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Suíte Branca [2015]

choreography: Cassi Abranches

music: Samuel Rosa

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras and Gabriel Pederneiras

When the first guitar chords are struck and the silhouette of a ballerina dances through the air, a hint of mystery enters the scene. The aridity of an eerily white landscape underlines the enigmatic atmosphere.

Dressed in white from start to finish, moving across the milky linoleum against the backdrop panel that gradually reveals the peaks and valleys of a structure that resembles a giant glacier, GRUPO CORPO dancers dedicate themselves to a choreography handwritten especially for them. Conceived as a brand new piece to connect the duet program for GRUPO CORPO’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the Suíte Branca features signature scenography by Paulo Pederneiras, costumes by Freusa Zechmeister and lighting by Paulo and Gabriel Pederneiras. It also marks the debut of two new professionals with the company: young choreographer Cassi Abranches from São Paulo, and musician Samuel Rosa from Minas Gerais.

The Suíte Branca’s 100% instrumental score was written by Samuel Rosa, vocalist, guitarist, composer and leader of Skank – one of Brazil's best-known pop rock bands. He wrote the score alongside his band colleagues of 20 years and it was his first major work that took him beyond the band's style. For over 30 minutes, Rosa and his Skank bandmates mix psychedelia and circus elements, Jamaica and Minas Gerais, with a hint of mantra in a waltz rhythm and with caustic guitar distortion, making discreet allusions to the legendary 60s and 70s bands that influenced the band's music, such as the Beatles and the Clube da Esquina.

With her own choreographic style, Cassi Abranches was a GRUPO CORPO dancer from 2001 to 2013, and she knows the potential and idiosyncrasies of her former stage colleagues better than anyone. After collaborating with the São Paulo Dance Company (GEN, 2015), the Brazilian Youth Bolshoi Company from Joinville (Ariana, 2015), the SESC Dance Company (Oblivion and Plan, 2015) and the Palace of Arts Youth Ballet (Back cover, 2009), the later two being from Belo Horizonte, and receiving the honorable task of creating the Suíte Branca, she became the second person to choreograph for GRUPO CORPO since Rodrigo Pederneiras took residence in 1981*. She embodies the commitment of the Minas dance company to a new generation.

Among undulating arms and hips, pendular movements, suspensions, and considerable floorwork, the score brought to life by Cassi suggests an interaction with the law of gravity, where it is possible to see the distinctive traits of GRUPO CORPO that for so long have inhabited our imagination, and at the same time, to glimpse the strength of an unequivocal otherness.

[Length: 32 minutes]

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Dança Sinfônica [2015]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Marco Antônio Guimarães

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras and Gabriel Pederneiras

Dança Sinfônica, which is a celebration of Grupo Corpo’s four decades in business, was created based on the concept of memories. The theme, proposed by artistic director and scenographer Paulo Pederneiras, sees Rodrigo Pederneiras bring back his best representations of a whole vocabulary of movements, written over 34 years of residence as the company's choreographer.  It is a recreation of his memories that uses all the emotion accumulated over decades of deconstructing shape and form to develop a near synthesis of all his writing. 

The set reflects these memories. A panel, which covers the entire backdrop of the stage, is perceived by the audience as an abstract mosaic, while over a thousand memories and tributes cover the 8m x 16m surface. Photographs gathered and selected by set designer Paulo Pederneiras reflect the daily lives of the artistic and technical team members – Grupo Corpo dancers, ballet masters, producers, teachers, set designers, and lighting and costume technicians. This tapestry of faces does not include a single picture of an entire set – all the images are informal, spontaneous depictions of rehearsals, journeys, backstage moments and classes.  The sides of the stage – called 'legs' in scenographic terms – are covered by a solemn red velvet, creating a kind of celebratory frame for the photos – intimate portraits of 40 years living and working with the top private dance company in the country.  

The revisited memories appear in the music. The score, by Marco Antônio Guimarães – five-time collaborator for the company’s  ballets, including 21 and Bach – also follows the idea of a puzzle of memories. It presents a set of themes interpreted by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Minas Gerais, interspersed with the unique sound of the Uakti, with many of them evoking memorable sections of previous pieces. There is considerable poetic license, as well as quotes, overlays, subversions and transcreations that Guimarães incorporates into the 42-minute score. Being the first symphonic piece represented on stage by Grupo Corpo since Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations (1991), the music unfolds in an elaborately woven web performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Minas Gerais.  Under the direction of conductor Fabio Mechetti, this orchestra, after only seven years, has been hailed as one of the top orchestras in the country. 

The result is a cascading lyricism, woven with references to characters and eras that, on or off the stage, have marked the history of Grupo Corpo. It is a subtle and well-balanced dilution of memories, which lends highly charged emotions to the work – and which reach their climax in the extensive and exquisite pas-de-deux spiral, reputed by its creator as among the best that he has ever worked on.

[length: 42 minutes]

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Triz [2013]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Lenine

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras e Gabriel Pederneiras


The sensation of being just a hair’s breadth away from the blade of the mythical sword of Damocles was so imperative during the entire gestation period of the ballet from Grupo Corpo that it not only became the broad motif, but also inspired its name: Triz, an onomatopoeic term most likely deriving from the Greek triks/trikós (hair), symbolized in the expression por um triz (by a hair)1.

While recovering from surgery in mid-February to reconstruct a tendon in his shoulder and two muscles in his left arm, the choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras tore the meniscus in his left knee, and only after another surgery could he begin the project with his leg immobilized.

For a restless ex-dancer accustomed to choreographing by demonstrating every movement with his own body, the physical limitation sharply affected his creative process, which already had the sharp blade of time hovering directly overhead. There was insufficient time to write the parts and orchestrate the score for 21 bodies in the space. The radical brilliance of Lenine’s polyrhythmic music also weighed heavily on his head; in an apparent paradox, the music was constructed entirely of string instruments.

In order to stimulate the creation of the soundtrack for Grupo Corpo’s ballet, Lenine himself placed Damocles’ sword above his own head by constructing a musical topography interlaced with rhythmical subversions (a passion) from a single leitmotif and using only strings. From the berimbau to the balalaika, the violin to the acoustic guitar, from the sitar to the rabeca, the tanbur to the mandolin, the full retinue of strings that populates and establishes the musical range of Triz (as well as the central theme) is fully explored to the full range of its sonoric possibilities. The exception that confirms the rule was, curiously, the piano, the most complete instrument, which appears with only a single note: the resounding final note of the score woven by the composer from Pernambuco. 

Conceived as a single ten-movement piece, the score to Triz is written for four hands by Lenine and his son Bruno Giorgi, who also plays various musical roles.

In a work where the occupation of space reflects the diabolical intermittence and guile worked on time by Lenine’s music during the 38-minute score, the possibility of creating a series of female duos acted as a soothing moment and a pause for breath. This was so necessary not only for the execution of the choreography, but also for the execution of the movements by the ballet dancers, who worked in their group formations in such a state of permanent tension that  being off by a single hair, for just an instant, could be fatal.

With close to fifteen kilometers of steel cable, Paulo Pederneiras constructs scenery that alludes to the sovereign presence of strings in Lenine’s score while, at the same time, imposing itself as a powerful metaphor for the limitations placed on the creative team and the Grupo Corpo performers in producing Triz.  

In a hyperbolic representation of the steel-corded inner frame of the piano, Pederneiras’ scenography contrasts the feeling of weight and the physical barrier conveyed by the steel and the monumental nature of the curtains with the transparency and lightness generated by the gaps between the cords. The entertaining game of just how far the limits of an illusion can extend is seen most paradigmatically in the dancers’ occupation of the lengthwise space between the rotunda and the background curtain.

Freusa Zechmeister relies on full-length bodysuits, exclusively using blocks of black and white to vertically divide the dancers’ bodies into two symmetrical halves. This option takes the notion of relating to limits and brings it almost to the edge of play. When in motion, the large masses of black and white, which are so clearly demarcated in the static view of the shape, no longer require even the body to which they belong.

