The contemporary Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo, founded by Paulo Pederneiras in 1975, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, debuted its first work, Maria Maria, the very next year. Featuring original music by Milton Nascimento, a script by Fernando Brandt and choreography by the Argentine Oscar Araiz, the ballet would go on to spend six years on stage and tour fourteen countries. But even though the piece was an immediate critical, popular and commercial success, the group´s distinctive artistic identity, its long-term popularity and its artistic achievements have been the fruits of a long, arduous journey. As a result, the group started operating in its own premises as of 1978.
While the success of Maria Maria was still reverberating throughout Brazil and in various European and Latin American countries, Grupo Corpo (literally Body Group in English) never stopped working, staging no less than six productions between 1976 and 1982. In the first phase of the group´s existence, the influence of Araiz, who in 1980 would write O Último Trem, was evident in varying degrees in the dance troupe´s work. However, the company´s distinctive features and personality were chiefly molded by Paulo Pederneiras, the man responsible for sets and lighting the group´s performances and its artistic direction and the dancer Rodrigo Pederneiras, who left the stage in 1981 to assume the role of full-time choreographer.
In 1985, the company launched what would be its second great success: Prelúdios, a theatrical piece incorporating twenty-four Chopin preludes interpreted by pianist Nelson Freire. It was the group´s first collaboration with Freusa Zechmeister, who remains the company´s costume designer. The show debuted to public and critical acclaim at the First International Dance Festival of Rio de Janeiro and would cement the group´s reputation in the world of contemporary Brazilian dance.
Grupo Corpo then entered a new phase, establishing its own unique theatrical language and choreography. Starting with an erudite repertoire featuring the works of Richard Strauss, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Edward Elgar, among others, the company began combining classical technique with a contemporary re-reading of popular Brazilian dance forms. This would become the group´s trademark.
In 1989, the creative nucleus of the company gained another important collaborator in artist Fernando Velloso. Alongside Zechmeister and Paulo Pederneiras, Velloso helped establish the group´s visual identity, acting as set designer until 2002, when Paulo Pederneiras took over the responsibility.
In the same year the group debuted Missa do Orfanato, a complex theatrical reading of Mozart´s Missa Solemnis k.139. Almost operatic in dimensions, this ballet became such an esthetic triumph that, nearly two decades later, it remains in the company´s repertoire.
The group underwent a radical transformation three years later with the production of 21, a ballet which confirmed the uniqueness of Rodrigo Pederneiras´s choreography and the unmistakable persona of the dance troupe. Utilizing the singular sounds of Brazilian instrumental group Uakti, as well as ten themes composed by Marco Antônio Guimarães, 21 leaves behind the group´s preoccupation with technical form and sees it taking apart melodies and rhythms in order to explore their underlying ideas. The decision to once again use specifically composed scores – a mark of the group´s first three shows in the 1970s – allowed it to further explore the language of popular Brazilian dance. As the critic Rui Fontana Lopes put it, the group had finally found "the most precise translation of the word ballet into the mother tongue."
In the work that followed, Nazareth, Rodrigo Pederneiras´s fascination with traversing the worlds of both popular and erudite music found a perfect opportunity for fuller expression. Inspired by the verbal games of Brazilian literary icon Machado de Assis (1839-1908) and by the works of Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934), a seminal figure in the formation of Brazilian popular music, the work was scored by composer and literary theorist José Miguel Wisnik. Though built on a solid, classical foundation, the production brought together in good-humored fashion the light-hearted and sensual elements inherent Brazilian popular dances.
The partnership of Grupo Corpo with contemporary authors has been such a success that scores composed especially for the company have become the norm, and each score has inspired a new creation. An exception came in 2004 with the production of Lecuona, a work that drew on thirteen love songs by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) and in which Rodrigo Pederneiras demonstrated his gift for the creation of pas- de- deux.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, nearly two decades after its inception, Grupo Corpo intensified its international touring. Between 1996 and 1999, it was the resident dance company of the Maison de la Danse in Lyon, France. Several of the group´s creations (Bach, Parabelo and Benguelê) were first staged in Europe over this period.
Today, having created 35 choreographies and more than 2,300 pieces, the Brazilian dance company maintains ten ballets in its repertoire and gives 80 performances a year in places as distinctive as Iceland and South Korea, the United States and Lebanon, Canada, Italy, Singapore, the Netherlands, Israel, France, Japan and Mexico.
