Interview with Rodrigo Pederneiras

Grupo Corpo are one of Brazil’s leading contemporary dance companies. Established by brothers Rodrigo and Paulo Pederneiras in Belo Horizonte in 1975, the company has become internationally renowned for its typically Brazilian creations that combine classical ballet techniques with elements from Brazil’s popular music and dance. No strangers to the UK, last year Grupo Corpo made their debut at the Edinburgh Festival, with The Guardian commenting “It is the sheer physical virtuosity of the company that is so impressive – the sinuous, athletic bodies seemingly inexhaustible.”

The company are now back for four dates at Sadler’s Wells (13-16th September) where they will be performing the pieces Imá and Onqotó. Sofia Serbin de Skalon talked to Rodrigo Pederneiras, Grupo Corpo’s choreographer, about their upcoming show.

On the inspiration behind both the pieces:

Imã means magnets in Portuguese – so the choreography is based on this idea of magnets, attraction and repulsion. Onqotô – is an existential question: where am I? So this piece is based on the human perplexity in face of the universe. 

Collaborating with composers Caetano Veloso, José Miguel Wisnik and +2 for the show:

The start point for my work is always the music. Besides Lecuona, all the pieces we have created since 1992 have been inspired in the music and specially composed for the company by various outstanding composers and musicians, all of whom have been Brazilian, with the exception of Philip Glass.

The fusion between classical ballet and contemporary dance:

I am persuaded that the classical techniques can give the dancers much more possibilities to perform in a contemporary language. In our company, for instance, daily classical training is intertwined with a rich mix of styles and popular inflexions, very often inspired by the Brazilian or even the Latin-American in order to create a rhythm vocabulary all of our own. I try to avoid the typically picturesque because my intention has always been to create my own language.

My work can be seen in a variety of explorations as a dance inside our body, which is the dance of Grupo Corpo Our “body” learned how to dance on the street and my language is a modern one.

Most of the dancers of the Company have been working with me for a long time now and that helps me to know each one very well. So I try to make them improve their individual skills, looking for the each dancer’s own personal style.

Latin-American influences:

I think that as a continental country Brazil has already a lot of influence of its neighbours incorporated in its own culture. I have already worked with music from Ernesto Lecuona (Cuban composer from the 50’s) and I’m going to create a piece for the José Limon Company – based in NY – with the music specially composed by Paquito de Rivera (a contemporary Cuban composer).

Grupo Corpo´s “Brazilianess”:

Even though classical ballet techniques were the basis of my work, little by little Brazilian movements begun to be brought to the stage. We started to dance in a Brazilian style, showing some peculiar movements inherent to Brazilian people and it is unique and universal at the same time. We feel very proud to be seen and Brazil’s cultural ambassador.

The future of Latin-American dance:
I think that Latin American dance is getting more space in the world because it is based on the “roots” and it reflects strong cultures. Grupo Corpo is 36 years old, so naturally we’re important in this process. I’d like people to keep their heart open about dance from Brazil. We hope to continue walking forward.

You can find out more about the Grupo Corpo performance at Sadler’s Wells here:

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