In a performance that takes the oppressive nature of limits as a starting point for its construction, Zechmeister’s costumes arise as a more evident symbol that the key to overcoming can be in the mere determination to stay in motion. 

[1]TRIZ ¡ PORTUGUESE noun, masculine – almost nothing, a trifling difference; an instant

SAYING – por um triz – almost, by a fraction of a second, by a thread, by a hair;

ETYMOLOGY – debatable origin; according to José Pedro Machado, seems to represent the Greek triks/trikós = hair; according to Antenor Nascentes, probably onomatopoeic in origin;


Text: Angela de Almeida

August 2013

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Sem Mim [2011]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Carlos Núñes and José Miguel Wisnik (on songs by Martín Codax)

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

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Ímã [2009]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: + 2 (Moreno, Domenico, Kassin)

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

The polarities intrinsic to the human condition and the principles of interdependence and complementarity that govern relationships form the starting point for choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras’ creation of ímã. Smooth and vital, trivial and strange, harmonic and dissonant, the GRUPO CORPO piece is dotted with duos and marked by the constant alternation between a full and empty stage.
ímã premiered in São Paulo, Brazil in August 2009 with an original soundtrack composed by + 2, the Brazilian trio of Domenico, Kassin and Moreno, set and lighting by Paulo Pederneiras and costumes by Freusa Zechmeister.

experimentation & refinement
+ 2 takes its first trip through instrumental music with the ímã soundtrack, having recorded three discs on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label – Máquina de Escrever Música (Moreno + 2, 2001), Sincerely Hot (Domenico + 2, 2003) and Futurismo (Kassin + 2, 2006) – that are all integrally populated by songs. This new experience preserves the trio’s main characteristics that have sparked interest on the international stage: a keen balance between experimentation and refinement; the use of technological resources in the name of building an esthetic and exploring new sounds (not the misleading manipulation of trial and error); and the juxtaposition of tones and textures of a wide range of diverse instruments like guitar and ocarina, balaphone and cello, synth and cuíca and kalimba.  
The soundtrack created by Kassin, Moreno and Domenico for GRUPO CORPO, “40 minutos e 13 temas”, takes us to the abstract (Chorume, by Moreno), the essentially melodic (Sopro, by Domenico) and the typically electronic (Padre Baloeiro, by Kassin) while revealing influences that range from bossanovista João Donato to ‘70s afro-music icon Fela Kuti, visiting contemporary Japanese multi-instrumentalist Cornelius along the way.

strangeness & beauty
Fugacity provides Rodrigo Pederneiras the tone for designing the use of space. In ímã everything is formed with the same speed at which it is unformed (or transformed). Nothing seems to conform completely. Solos, duos, quartets, larger and smaller groups come together and dissipate throughout in an incessant game of union and dispersion that translates to a scenic version of perverse chemistry (or physics) that has caused opposites to attract and repel since the beginning of time.
This poetry of polarities – molded by the magic that lurks in the convergent of the divergent, the juxtaposition of the disparate, the excitement that surrounds the friction – reaches its climax when the music of + 2 and the choreography of Rodrigo are added to Paulo Pederneiras’ lighting and Freusa Zechmeister’s costumes.  
Freusa Zechmeister creates differentiated patterns and models for each of the dancers who perform practically the entire piece using a single costume design. Color alone serves as an agent for the changes demanded by the choreography and the music.  This resource not only highlights the personality of each dancer on the stage, but also reveals and esteems each performance.
Using seven-color LEDs that were recently released by an American company, Paulo Pederneiras creates a new scenic spatiality where volume and texture acquire an “ethereal materiality” because they are made of pure light.
The whole, almost bucolic tones at the beginning of ímã lead to an explosion of color. Violent, radical, exuberant, the colors produce unusual almost always dissonant combinations between them or in intense dialogue with the costumes. In the end, they confer a mixture of strangeness and indescribable beauty.  

Angela de Almeida
August 2009
Translated by Dawn Kelly


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Breu [2007]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Lenine

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

At first, from the utter darkness on stage, there is nothing but an image of devastation: the bodies of the dancers, motionless, as if they have been knocked down on the floor. For a while the only palpable movement on stage does not come from the bodies; it is the inhuman sound of barren winds – the audible emblem of a desolated landscape – that sweep the stage. In the next 40 minutes Breu follows the intricate and poignant fabric of sounds created by Brazilian composer Lenine to evoke the dark times we live in. The show seems to have started by its end as the initial deathly inertia is followed by the most aggressive, edgy and powerful choreography created thus far by Rodrigo Pederneiras in almost 30 years as the choreographer of GRUPO CORPO.

“Have Fun”    
When Rodrigo Pederneiras invited Lenine, the renown musician, singer and songwriter from Pernambuco, to write the soundtrack of CORPO’s new show, the choreographer gave the composer only two hints about the kind of score he wanted. Pederneiras simply said, “I need 40 to 50 minutes of soundtrack,” and then told Lenine to have fun. Lenine took these two succinct suggestions, delivered with a mix of provocation and sweetness by the choreographer, as the sign of the most powerful fuel for creativity: freedom. Through six months the composer did nothing but followed Rodrigo’s “two commandments.”

Lenine worked as he does when composing for his own studio CDs and started searching through his sound database in search of elements for setting the soundtrack’s basic ambience. The composer chose this time some files collected over the years where he had kept noises out of his children’s toys. Curiously this was the starting point for Breu’s soundtrack, such a heavy and intense score that led Rodrigo Pederneiras to choose the violence and brutality so many of us nowadays encounter in our daily lives as the main theme for his new choreography.

The music created by Lenine for BREU combines the best of the musical tradition of the Brazilian Northeast with cutting-edge modernity. A wide range of different timbres, samplers, effects, citations and styles builds an instigating tower of Babel. The soundtrack is a single piece with eight movements filled with unexpected encounters such as the folk Northeastern caboclinho and hard rock; the English horn and the derbak, an Arabic percussion instrument; and drums played by ex-Sepultura Iggor Cavalera and a French medieval Occitane flute played by Claude Sicre, leader of the band Fabulous Trobadors from Toulouse.

The Image of Sound
In order to express in movements the unbridled fierceness of Lenine’s soundtrack, Rodrigo Pederneiras and the dancers from CORPO had to leave behind the scenic temper and part of the extended vocabulary built by the company and formulate a whole new set of codes. What set the tone in Breu is the power, harshness, and edginess of the movements and their repeated confluence to the longitudinal zone situated right above the ground level. The sudden falls and the painfully trudging returns to the upward position seem to confine the dancers’ bodies close to the ground. Consequently these bodies seem to get to motion only through the help of their crouches, their wrists, their elbows, their knees, their shins, and their heels. In this new disconcerting configuration of body and space, the scene on stage becomes polarized between the brutality of aggressors and the torment of victims. In order to be on one’s feet or to be on top, one must ignore the others as fellow human beings and eye them as enemies instead. Extreme individualism, the absence of communication, the pursuit of victory at any cost and the willingness to see confrontation as the main strategy of survival – values perhaps inherent to the human nature but heightened to apocalyptic levels in the gigantic urban settlements of this beginning of millennium – seem to be the principles that move the dancers through the forty minutes of Breu.

Breu’s scenery designer Paulo Pederneiras subverts the usual function of the proscenium arch stage by blurring the spatial limits of the stage. Paulo covers the stage floor with shiny black linoleum and frames the scenic space with 1,800 40cm by 40cm boards, also shiny black. Made of beveled glass fiber, these boards are carefully placed side by side over the rotunda and the stage legs. The result evokes the coldness of tiled surfaces and the ability to reflect light that is typical of polished pieces.

Brightness and geometry also serve as guidelines for the work of costume designer Freusa Zechmeister. The dancers wear black and white leotards with varying geometric patterns in the front and solid black in the back. This wardrobe takes advantage of dancers’ shifting constantly between facing forward or backward the audience by splitting their bodies in half. Under the lighting, the brightness of the fabric brings out the convex and concave shapes of the dancers’ bodies and blend now and then dancers and background for fractions of a second, suddenly endowing the linear and two-dimensional scenery with volume and sinuousness. Off-white sneakers with black soles, strengthened on the sides to absorb impact, enhance the uncanny character of the music and bring to the fore the dancers’ feet in this choreography, in which even the frevo from Pernambuco is danced almost entirely on the floor. A thick layer of white make-up erases lines and expressions from the faces; dark eyeliners, black lipstick, and a white horizontal line on the eyebrows complete the characterization of the dancers.