The minimalism of Philip Glass (Sete ou Oito Peças para um Ballet); the vigorous pop and urban sounds of Arnaldo Antunes (O Corpo); the primordial experimentalism of Tom Zé (Santagustin and, with Wisnik, Parabelo); the African sensibility of João Bosco (Benguelê); the metaphysical verse of Luís de Camões and Gregório de Mattos; the light touch of Caetano Veloso and Wisnik (Onqotô); the rootsy modernity of Lenine (Breu); the poetry of polarities (Ímã): Grupo Corpo has drawn on all of these elements and more to produce shows of a very diverse character – cerebral, cosmopolitan, primitive, existential, tough – while always keeping in sight the company´s distinctive traits.
ARGENTINA Buenos Aires La Plata AUSTRALIA Perth AUSTRIA Innsbruck Graz Saint Pölten BELGIUM Antwerp Bruges Brussels Gent Turnhout BRAZIL Aracaju Atibaia Belém Belo Horizonte Blumenau Brasília Caxias do Sul Coronel Fabriciano Curitiba Florianópolis Fortaleza Goiânia Governador Valadares Ilhéus Ipatinga Itabira João Pessoa Joinville Juiz de Fora Londrina Maceió Manaus Mariana Montes Claros Natal Ouro Preto Paulínia Pelotas Ponta Grossa Porto Alegre Recife Ribeirão Preto Rio de Janeiro Sabará Salvador Santos São João del Rei São Luis São Paulo Teresina Timóteo Uberaba Uberlândia Vitória CANADA Assomption Baie-Comeau Banff Montreal Ottawa Quebec Sherbrooke Vancouver Vernon Toronto CHILE Santiago de Chile CHINA Macao COLOMBIA Bogota Cali COSTA RICA San Jose ECUADOR Guayacquil Quito ENGLAND Birmingham Bradford Brighton Epson High Wycombe Hull London Manchester Nottingham Paignton Plymouth Salford Sheffield Skegness Southampton FINLAND Kuopio FRANCE Aix-en-Provence Albi Alès Annecy Annemasse Arcachon Bayonne Belfort Biarritz Cannes Chambéry Dijon Gap Grenoble La Rochelle Le Creusot Lyon Martigues Massy Montpellier Mulhouse Nanterre Narbonne Paris Perpignan Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Sète Sochaux Roubaix Rueil-Malmaison Tarbes Toulouse Valence Valenciennes GERMANY Aschaffenburg Baden-Baden Bonn Essen Frankfurt Friedrichshafen Fulda Fürth Hannover Heilbronn Karlsruhe Leverkunsen Ludwigsburg Ludwigshafen Neuss Recklinghausen Remscheid Schweinfurt Velbert Weimar Wiesbaden Wolfsburg GREECE Athens HUNGARY Budapest ICELAND Reykjavik IRELAND Belfast ISRAEL Jerusalem Tel Aviv ITALY Bologna Brescia Cremona Ferrara Milan Modena Reggio Emilia Spoleto Turin Viareggio Vicenza JAPAN Tokyo LEBANON Baalbeck LUXEMBOURG Luxembourg Wiltz MEXICO Mexico City Guadalajara Guanajuato Monterey Puebla Zacatecas NETHERLANDS Den Haag NEW ZEALAND Wellington PORTUGAL Lisbon Porto PUERTO RICO San Juan RUSSIA Moscow SCOTLAND Edinburgh SINGAPORE Singapore SLOVENIA Ljubljana SOUTH KOREA Seoul SPAIN Barcelona Bilbao Gijon Granada Las Palmas Madri Oviedo Palma de Mallorca San Sebastian Santander Valencia Valladolid SWITZERLAND Baden Basel Fribourg Lugano Monthey Schaffhausen Winterthur Zug Zurich TAIWAN Taipei THAILAND Bangkok URUGUAY Montevideo USA Amherst Anchorage Ann Arbor Austin Beckett Boston Chicago Cleveland Colorado Springs Columbus Dallas Davis Elmira Fairfax Fayetteville Houston Humboldt Iowa City Key West Long Beach Los Angeles Miami Minneapolis Nashville New Orleans Newark Nova York Oswego Palo Alto Park City Philadelphia Pittsburgh Portland Purchase Richmond Riverside Saint Louis San Diego Santa Barbara Seattle Stanford Tucson Washington West Palm Beach VENEZUELA Caracas WALES Cardiff