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As the Boch Center Shubert Theatre descended into darkness, an utter silence settled over the audience who eagerly awaited the performance of Brazil’s renowned contemporary dance ensemble, Grupo Corpo. A bright light illuminated a lone dancer, accompanied by a startling and pulsating techno beat, signaling the arrival of a mesmerizing spectacle set to transport the viewers’ spirits to an entirely different realm.
Grupo Corpo’s performance, which ran from Oct. 28-29, marked their return to Boston since their last premiere in 2018. The group is known for their signature Afro-Brazilian cultural choreography and seamless blend of musical genres such as samba and rock with an underlying electronic rhythm. Through Rodrigo Pederneiras’s ingenious choreography and Paulo Pederneiras’s crafted stage design, the performance transcended mere dance by creating a story of heartfelt revival. The dancers demonstrated not only exceptional athleticism and coordination, but also managed to deeply move the audience with their emotive facial expressions between moments of serenity and chaos.
From the moment the dancers flooded the stage for their first piece “Gil Refazendo,” wearing all white linen outfits, they evoked a sense of peacefulness through their elegant spins and gentle jumps, executed flawlessly and in sync. The performance created a captivating juxtaposition of tranquility and intensity, as their slow, graceful movements clashed with the raw, static reverb musical sounds. While this stark contrast initially might have seemed distracting, the choreographer’s thoughtful design and the dancers’ unmatched talent resulted in an unforgettable fusion that entranced the audience. There were also multiple instances where the music transitioned from beautiful piano melodies to vibrant trumpet riffs with a rhythmic drum beat. Each movement felt like a surprise, as the dancers’ tapping feet suddenly overpowered the drums, adding to the magical chaos of the piece.
A shifting background image of regenerating sunflowers accompanied the piece, the flowers transforming from a withering state to vibrant life. At first glance, the slow image seemed to have no meaning, but towards the end it became clear that the flowers mirrored the dancers’ journey of renewed life and the regrowth of their souls. As this is the group’s comeback performance “Gil Refazendo” (Gil Remaking) emulated the message of renewal and remaking, and this spirit was evident in the title itself. Remarkably enough, the ballet was completely reconstructed to reflect Gilberto Gil’s music and the soundtrack which is based on a rereading of his most famous themes. Gil, who is considered one of the godfathers of Brazilian music, arranged the soundtrack to include phrases and themes from his well known compositions like “Aquele Abraço,” “ Tempo Rei,” and “Andar com Fé.” These songs — ranging from powerful ancestral drums to lively woodwind tunes, accompanied by joyful hip sways and precise hand movement — radiated an electrifying energy as the music flowed through the dancers. Eventually, the music died down and an intense pulsating beat filled the silence once more. The cast stomped in perfect unison and converged into a circle, embodying the thumping sound of a heartbeat. As the background image zoomed out, a beautiful field of blooming sunflowers was revealed, leaving the audience stunned by the serene culmination to an intense experience.
Although the groups’ entire performance showcased the beauty of Afro-Brazilian cultural traditional dance and the joyous feeling it brings, the second piece, “Gira,” immersed the audience into a dark and mystical world of religious rituals. Through precise foot choreography that blended stomps and graceful hand gestures, as well as powerful lifts followed by fierce landings, a sense of raw human emotion emitted from the stage. Cohorts of dancers emerged from a pitch black void after taking off black tulle that concealed their presence, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the backdrop illuminated only by a row of candles. As the audience awaited their next moves, they watched in awe as the dancers appeared nude from the waist up, exposing the intimacy of a human’s connection to a deity.
The soundtrack for this piece was also very different from the first. The dancers executed perfect spins and engaged with their partners in a rough but sensual manner, to a soundtrack that ranged from vocal chants to melodious flute sounds, and deep bass. The choreography also incorporated ritual gestures of Umbanda. The integration of such marvelous choreography and eclectic music composed by the band Metá Metá expressed a passionate devotion to a higher being. Additionally, solo dancers stood motionless at times under a spotlight, suddenly letting the gong beats take control of their movement. In these moments, they seemed to be entranced, as if their spirits had elevated out of their bodies. This beautiful and solemn surrender to the music was deeply moving.
Throughout the performance, the audience gasped in amazement at the remarkable athleticism and strength of each dancer. The male dancers exhibited proficient skill, effortlessly lifting their female partners. Even during moments where the partners appeared to be fighting, whether by a firm pull or a powerful push, the female dancers descended gracefully, which highlights the group’s exceptional ability to balance strength and elegance.
Nearing the end of “Gira,” the entire cast emerged from the darkness as a unified force, suddenly dropping to the ground and moving their arms in perfect harmony. Each member looked up at the sky with facial expressions of cheer and relief, marking the end of their story of renewal and the start of a new era of life beneath a fading light. The transformative night left the audience yearning for that same euphoric feeling and longing to embark on their own journeys of revival, filled with inspiration and undeniable wonder.
—Staff Writer Maria F. Cifuentes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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