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Onqotô [2005]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

It all started when Caetano Veloso thought of writing an essay about the way terms such as “big-bang” (used in languages other than English without any translation) somehow indirectly regard the creation of the universe as a product of a domineering Anglo-Saxon culture. That was the bulk of at least one of the many long conversations the Brazilian composer has had with USP professor José Miguel Wisnik, himself also an essayist and a composer, over thirty years of their friendship. The amusing chat they were having about the beginning of the world was interrupted by thunderous laughter when Wisnik recalled an aphorism by the great Brazilian dramatist and journalist Nelson Rodrigues (1912-1980). Nelson once tried to explain the classic rivalry between two soccer teams from Rio in the following terms: “the Fla-Flu started forty minutes before the void” (Fla-Flu is short for Flamengo vs. Fluminense). From Rodrigues’ witty point of view, the cosmos was otherwise “conceived” as an unmistakably Brazilian expression.
(Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik)
In 2003, Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik were invited to work on the soundtrack for a ballet that would celebrate GRUPO CORPO’s 30 years of activity in 2005. They did not hesitate: there it was, “howling” (as Nelson Rodrigues himself would say), hanging on that point of that broken conversation they had had, between the explosion and the void: the perfect theme to write the soundtrack. In addition to this “creative divine breath”, there came the great metaphysic question that has followed human beings ever since the world exists, or, better said, since human beings are human beings: how to address our perplexity before the mysterious and unspeakable immensity that is the Universe.
Where can one shelter a weak human being,
Where is one to secure a short life,
And the Skies may not be armed and outraged
Against a earthling so small?
(from Os Lusíadas, by Luís de Camões, music by Caetano Veloso)
CORPO’s creative team immediately bought the idea, and it was established as the common thread for the ballet as a whole. The choreography was called ONQOTÔ, one of the set of vulgarisms on the existential questions that come up during the performance – “Where am I?”, “Where am I going to”, “Who am I?”; or, rendered in sheer dialect from Minas Gerais (the Brazilian state where CORPO comes from): “Onqotô?”, “Pronqovô”, “Qemqosô?”. This choreography was chosen to celebrate three decades of GRUPO CORPO.

Big-Bang and Fla-Flu, Candeal and Camões
ONQOTÔ’’S 42-minute soundtrack was written by Caetano Veloso and José Miguel Wisnik and produced by Alê Siqueira. It was built around musical and poetic dialogues based on two “primal scenes” (the Big-Bang and the Fla-Flu) and also on the feeling of helplessness inherent to the human condition because of our pettiness before the immensity of the universe.
On the prayer, which unearths..................the earth,
God wishes that to whom the care is..................given,
One preaches that life is a borrowed..................state,
A thousand mysteries that unearth..................and bury.
(José Miguel Wisnik on Gregório de Matos’ sonnet)
The nine themes of the score were initially recorded in Carlinhos Brown’s studio Ilha dos Sapos, located in Candeal, Salvador and finished at YB, in São Paulo. They bring together the characteristic vitality of the percussion from Candeal, multiple juxtaposed voices, and interventions of piano, electric guitar, bass, accordion, flutes, and strings. Moments centered on rhythm and timbre take turns with songs filled with soulful lyricism. Rhythm and melody alternate at the center of the soundtrack and give it its distinct identity. The most perfect example of this alternation is the contrast between the participation of the band Hip-Hop Roots from Candeal in the final number and the non-professional singer Greice who delivers a solo with innate virtuosity in one of the songs in the soundtrack.
To five tunes specially written by Veloso and Wisnik, four other songs written by them individually were added – two of them on lyrics from classic poets of the Portuguese language. Caetano Veloso wrote music for half a stanza from Luís de Camões’ Os Lusíadas (the great 15th century Portuguese epic), and José Miguel Wisnik did the same with a 17th century baroque sonnet by Gregório de Matos, from Bahia. Wisnik sings Caetano’s song, Madre Deus, especially written for the ballet, while Caetano delivers Pesar do Mundo by Wisnik and Paulo das Neves, a song originally recorded in Wisnik’s first album in 1993 and incorporated to the soundtrack because of the affinity with the “sentimento do mundo” (“the feel of the world”, title of a famous poem and a book by the poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade) that permeates the choreography.

Weigh it all
Weigh the burden
Burden of the world
Over itself
(José Miguel Wisnik and Paulo Neves)

In between the floor and the void
With high temperature and density, like a primal ball of fire, ONQOTÔ is perhaps the choreography that has the highest number of floor moves of all the 28 ballets created by Rodrigo Pederneiras since 1978 when he started to choreograph for GRUPO CORPO. The dancers seem to be constantly swallowed by an invisible force of gravity, as if they were looking for their own balance within mother earth or simply searching for answers to issues that come up in the poetry of Caetano, Wisnik, Neves, Camões and Gregório. Verticality and horizontality, chaos and order, harshness and tenderness, volume and scarcity contrast and juxtapose each other. They are in tune with (and, sometimes, in sharp opposition to) the soundtrack, unveiling meanings, melodies and rhythms that underscore the sound stimuli, in an impressive communion of movement and sound. Its most explicit expression is those moments when the dancers produce different rhythmic patterns with their feet to the primal beat of the percussionists from Candeal: the original soundtrack is given a new meaning onstage.
The scenery by Paulo Pederneiras takes the traditional black box of the theater apart, doing away with the wings and building a concave space instead. This space is woven with dark leaden rubber straps, each one 12cm-wide and 9mt-high, placed side by side in a curved line. Depending on the light they suggest the earth in a cross-section or a hollow, a black hole, a non-space, nothingness, something primeval. This way, it sets an innovative scenic space, allowing the dancers to get on and off stage from any point of the stage or the backstage.
Following the curve of the scenery and attached to the metal structure that supports the straps, thirty spots light the stage. Paulo Pederneiras uses almost exclusively white and shades of white in his lighting design.
During 37 of the 42 minutes of the performance, Freusa Zechmeister turns the dancers into an anonymous mass that blends into (and turns into) the scenic space, allowing for choreography and scenery to be fully tri-dimensional. In the final number the costume designer “humanizes” each one of the twenty dancers in ONQOTÔ by giving them each combination of various pieces that refer to the informal wear typical of dance rehearsals.

before the unfinished
back against the planet
I am the aimless
instinct and feeling
but I see me going
and the finished things
much more than beautiful
they will be
(Caetano Veloso)

Text: Angela de Almeida


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Lecuona [2004]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Ernesto Lecuona

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

First, there are the strings, a whole lot of them. Then, the melodious piano. There are the tunes that verge on the kitsch, but end up being breath-takingly beautiful. The hyperbolic voices never miss a chance to go for vibratos or to hit shrill high notes – they are privileged and legitimate representatives of a by-gone era, of popular songs sung by classically trained voices. And then there are the words, passionate and impetuous, speaking of torrid love, voluptuous magnificence, ill-fated jealousy, broken hearts, brutal longings, contempt, rancor, and indifference...

Having received Petrobras endowment (the most prestigious grant of the country) for 4 years, and 12 years after staging the last choreography not set to an original soundtrack, GRUPO CORPO decides to challenge its own rules to render homage to the greatest icon of Cuban music of all times, dancing to twelve songs and one waltz from pianist and composer Ernesto Lecuona (1895-1963) in twelve duets and only a single group formation.

