Contemporary dance often leaves me cold – gymnastic moves and modern music don’t have the emotional resonance of classical ballet. So when, on a recent visit to Majorca, I was invited to a performance by the Brazilian troupe Grupo Corpo, I went more out of duty than anticipated pleasure.
How wrong I was: it turned out to be one of the most extraordinary theatrical evenings I have ever spent. Around 20 dancers, who mostly wear potentially unflattering, cycling-style bodysuits, performed in the simplest of settings, featuring high, dangling metal rods which they leapt up to, climbed and eventually dropped from with consummate ease, using both modern and classical dance techniques. Their timing was perfect, even when dancers in widely-separated areas of the stage made the same moves, while others in between did something quite different.
To variations on themes by Bach, they played out patterns and geometry with their bodies. Even when the male dancers spookily dragged their partners like deadweights across the stage, their grace and beauty were astonishing. The second half was equally wonderful, set against an eerie background of monumental Easter Island-style heads. Based on the music and dance of Brazil’s diverse cultures, from Amazonian Indians to slave descendants and the Latin influx, it included an achingly sensuous pas de deux and superbly athletic, modernised tribal dancing.
The group is well named. On stage, they appeared to have the elongated bodies of gods, but seeing some of them in the theatre bar afterwards, it was surprising to find that they were small and compact (though perfectly formed) – no wonder they moved like air. The company was founded in the south-eastern city of Belo Horizonte in 1975 and although it performs in Europe around twice a year, it seldom performs in London, though there are plans for a visit next year. But you can catch this amazing group from August 20-23 at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh; tickets from £10.