When one sees GRUPO CORPO dance on stage it is as if all questions concerning the transit between nature and culture were being fully answered. All facets of Brazil, past and future, erudite and popular, foreign influence and local color, and the urban and the suburban come to being as art. Brazilian art. World art.
“O Grupo Corpo is under nobody’s name: we were able to get an identity as a group”. It’s a fact: dance, music, lighting, costumes, stage setting, everything is integrated as one in Grupo Corpo’s creations. But someone must direct the group – and this was always Paulo Pederneira’s job.
As general and artistic director of the company, which was founded prompted by him in 1975, Paulo is also responsible for the lighting of the ballets and ,since Bach , he’s also been participating of the creation of stage setting. The light as a strong presence, which both illuminates as serves as a space for dancing: “ I think of the space the same way I think of the lighting. Sometimes the light is the space.”
Like in the piece O Corpo , where the distinction between stage setting and lighting virtually disappears and the dancers dance in red. Or, in 21 , where a spot light serves as a mobile tunnel for a block of bodies. Or in Sete ou oito peças para um ballet  where, at the end, each dancer individualize themselves in a vertical column of color. Or in so many other moments when light, itself, seem to direct the counterpoint of the bodies on stage, which it makes be seen and understood.
“To see and understand: but understanding to Paulo, is a poor name for not knowing things, it’s a commitment with amazement or with reticence, which is at the core of each new work. This goes from the time the ballet itself is being imagined to the way the team works: “to question one’s own work is fundamental. It’s always a risk, but a productive risk. To try to see what one has and to try to undo or to dismantle one’s own methodology. Art must have that or no steps are taken forward. It’s either that or it will be a dishonest art”.
Since its foundation in 1975, Grupo Corpo has been dealing with the dilemmas which involve not only the learning process but the control over a language and also the administrative maintenance of the company.
To look for funds and to support one’s own work, without compromising quality, has been a characteristic of Grupo Corpo in these last 35 years. And Grupo Corpo is known throughout the world today.
Besides his work with Grupo Corpo, Paulo has done lighting projects for several operas, such as: Don Giovanni, Suor Angelica, Lucia de Lammermoor, La Voix Humaine, Salomé and Orfeo, to mention a few. He has also done the set designing for exhibits such as the section for “Indigenous and Anthropologic Art” at the Brazil 500 years Exhibit, at the “Oca” (Hut) – at the Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, 2000).
“A Brazilian company has great physical diversity. Each dancer’s movement is different, and yet the idea of being a group is not lost. That’s where the dance draws its strength from.” The words describe what happens with the bodies, but equally serve to describe the company. Under the direction of Paulo, Grupo Corpo made a virtue out of its diversities. And it continues making this virtue the principle of creation: a way of knowing and not knowing, a bet on the unknown, in order to always reach a new dance, which will always be its own dance.
“It was only in 1988, when working in Uakti, that I started thinking about what it would be like to make a dance which would be more inside our body”.
Rodrigo’s words define a crucial moment not only for his career but also for Grupo Corpo as well. His work, since, can be seen in a variety of exploration of this “dance inside our body” – which is the dance of Corpo.
“Our body” learned how to dance on the street and the language of Rodrigo is essentially a modern one. In his own way he harbors the xaxado, the samba, the ball room dance, the celebrations, the capoeira. Everything is translated into a private world, where, dynamics and balance, have even more meaning than movement. Everything with a certain amount of joy and humor, which, even though joyous and good humored, does not hide the violence and the ambiguity of our condition.
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.
Characteristic imaging: one or more dancers separate from a group, as if pulled by a strong force. The group then reorganizes itself until pressure from another impulse comes on. Circles are rare in such choreography. The stage is built as a central point and the front space is well defined. The lines are the result of the dancers movements and they are formed without a pre-established shape, from the first moment of the creation.
Being Corpo’s choreographer since 1978, Rodrigo’s work is now known and recognized nationally and internationally. He 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 Brazil: Deutsche Oper Berlin Company (Germany), Gulbenkian (Portugal), Les Ballets Jazz Montréal (Canada), Stadttheater Saint Gallen (Switzerland), and Opéra du Rhin (France).
But creating for Grupo Corpo , however, remains his main interest. “ O Grupo Corpo today has it’s own language, which is something hard to achieve.” Which does not mean that things become easier. Much on the contrary. “I may make a mistake one thousand times while creating, until I find that which I want. This is not possible with other dance companies. There are pressures for time.”
Creation, almost by definition, means anguish; but the support of the choreography assistants, Carmen Purri and Miriam Pederneiras, help minimize the efforts to see the dance being slowly created on stage. Grupo Corpo’s dancers learn from them what this body of ours this, as imagined by Rodrigo during the creation phase. They are like tuned up instrument ready to be played.
If Grupo Corpo has a language all its own today, it is Rodrigo’s language: it has his unmistakable accent, which is, understood by everybody, because it is our body that he induces to dance.