Each of the duets that dance Lecuona’s twelve love songs is given one particular color. The light design created by Paulo Pederneiras constitutes the scenic space by projecting 8x7.5-metre cubes made of monochromatic light in hot hues. These cubes move in the black box following the moves of the each couple. The male dancers play domineering roles and get on stage wearing patent leather shoes, shirts, T-shirts or tank tops, and waistband trousers in various hues of black. In diaphanous dresses with an assortment of slits and cleavages, the fiery ladies of LECUONA put on 4,5 to 9 cm high heels and don one single color from head to toes. Those colors relate to the hue chosen by Pederneiras to light on each duet: shocking pink, turquoise blue, orange, yellow, bright green, royal blue, and so on.

After the 38-minute sequence of duets, the final waltz lasts little more than 2 minutes. The scenic space is expanded and, little by little, wing curtains start to fold, and they help form a gigantic cube made of mirrors (13-meter wide, 8-meter deep and 6-meter high). The triple mirrors and cross-light make silhouettes out of the real couples, and there is an illusion of their projected images being lighted from the front. This way, with just 6 couples on stage – the women wearing white diaphanous long dresses, the men dressed in black trousers and shirts – the final dance is turned into a luminous shadow of a great ball of a by-gone era by Paulo Pederneiras.

Ernesto Lecuona, the ‘Cuban Gershwin’

Ernesto Lecuona was born in Guanabacoa, near Havana, on August 7, 1895. He took the first piano lessons from his sister and was soon considered a boy wonder. At the age of five, he performed live for the first time. At eleven he published his first sheet music and started playing the piano for silent movies. Between twelve and thirteen we would write his first musical comedies performed in Cuba’s Teatro Martí, with librettos written by his brother, Fernando. At the age of seventeen he graduated from Havana’s Conservatório Nacional de Música, ranking in first place and getting a gold medal. In 1920, he started an international career, performing his own pieces for the piano solo in the prestigious Aeolian Hall, in New York. In the early 20s, Lecuona would continue to pursue his studies in music with Maurice Ravel. He became one of the most important concert pianists of the world, touring Europe, the United States, and Latin America countless times. His concert music includes 176 pieces for the piano and 37 for orchestra, and it is considered an important contribution to 20th Century music. His ability to move back and forth from classical to popular music and his great melodic inspiration earned him the name “the Cuban Gershwin.” Lecuona wrote more than 400 songs, recorded by countless artists, among them Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. He was also the composer of 11 movie soundtracks for Hollywood, and in 1942, he was nominated for the Oscar for best title-song with Always in My Heart (Siempre em mi Corazón). His work as a soundtrack composer also includes music for films produced in Cuba, Argentina, and Mexico. Caetano Veloso in his CD Fina Estampa has recently recorded the title song of the Mexican movie, Maria La.


Lecuona was also involved with the dramatic arts, with a vast array of zarzuelas, light operas, variety shows and ballets. The most ambitious of Lecuona’s projects for theater, El Sombrero de Yarey, remains unstaged, though. It is his only opera, on which he worked for several years till his death, and it has never been brought together in its entirety. In spite of his busy international career, Ernesto Lecuona remained in Havana until 1960, when the Cuban Revolution made him leave the country and move to Spain. Already in a debilitated state, Lecuona decided to get to know his father’s homeland, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and there he died on November 29, 1963.

Text by Angela de Almeida
July 2004


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Santagustin [2002]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Tom Zé and Gilberto Assis

costume: Ronaldo Fraga

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

The main theme of Santagustin is love, but not the romantic ideal love. What predominates on stage is the bitter-sweet humor, influenced by pop culture, sometimes disparaging, but never skeptical or cynical, for love is indeed in evidence.

The choreography by Rodrigo Pederneiras may cause some sort of surprise, due to its tittle: Santagustin, which is an alteration, in a very Mineiro way, of the name of Saint Augustin, but the Ballet does not derive from the thoughts and confessions of the IV and V Century philosopher. It was Tom Zé who had him in mind while creating the Soundtrack, inspired by the contrast between his life of excesses before his conversion to christianity and his battle with the pleasures of the flesh. It is a kind of tension that appealed to the composer, who was trying to “harmonize unharmonizable things” in his work, the opposite aspects of the philosopher´s life. This tension also inspired Rodrigo in creating the choreography, which defies contrasts. That’s the way they appropriated, conceptually and linguistically, from Saint Augustin.

Rodrigo hardly remembers a time in which eroticism was so evident in any of his choreographies. But, through most of it, it translates into a playful kind of eroticism, with the kind of humor that permeates the whole show. “Our main idea was to laugh in the face of love, paying back what it does to us, by putting it in the same position”, Rodrigo explains with a laugh. “Love puts us through ridiculous, awkward and painful situations, and the paradox lies in the fact that, in the one hand it gives us great strenght to do things, in the other hand, it puts us in a extremely fragile position”.

Two pas-de-deux in the choreography illustrate well this paradox. They are embelished by romantic melodies that surprised even Tom Zé, who wrote them (as well as the whole soundtrack) together with Gilberto Assis. “I never thought I would be capable of writing such melodies. You are expected to be romantic when you are younger, but I guess I am discovering romanticism at 65.” The duos, one of them performed by men, oppose tenderness and violence, sharp movements contrasting with the soft music, attraction and repulsion. Not exactly romantic. Not totally harmonious. Just like love itself.

The image people get from Grupo Corpo as a Dance company that searches for beauty above all, dissolves during these Duos and in many other moments of Santagustin, which is something that pleases Rodrigo. “ I don´t like this image, the search for beauty is just one of the elements of our work”, he says. Scenography and costume design reinforce the lack of concern with beautiful and the search for the humor relying on signs that are commonly associated with love. “It is a well-humored look, desmistifying the drama of love´s mishaps”, says Fernando Velloso, who co-writes the scenography with Paulo Pederneiras, who is also in charge of the lightning and is the artistic director of the company.

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O Corpo [2000]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Arnaldo Antunes

costume: Freusa Zechmeister and Fernando Velloso

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

Hand Foot Hand Foot Foot Hand  Hand Foot

The corporal and thundering voice of Arnaldo Antunes is what first penetrates the vestal hollowness of the theater in the dark.

Hand Foot Hand Foot Hand Foot Hand Foot Hand   Foot Hand Foot Hand

A vivid blood red light resists, paints the stage and reveals what vaguely resembles human shapes, over the bright red linoleum…fetal like and moving around themselves…

       Leg Arm Leg Arm Leg Arm Leg Arm Leg Arm

                Navel Navel Navel Navel Navel

Slowly, the verbal dissecting of the human anatomy unveils the meaning of the words, giving them a purely rhythmic intonation. In the vertical position, the bodies of the nineteen dancers of Grupo Corpo cross the stage in every direction, materializing (or embodying)  tempo,  counter tempo, timbers, keys, sounds, melodies.
The noun which names the dance company from Minas Gerais and the raw and artistic inalienable material, which it expresses and represents...  O Corpo... The Body. “This mass formed by bones, flesh, blood, organs, muscles, nerves, nails and hair”, serves as sound and semantic inspiration to the soundtrack, especially composed by Arnaldo Antunes, for the Ballet which celebrated the 25th aniversary of GRUPO CORPO.  The theme was unanimously and unquestionably accepted by the criative staff of the company: Rodrigo and Paulo Pederneiras and Freuza Zechmeister.  This was the 29th choreography staged  by the group since it was founded in 1975 and the 26th choreography signed by Rodrigo Pederneiras.  The final version of O Corpo was exhibited for the first time at Teatro Alfa, São Paulo,  in August 9th, 2000.

