The Thrill of Brazil

Sep 16, 2016

With red nail polish named “The Thrill of Brazil” on my toes; a ticket to Portland, Oregon in hand; and a smile on my face; I boarded the airplane. On my way to see the legendary Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo, perform in a city I’ve always wanted to visit; and I was alone. As a mother of three teenage boys who are still in the process of developing their frontal lobes, being alone for an entire 24 hours sounded dreamy.

As I made my way to the theater, I was intoxicated by the scent of cherry blossoms, the buzz of the city, and the eclectic people that make Portland an amazing place to visit. I then entered the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, a charming historic theater, and gazed upon the beautiful details of guild moldings, crystal chandeliers and decorative ceilings. Guests were holding cocktails and wine, while people-watching from the grand balcony. As I found my seat, the chatter-filled theater let me know the audience was in good spirits, and that they knew they were in for a great night of dance.

I had read that Grupo Corpo is a favorite of the Portland performing arts scene, and this was confirmed when the curtain opened to an explosion of joyous ovation in appreciation for what was to come. This reaction reminded me of why I love live theater; the communication of the audience members with each other, and between the dancers, feels like a pulse.

Grupo Corpo (“Body Group”), is a premier dance company founded in 1975 by Paulo Pederneiras in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. They have been recognized for their precise and passion-filled choreography. When I first saw the company, it felt like the dancers reflected the Pediernas brothers’ quest to find the Brazilian identity. Each dancer has a very distinct and unique look about them. In reading articles about Grupo Corpo and Brazil, they talked extensively about the tremendous diversity of the country; with the population consisting of many transplants from all over the world. Throw in economic and political challenges, and it is clearly an exciting and tumultuous time for Brazil. It is clear to me that the Pederneiras brothers see tremendous beauty and harmony in the differences in their country.

The first dance, Suite Branca (“A Ballet in White”), begins by revealing an all-white theme. This includes a large iceberg, full of texture and depth, that encompases the entire back of the stage and frames the dancers. Beautiful, bright, and playful music fills the theater. The precision and gravity-defying moves made me blink twice, and at one point the movements gave the illusion of ice breaking off a glacier and plunging into the water below. Forty dancers dressed in white floated across the floor like ice chunks moving in the ocean.

The final dance, Dança Sinfônica, is a celebration of Grupo Corpo’s 40-Year Anniversary. The colors were black and a rich and vibrant red. The use of red during the performance is powerful, and seemed to symbolize different things throughout the repertoire: love; passion; blood; turmoil; and ceremony. The gorgeous symphonic music filled the space, and evoked powerful emotions. Together, the music and dance felt like a celebration and a struggle; a telling of an epic tale. It was layered, complex and breathtaking to watch. I felt lucky to be witnessing Grupo Corpo live.

Like the quirky architecture and people of Portland, the dancers and choreography are unique mix of look and style. The choreography had a mixture of ballet, Afro-Brazilian, capoeira, samba and more. All these movements blended together, creating something entirely modern and unique. Nothing about the dance movements seemed natural, or even humanly possible. Every part of their bodies were in motion from the tips of their fingers to their earlobes, to their toes!

The end of the performance erupted into a joyous standing ovation, and was accompanied by guttural yelps - because clapping didn’t seem to be enough. My hands sore from clapping and my voice hoarse from cheering, I made my way through the inspired crowd and out the front door. The city was full of people, and the buzz of excitement was still in the air. I remember stopping in my tracks and looking at the pedestrians as they passed by. Realizing that they had no idea what had just occurred inside the theater, I found myself feeling bad for them. I wanted to yell out to them, “You just missed something amazing!” Since I missed that opportunity, I am saying it now. Don’t pass up the chance to feel the “thrill of Brazil” as Grupo Corpo takes the Northrop stage on Oct. 3 2016.

An unforgettable adventure etched in my being; a bounce in my step; and a ticket back to Minneapolis in my hand, I boarded the plane. On my way home to my three beautiful teenage boys. I can’t wait to share Grupo Corpo with them this fall at Northrop.

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