira” and “Gil Refazendo,” they weave together the threads of Afro-Brazilian traditions and contemporary creativity, inviting audiences to embark on a profound journey through the enchanting landscapes of music and movement. Grupo Corpo’s artistry is not just a performance; it is a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit to transcend and transform.
Tickets for Grupo Corpo’s return visit to Boston are available at celebrityseries.org.