                                                                love me
eat me
fear me
kill me
suck me
take me

An icon of the brazilian pop culture, a poet, a musician, a performer, a video-maker, “neither a Brazilian nor a foreigner”, the former Titan Group member, Arnaldo Antunes is what he is: non-classifiable .  Not accepting labels or frontiers, he likes to travel through different languages, preaches about multi-diversity and the aesthetic miscegenation, leading his art (s) as a cultivator (and a sower) of all things. This neologism provides the title to one of his books. However, the core of his work, as he himself admits it,   is the word. But the word, no doubt, as a vector for the dialog between other codes.  Having five poetry books already published, whereby the word increases or multiplies its meanings, taking on a visual, graphic, image like form, as a post-modern edition of concrete poetry.  Arnaldo Antunes felt enthusiasm and apprehension when he received the invitation from the Pederneiras’ brothers, to compose the original soundtrack of the new ballet of GRUPO CORPO.  Fortunately, the attraction towards the opportunity to embrace this new language was greater than the fear of declining it.  With a “carte blanche” to develop his work, without any guidelines to serve as a compass, the bard from São Paulo felt the need to select a theme and a reason to steer his creation.  Therefore,   the use of the group’s name.  Arnaldo Antunes uses four poems created especially for Grupo Corpo, two other taken from his books (Psia, 1986, and As Coisas, 1992) and a fragment of Alice, Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, translated by Sebastião Uchôa Leite (“When I say a word, it means exactly that which I wish it to mean. No more and no less.”) The original music of O Corpo consists of an intricate web of words,  sounds,  rhythms, and tunes, he has created from them. Between the recording, editing and mixing, the 42 minutes of soundtrack took up 3 months of the composer’s time in his studio in São Paulo -- The Rosa Celeste. In the quest of a musical, sonoric, and semantic interpretation of the body, (as an organism, and as a gear-box, a machine) the composer and interpreter of Um Som promotes an alliance between the primitive and the technological, in an affirmation of the Oswaldian vision of natural man as a thesis and civilized man an antithesis, and natural man technosized a synthesis. And for the sake of this synthesis, there appears an amazing mix of an arsenal of acoustic instruments, electric and electronic, where organic noises (grunts, screams, gasps, stomach growls, rubbing on skin, salivation, blood running through veins, hair falling, etc.) form the base for the overlaid sounds of electric guitar, (Edgard Scandurra), acoustic guitars (Paulo Tatit and Alê Siqueira), base (Paulo Tatit), keyboard (Zaba Moreau), percussion (Guilherme Kastrup) and the human voice, explored as much in its melodic potential as its rhythmic (Arnaldo, Saadet Türkoz e Mônica Salmaso).
Conceived as a symphonic work with eight movements which, forming a whole, are interlaced an almost imperceptible way, the first exploration of this pop idol into the universe of contemporary dance alludes to rock, baião, funk, techno, marches, ballads, reggae, samba-fandango, Arabic music, indigenous music, without, fitting into or being limited by any of these categories. The manipulation of samplers (Chico Neves) in the re-creation of sounds and syllables and the work defined by its main author as the art of “cut and splice” in the editing of all the material copy-written  at the studio (Arnaldo Antunes and Alê Siqueira) have important roles to play in the creation the sonoric identity of the soundtrack. Launched as a CD, the experiments of Arnaldo Antunes and his followers, as well as the other scores of CORPO, are available for sale wherever and whenever the group holds a performance.

The body exists and can be caught.
It’s solid enough to be seen.
Just keep watching and you might see the hair growing.

To make the dance nothing more than the incorporation of the music, the brains of CORPO   sought Arnaldo Antunes. Immersed since 1992 in the musical universe of popular regional countryside music, with inevitable references to the sensuality of popular folk dances, (excepting Bach), the choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras searched out a sound that would inspire him to invent new possibilities of movement. He wanted the noise of the steel in the smelter, the escape of dioxide from carbon, the cold brilliance of neon. Arnaldo went further. He amalgamated the tribal and the urban, drum and sampler, fandango and hip hop. And what before was sinuous can be made into sharp angles, an edge. Renouncing his own fluency, Rodrigo went in search of something drier, massive. With a renewed body of dance, he designed his construction on the basis of a fundamental fact: that dance is the dancer. And never before, in 22 years of choreographic composition, did he benefit so much from the serendipitous novelties that appeared in rehearsals. The result is a composition of gestures and movements that are written into the scene like a remix of music. As if the volatility of the sound yields to the mass of the bodies. And as if it were only now, when added to Rodrigo’s creation, that the creation of Arnaldo can show its true colors.

The body exists because it was made.
That’s why it has a whole in the middle.
The body exists, since it gives off a scent.
And at each endpoint there is a finger.
The body, when cut, spews forth a red liquid.
The body has someone to fill it in.

Lacking matter and volume, virtual, the scenery  created by Paulo Pederneiras is formed on the retinas of the audience by the superimposing of different shades and densities of red streams over the stage floor, the rotunda and the background lighting. A sophisticated computer system allowed the light, at specific times, also aimed by Paulo Pederneiras, to “reflect” a sonorous string in the soundtrack, moving in rhythm with the appearance of sharps and deeps, in a visual effect that reminds one as much of a graphic equalizer as of blood under the microscope. A white square, bound in x-rays, here and there, the scenic space. A three-dimensional stage, that thus belongs, exclusively, to the dancers and their costumes. Launching the partnership of Freusa Zechmeister -- who has been with CORPO 19 years as director of costuming -- and artist/sculptor Fernando Velloso, stager with the group since 1989, the costuming of O Corpo uses various tonalities of black of different materials (cotton, nylon, linen) and different textures (pleats, wrinkles, ties) to present a casual look for the small groups and the look of street gangs for the combined company.

Angela de Almeida
July 2000


o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o
 corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o c orpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o co
rpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o cor
po o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corpo o corp


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Benguelê [1998]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: João Bosco

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

Banzo of Benguela, benguelê. Homesickness for the free and fertile lands of distant African kingdoms. This is one of the possible etymological origins of the word: Benguelê, understood here as the fusion Benguela, denoting a region in the Southwest of Angola, with the phoneme lê − in Kimbundo: nostalgia, disheartening reminiscence, homesickness.
Coincidence or not, it was while mulling over the bewitching of the most primitive and darkest music of João Bosco that  Rodrigo and Paulo Pederneiras wrote and re-wrote their invitation to that great composer to write a score for GRUPO CORPO.  Forever buried in commitments, only in November of 1997 was the author of Gagabirô finally able to deliver the anxiously awaited “yes.” The result of the union of these two entities was that, in a manner of speaking, contemporary Mineiro art was revealed to the world on October 29th of the following year in the Alfa Real Theatre in São Paulo.
    With a duration of little more than forty minutes, Benguelê, the ballet, like all the eleven pieces composed (or recomposed) especially for Corpo, has one foot in Africa, yes, but his array of influences/references reaches out to other more or less remote locales.

Somewhat Arabic, somewhat Mineiro, also a bit Carioca (by virtue of so many years living in Rio de Janeiro) and indisputably, a citizen of the world, João Bosco weaves with thread of multiple textures and origins his musical tapestry. The first to announce a presence in Bosco’s music is the Black of Minas Gerais, who arrives on two lizard-backs in muted red tones. It’s as if the speech as Mineiro as author Guimarães found an analog in music.  
The ancestral and sovereign song of Clementina de Jesus -- star-guide of João Bosco to the mysteries of the roots of black music, produced by the descendants of slaves in Rio de Janeiro -- is evoked in Tarantá, Carreiro Bebe, and mostly in the piece that gives its title to the performance. Benguelê, the old corima drum displayed by Clementina de Jesus in the anthological Rosa de Ouro in 1965, in which, as it came to be known years later, revealed a partnership between Pixinguinha and João of Bahia, reappeared in an arrangement acappela, and led, with the uncontested blessing of Queen Quelé, by a suddenly snow-white-haired and blacker João.
Pixinguinha, another cornerstone of black music of Rio, is also revered. And not only for his Beguelê presence: one Urubu from there of Malandro (and amazingly fast) is mixed up in Tarantá, becoming the folk dances of fiestas of Minas, while the classic 1 X 0 serves as inspiration for the triumphant-ballad of João: Pixinguinha 10 X 0.
Like the re-examination of the secular, Cuban Song of Wemba and Gagabirô, we turn half-around and leave behind the vast territory of the black corridor: Rio de Janeiro-Minas Gerais.  

