A truly explosive feast of a show, last night’s Grupo Corpo transported the vibrancy and liveliness of the Brazilian carnival to the darkness of an autumn evening in Birmingham.
Combining fluid, fast-paced dancing with a rich musical tapestry woven from diverse instrumental strands, Part 1 begins slowly before bursting into a series of breathtakingly dynamic set pieces. The South American dance troupe leap across the stage, each dressed in intricately decorated, individually-made suits designed to give the impression of full-body tattoos. All classically trained, their work is a unique, innovative fusion of traditional ballet and the movements of everyday life in Brazil’s urban centres. On Tuesday night, the pounding rhythms of the music soon proved irresistible even to viewers, who struggled to sit still in their seats.
It isn’t all relentless energy, however: the buzz occasionally subsides to make room for more intimate, gentle duets. As the group explained in a post-show Q & A, parts of the performance draw on centuries-old stories of women who lost their men to the sea. The sadness and longing of the stories lend these quieter moments an immediacy and emotional resonance that makes them deeply moving even without the background information. The historical inspiration is also carried through elsewhere, surfacing in the swaying, tidal movements that flow throughout Act I.
In Act II, the brilliant, summery colours give way to a darker, more sombre vibe. Dressed in autumnal greens and browns, the dancers move more thoughtfully and purposefully against an eerie backdrop of expressionless heads. Towards the end, this backdrop is transformed into a collage of faded photographs, evoking all the joy and sadness of a nostalgic look through an old family album. This serves as a background for dance sequences with more modern inspirations, that mark a return to the fast-paced energy and bright colours of Act I.
In addition to showcasing some fantastic dance and music, the evening also served as a trial for a new project the Hippodrome is embarking upon, with members of the press invited to participate in “Tweet Seating”. Light-shading boxes were distributed, and those taking part were seated in a side section in order to minimise disruption to surrounding audience members. It was really fascinating to read the thoughts and observations of fellow audience members during the show, and you can now read a Storify selection of what people had to say about it. However, it did prove tricky to concentrate on more than one thing at once, and this is probably something that would only work for particular kinds of shows. In a more narrative, dramatic performance, it would be easy to lose the thread of a story by attempting to tweet about it live. Still, it was a fun experiment, and it will definitely be interesting to see where the theatre takes it next!