    The half-turn leads into the heart of the path that, after an impressionistic Debussian intro, launches into a long and dangerous Travessia. From the primordial intention of involving of the melodic universe of the great composers who write for classical ballet, João Bosco composes the three movements of a seafaring musical saga sailing with a weeping emanating from, perhaps, a ghost or slaving ship. It goes forth in procession through solid and firm ground, and spreads its weariness into an immense landscape of arid, Arabic, ardent water.
    If we take into consideration that this segment (Indigenous peoples, Moors, Europeans – not necessarily in that order) take up sixteen out of the 41 minutes of our soundtrack, we begin to understand that it is too multi-faceted to be left with only one reading.   
Plotted out in January of 1998 in the studio Impressão Digital, in Rio, the band assembled by João Bosco (acoustic guitar and voice) relied on the talented hands of  Jacques Morelenbaum (cello), Osvaldinho do Acordeom (accordion) Proveta (sax and clarinet), Ricardo Silveira (12-string viola, steel-string guitar), Nico Assunção (acoustic bass), Robertinho Silva and Armando Marçal (percussion), beside the tenor Sandro Assunção (one of the voices of Travessia).

    The gradual process of deconstruction of the form and reconstruction of their own  language extracted from the elements of Brazilian popular dances that, since the beginning of the decade, came to define the choreographic composition of Rodrigo Pederneiras, seems to have arrived in Benguelê at a place where the traces of the French School simply disappear to the audience. Among the motions of the foot, pelvis, and shoulder, the many hands on hips and swaying at the waist, one loses track of the spaces that reveal the presence of classical technique, without which the twenty dancers of the Mineiro company would be unable to execute their intricate body movements created by Rodrigo to the music of João Bosco.
    The use of space is most of the time in anarchy, frenetic, while the tonality of the motion goes from festive to processional to ritualistic, with the shapes recalling human forms stooped over time and animalistic images.
    Two meters off the ground, a horizontal line runs from point to point at the back of the stage, marking the area that later will be used as another dimensional plane of the stage. Below the line, a thick blackness. Above, a thin vertical marking in shades of dark gray and ash.
    The absence of color in the staging mounted by Fernando Velloso and Paulo Pederneiras for the first three-quarters of the performance are contrasted with the profusion of colors in the costuming of Freusa Zechmeister, who adopts white as the foundation and overlays it with various materials.
Suggested by the music of Bosco, the combination of diverse references within one language capable of bringing cohesion to the chaos seems to be the philosophy that reigns over Benguelê. It is as if the contexts of African rhythm, ring-around-the-rosy, square-dancing, of processions and the rites of devout could be arranged into one new image.
    In the last quarter of the performance, this synchronicity explodes into a form of one of the most popular Afro-Brazilian festival, the Congado, which, with riotous joy and colorful ribbons, celebrates the coronation of the King of the Congo.
    And leaving nostalgia for Africa behind, we come to the end of Benguelê.
Angela de Almeida
October, 1998


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Parabelo [1997]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Tom Zé and Zé Miguel Wisnik

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

Touched by the enlightened sound track, which was composed by two icons of the native contemporary music – Tom Zé, from Irará, Bahia (author of São Paulo, Meu Amor) and José Miguel Wisnik, from São Vicente, São Paulo (author of Sou Baiano Também) – the choreographer from Minas, Rodrigo Pederneiras, brought to live that which, he himself refers to as “the most Brazilian and the most regional” of all of his creations.   
    Having its title extracted from the only lyrics of the ballets sound track, PARABELO , the 27th choreography presented by GRUPO CORPO since its foundation in 1975, merges in a single ballet of insurmountable beauty, the Brazilian and Minas influence on GRUPO CORPO, the “pre-gutembergian”, post modern Bahia influences of Tom Zé and the “poetic-pop erudite- anthropophagic” influences of Wisnik.     
Regional, contemporary. Brazilian, universal    

To write balé, with a single l and a sharp accent, has been the obstinate and conscious effort made by Rodrigo Pederneiras, since the anthological 21, from 1992. From then on, the choreographer of GRUPO CORPO has been broadening and consolidating his own chirographies and, even though he does not deny the immortal French school, he frees himself more and more from its dogmas and, at the same time, he incorporates diction, phonemes and words which are typical to Brazil.  In a gradual deconstruction process, the architect of Missa do Orfanato and Sete ou Oito Peças para um Ballet has been making room for the different stage expressions of its dancers, without loosing the sense of unit which is inherent to GRUPO CORPO.

The sertaneja inspiration and the contemporary transpiration of the nine themes which form the soundtrack of PARABELO, matched perfectly with desire of the composer’s, from Minas Gerais, to proceed with a scenic interpretation which is genuinely Brazilian.

Being punctuated by explicit references to the xaxado and the baião, and with generous flexibility, rhythmic compass and half turns, Parabelo is a ravishing statement of the expressive force of a dance, which is ours, and nobody else’s. It is mulatto, carafuz, mameluke. It’s mestizo, it’s Brazilian. It’s the sun hitting hard on the leather hats and on the dry earth. It smells of sweat and of hard work and of pleasant, pleasurable perspiration.  It sounds like a lazy, relaxed forró, a working chant, grievance. It’s penetrating and shiny. It is parabelo.    

Lighting, colors and veil

In a rich rhyme which has a popular regional inflexion and a contemporary reflection, used in the original music and choreography, Fernando Velloso and Paulo Pederneiras gather from the aesthetic of churches from the interior, the inspiration to create the two 15 m x 8 m panels which were illustrated with retouched images and then printed, digitally, using photos taken by José Luiz Pederneiras. They provide the stage support for the show.

Freusa Zechmeister creates the lighting and shadow effects by having the dancers wear leotards in shades of red, orange and yellow, having the intensity of these colors slightly toned down by black tulle. Only the colors of the dance shoes stand out as they are. This is the beginning of PARABELO . On the festive explosion of the balé’s final part, the dancers wear fishermen’s pants and skin color shoes, creating the illusion of being barefoot. The girls wear a provocative strapless top and the boys a shirtless. Being freed from their veils, the leotards rejoice at the high temperature of their colors.

Parabelo – corruption of parabélum, German made automatic pistol. From the Latin ‘Sivis pacem para bellum’ - `If you wish peace, be prepared for war`.

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Bach [1996]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Marco Antônio Guimarães (about J. S. Bach’s work)

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

A Bach who is more than baroque. He’s from Minas Gerais. The colors are deep blue sea, graphite and also gold. Like the churches from the gold cycle, in the old days of Minas Gerais. Sculpted by the genius of artist Aleijadinho and blessed by Ataíde’s frescoes.  A Bach who has been divinely profaned. Who suddenly falls from heaven to again rise up. A Bach who is in a cantata but also in a child’s tune. A Bach who’s more from Minas than baroque.  

Classical, contemporary, universal, from the interior, divine, profane, solemn, languid – thus Bach appears in the first production of GRUPO CORPO while it resided at the Maison de La Danse, in Lyon, in its three consecutive years of internship. Bach had its world opening in September 1996, in the traditional Dance Bienal of Lyon, and was applauded uninterruptedly for ten minutes.

Bach was the 26th choreography from the Dance Company of Minas Gerais. It was the result of a free and enlightened creation of Marco Antônio Guimarães, based on the work of the greatest composer of all times.
Marco Antonio is from Minas Gerais but studied music in the legendary school of sounds, started by the Swiss Walter Smetak, in Salvador, Bahia, who was actually the brain and the bone marrow of Uakti – the most intriguing and original instrumental group of Brazil.Guimarães has been a collaborator of Grupo Corpo since 1992, when he composed the extraordinary soundtrack for 21. For Bach, he went deep into the baroque universe of João Sebastião (1685-1750), visiting libraries, resorting to old memories, researching movement, merging cantatas, choirs and preludes. He exposed hidden parts of the genius’ compositions, transformed suites in accompaniments and, like in Gounot’s Ave Maria, poured the new melody over them. And more. He did what he had never done before: researched, altered and created sounds and instruments in electronic keyboards. This was almost like heresy for someone who dedicated most of his life to investigating new sounds, invariably based on acoustic instruments (most of them also newly invented). The soundtrack became a CD (sold exclusively where and when Corpo performs), with synthesizers and two string instruments (Chori from Mr. Smetak’s lineage and the Gig, his own) which are personally directed by the re-creator, while two heavenly voices sing arias, cantatas and songs. They are: Conceição Nicolau and Sandro Assunção, from the Palacio das Artes choir, in Belo Horizonte.

The intense religiosity emanating from Bach’s music finds a visual interpretation unfolding on the stage setting, in two different levels: one, aerial/celestial, the other, low growing/earthy – they are the determining resource at the end of the show created by the artistic and lighting director of the group, Paulo Pederneiras, who signs the stage setting design of this ballet with the “official set designer”, artist Fernando Velloso. Like futuristic stalactites, black metallic tubes come forth, creating a unique space on the stage, from where the dancers fall into the scene and through which they pretend to ascend. The diagonal lighting imprints on the retina of the public, the image  (or similar image), of the instrument that the German composer played with passion and precision.       
The same deep blue paints the floor and appears on the two layers of material at the rear of the stage. From the middle till the end of the performance, 172 m2 of deep blue sea patches of material falls over the stage, forming an enormous monochromatic patchwork, in a glorified version of the joyful tapestry found in the interior of the state.   
Freusa Zechmeister undresses the dancers’ arms and legs and plays with the three basic colors of the stage, worn over opaque stretch leotards and short boots.

The unique and very Brazilian language developed by CORPO in 21 years of dance, expands its vocabulary incorporating phonemes, syllables and rock and rolls’ diction – a language turned universal since then.  Meanwhile Rodrigo Pederneiras choreography becomes freer from form, removing the spectator’s support point and launching them into the hands of the irresistible unexpected.

Angela de Almeida


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Sete ou oito peças para um ballet [1994]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Philip Glass / UAKTI

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

This ballet of Grupo Corpo could very well be called “Seven or Eight Rehearsals for a Ballet. The trade mark of the dance company is the perfect finish given to every production, and in “Seven or Eight Pieces for a Ballet” it seems like a series of crayon sketches made by a great artist. For the first time detaching themselves from formal severity, choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras and the dancers of his company, take to the stage a series of pertaining observations and studies. But the studies are so inspired that, by themselves, alone they reach the dimension of a work of art.

In this sense, “Seven or Eight Pieces for a Ballet”, proposes much more than the prophesy. After all, an open work of art, allows for various interpretations by those who appreciate it and carries an intrinsic possibility for a new approach by its author(s). A consequence/sequence not inevitable but inalienable. So much so that, far from housing the idea of “something fleeting”, the journey of the best and most permanent dance company of the country suggests durability, through the unpretentious concept (and structure)  of “Seven or Eight Pieces for a Ballet”.

And, in “letting go” of the sense of permanence, inherent to all finished work, it’s as if the creators of Corpo shared with the spectator the different phases of  its creative process.

As if in a contemporary painting, where corrections may be incorporated to the final result, the movement of the dancers in“Seven or Eight Pieces for a Ballet”, may repeat variations which go from practice to perfection. All in tune with the recurrent minimalist music style of Phillip Glass. Actually, the principle of minimalism (to get the most out of the minimum) carries undeniable similarities with the capacity of the great artists of getting out of  suggestions a permanent impression and of  making sketches which are untouchable.

The obsessive, cold and exact component of the music, especially created by the genius of minimalism, inspired choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras.  When orchestrating repetition of movements, many times during solos and almost always  in simultaneous contraposition to the organic movements of the group – sensual and latino – as suggests the unique music of the group UAKTI from Minas Gerais.

Defined as “tropical minimal” by his creator, artist Fernando Velloso,  the stage setting of  “Seven or Eight Pieces for a Ballet”, goes after the beginning of the minimalist current of the American painting , in the inspiration of  the vertical stripes which make a statement. And  it  is put within the Brazilian contemporary context. A big 18,0 x 9,0 m screen divided into six stripes of four colors (green, blue and two shades of yellow), printed in acrylic paint,  alternated as figure and background, through the gigantic curtain of cylindrical strips of green plastic, which reminisces the voluptuousness of the whore houses of the interior.  

Following the same mood of the stage setting, the costumes of Freusa Zechmeister repeat the yellows, the blue and green of the stage setting, playing with stripes and colored flat surfaces, reflecting the intention of the study finished in scene.  

Whiteness dominates the lighting by Paulo Pederneiras. The familiarity of the raw service lights (typical backstage or during rehearsal) with the tamed lighting of the flood lights, emphasizes the contrast between the temperatures produced by the different types of lamps used.  


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Nazareth [1993]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: José Miguel Wisnik (about Ernesto Nazareth’s compositions)

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras


“From a short story by Machado de Assis:
a polka  composer  wants to write classical music such as Mozart, Beethoven or Cimarosa…But the muses refuse him and his fingers can only plagiarize. However, polkas come out effortlessly and they are original and sparkling and they become a huge success overnight. But to him, this success only confirms the size of his own failure”

(text written by JOSÉ MIGUEL WISNIK, for “NAZARETH’s” program)

The musical impasse lived by  character Pestana, in the short story “O Homem Célebre” (The Renowned Man) in 1890, written by Machado de Assis (1839-1908), is singularly solved in the history of the Brazilian popular music, in the work done by his fellow country man, who lived in  the same period, the genius composer  from Rio de Janeiro, Ernesto Nazareth  (1863-1934). A real character in the emerging “amaxixadas” polkas, portrayed in Machado’s short story,  Nazareth would compose popular music with sophisticated erudite constructions, achieving comparable success in his (rare) incursions through concerto music. But, he would only be recognized in the 1920’s – therefore, after the creator of Brás Cubas was gone. Machado, on the other hand, was a master in the art or writing, and he arranged words as if writing music.
Novels like “Esaú e Jacó” or the short story “O Espelho” reveal a surprising and acute perception of the concept of melody mirroring. When this resource is applied over some of Nazareth’s composition, through backwards movements induced by a computer, it becomes a precious tool that helps to re-interpret his pieces, unveiling unexpected and clear melodic constructions.    

It was after this discovery, that composer and writer from São Paulo, José Miguel Wisnik, professor of Brazilian Literature at the University of São Paulo (USP) , became involved  in the creation of the music score of GRUPO CORPO’s ballet, opening in Rio de Janeiro’s Teatro Municipal, on the 7th of this month.  Wisnik is a pianist of erudite education and author of modern songs, which makes him be identified as part of São Paulo’s vanguard music. He loves the frontier between popular and erudite, considering that the strongest point related to Brazilian music. The invitation made by the Pederneira’s brother, to compose a score inspired on Nazareth’s music, fit perfectly the studies and reflexions he was already developing around the theme and, particularly the work done by the inventor of the “brazilian tango”.  

Without putting aside the language of the original instrument of piano player Ernesto, the author of “O Som e o sentido – uma outra história das músicas”, combines computer and keyboards, created during the recording (in a midi studio) and over it he placed the details – with acoustic instruments typical of the Choro groups of that period (guitar, flute, mandolin and a small guitar (cavaquinho)). Later on, percussion and trombone were assimilated by the Brazilian popular music, or an eight string suite would be borrowed from the erudite segment. The end result is a totally original authorship, which is very contemporary and, from each note springs the force of Nazareth’s music. There are comments, citations, variations,  all drinking from the same source but, they will inevitably flow into other branches of ocean.

As Machado from “Esaú e Jacó” and “O Espelho”, Rodrigo Pederneiras, the Merlin of CORPO’S  movements,  engenders a mirrored choreography, filled with dubious images and scenes, which come and go, giving a spatial treatment to “NAZARETH”, quite different from “21”, the ballet which preceded it (and still precedes it in this double feature). While “21” uses frequent blackouts to delineate independent and differentiated frames, “NAZARETH” reassumes the “black box” of the theater, gliding easily through the floors of polkas, chorinhos and maxixes, created by Wisnisk and his source of inspiration.      

Freusa Zechmeister’s costumes go from of Nazareth’s period to the modern days. In shades of grey, black and white, the costumes have daring design,  bordering the futuristic and adornment which remind us of the elegance of the beginning of the century.   

Conceived by Fernando Velloso and made by  Luis Rossi, from São Paulo’s Carnaval Vai Vai Escola de Samba, the 14 three-dimensional roses placed over a metal screen,  measuring 1,70 cm of diameter, float over the stage held by steel cables. The lighting, in shades of amber and peach, by Paulo Pederneiras, adds to the final touch of the ambience,  of this post-modern “NAZARETH”.  This was already born as a classical.

 Angela de Almeida


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21 [1992]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Marco Antonio Guimarães / UAKTI

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras


Rodrigo Pederneiras is an enthusiast of  erudite music.  Since he became the choreographer for Grupo Corpo, he has been devoting himself to this passion in a unique way.  Everything he listens to, he "listens with the feet" of the dancer who gave up the stage and "with the eyes" of the creative and perfectionist choreographer he has become. He listens, transforms the gestures and movements, separating the wheat from the tares and placing the wheat in a special memory file. Maybe, someday  he will be retrieving and refining that.

Whenever Grupo Corpo ends a season, Rodrigo access his file of 'especial wheat'. He spreads the seeds and observes which ones are about to germinate. Months later a new Corpo ballet is born and another cycle completed. After the performing season of "Três Concertos" and "Variações Enigma", so many fruit germinated that there were none left. The choreographer was concerned.  That's when Paulo Pederneiras, his brother and who's also the Artistic Director and creator of the visual elements of the dance company from Minas Gerais , came up with the solution.    

If there were no seeds to germinate, it would be necessary to create another music, which would "dance" to Corpo. And nobody better than Marco Antonio Guimarães, the leader, composer and creator of the unusual instruments used by another extraordinary  artistic group from Minas Gerais, the UAKTI Oficina Instrumental, and with whom they had successfully worked in 1988.

The Pederneiras' brothers found the "brain" of UAKTI experimenting with geometrical music sheet. In other words, the music sheet which used geometric figures to indicate  tempo. This was the method devised by Marco Antônio Guimarães to indicate the tempo changes without suggesting melody or harmony, therefore leaving room for improvisation. There, among the circles, triangles, squares, pentagons and hexagons of the unique music sheet of Marco Antônio Guimarães, was the seed of "21".  If anyone doubts this, just add the sides of each of these figures - without forgetting to add the first circle, than the two intervening circles, which form a geometric symbol for number 2. Next try to add four squares and one pentagon. Or five squares and one circle. Or three squares and three triangle. Etc, etc, etc...

Of the innumerous combinations suggested by number 21 - " big enough to contain all the basic numbers and small enough not to be distant from them", as José Miguel Wisnik wrote in the text of the ballet's program. From this, the music of Marco Antônio Guimarães and the  new ballet of Grupo Corpo were born, in a  gestation period which lasted six months between the creation process till the final phase of rehearsals. Divided into three parts, the music and the choreography of "21" surprise the public throughout its 40 minute presentation.    

The force contained in the tension of the reds, the background lighting and the yellow of the leotards used by the dancers, set the tone for ballet's first part, where the repetition of multiple rhythm combinations, as well as the scale decreasing from 21 to 1, adds a minimalist touch.

Eight short music pieces, extracted from the combination of numbers 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (which add up to 21), take turn with the erudite, popular, oriental, gypsy and jazz music, giving life to what the creators of "21" refer to as the 'hai-kais' of the core of the presentation, hinting at the Japanese poems which are structured on three short verses. Confined in a type of tulle black box, which reduces the physical space of the stage and at the same time creates  a veiling effect, the hai-kais work almost as a parenthesis is the
presentation, establishing a simple and economical language. The artistic lighting is, many times, made by the dancers themselves.     

A 10 meter high by 18 meter in length monumental patchwork, made of a vibrant color print typical of the interior, accented  by geometric figures which take back to primitive African art and also refer to Marco Antônio Guimarães'     music sheet, allowing the public a glimpse of the ballet's grand finale. Now, wearing leotards which reproduce the stage's patchwork, the 18 dancers of Corpo begin a joyous dance, free of  pirouettes and arabesques, where they use mostly their upper bodies and hips. This time, music and choreography play around regional references, evoking popular festivities and keeping, behind the apparent simplicity, complex structures such as the music's division by 7  (which in each three repetition add to 21, once again). It all culminates in an almost tribal percussion, allowing Rodrigo Perdeneiras the opportunity to use the
dancers' body to interpret the melody hidden in the  fantastic rhythm, offered by this portion of  Marco Antônio Guimarães' composition.

Angela de Almeida
July 1992

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Missa do Orfanato [1989]

choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras

music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

costume: Freusa Zechmeister

scenography and lighting: Paulo Pederneiras

When the opening chords of Mozart’s Mass K.139 echo bombastically, a mass of light takes on the stage. As if it had been filtered through the stained glass of a cathedral, the light decomposes in beams and smoke creates the sense of a three dimensional volume, a monumental tower of mist and light. A symbol of God’s power, the image forged out of light by Paulo Pederneiras for the opening scene of Corpo’s Missa do Orfanato epitomizes the role of lighting in this show: to be the scenic realization of the intense religiosity emanating from Mozart’s score and serve as a counterpoint to the stark worldliness of Rodrigo Pederneiras` choreography.

The ballet was created in 1989 to Claudio Abbado’s great interpretation of the mass with Philharmonic of Vienna, the Choir of Vienna’s National Opera and four fantastic soloists. The solemn mass was written and first conducted on the consecration of the Church of the Orphanage by a barely thirteen-year-old Mozart in 1768. It is one of Corpo’s masterpieces and it remained in its repertoire for eight consecutive years till 1997. It is the only choreography prior to 21 – the Company’s turning point in 1992 when Pederneiras consolidated his celebrated choreographic style – to be part of Corpo’s video collection.

It is possible to see in Missa do Orfanato the first signs of Pederneiras’ unique style. Grupo Corpo’s resident choreographer starts to favor dynamism and the scenic space instead of form on stage. Contrary to the tenets of the Ordinary in the catholic mass – it should be a rite to devotion and praise to the Lord – Rodrigo Pederneiras turns his dancers into the wretched of the Earth, portraying the tragedy and misery of human condition. In permanent contrition, the dancers’ bodies move vigorously upward only to return to the floor in a representation of the helplessness, fear, affliction, and loneliness inherent to humanity’s inescapable worldly and transitory nature. Arms are stretched like a cross or folded in penitence and their convulsive gestures are cries for mercy. It is the Passion of Man projected on stage.

The scenery was designed on a prototype made of iron slabs and wood planks by Fernando Velloso. Foam and cloth simulate the prototype’s heaviness, volume, and rust in the actual scenery exquisitely built by Tatiana Memória at the Central Técnica de Inhaúma in Rio de Janeiro. It is a panel in earthy browns and ashy grays, 9 meters high and 18 meters wide, resembling a run-down façade of a monumental building. Fragments of metallic tubes allude to the remains of a church organ, suggesting the ruins of a cathedral. The scenery is crushingly oppressive and reduces the procession of the wretched that ambles on stage clamoring for redemption to its petty dimension.

Freusa Zechmeister’s costumes resemble everyday clothing made of silk and raw flax, aged and dyed in gray and earthy brown hues to enhancing the image of a crowd of age-old pilgrims on stage. The disheveled hair and the gray shades applied under the eyes on a layer of pancake make-up reinforce furthermore the idea of a pilgrimage in some dark age.

Multiple gradations of yellow and white light and stage smoke are used by Paulo Pederneiras to envelope the scenery in a thin glazing simulating the light and atmosphere of religious ceremonies. Light and shadows are balanced as in a picture by Caravaggio, playing against each other and emphatically underscoring the choreography, exacerbating its drama.

Grupo Corpo’s Missa do Orfanato represents the Human Calvary on stage; but redemption, the communion with the Divine – for those on stage and in the audience – comes through art’s sublime beauty embodied by this dance company and by the impressive scores of a young Mozart.

Angela de Almeida

German soprano Gundula Janowitz; American mezzo-soprano Federica Von Stade singing as contralto; Polish tenor Wieslaw Ochman; and German bass Kut Moll.


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