We Brits rather pride ourselves in doing things well and there is a general consensus that the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London was brilliant. A recent documentary on the BBC showed the year’s work that went into that spectacle; absolutely amazing. So we anticipated a similar spectacle for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, particularly as the Brazilians know how to party. Straitened circumstances meant less money was available but all agreed it was, in the event, a great opening.
The closing ceremonies are often a little less dramatic, the contests over, the medals won, time to go home. But in Rio, somewhere in that kaleidoscope of colour, fireworks and electronics was a dance group that took my breath away. Probably if my memory serves me well, some 8 men and 8 women, dancing a modern composition that I found completely mesmerising. Such fluidity, such confidence, such elasticity, such timing. You can tell I thought them pretty damn good! Further inquiry revealed them to be a troupe from Grupo Corpo, a dance company from the State of Minas Gerais, whose style is to mix their own Afro-Brazilian genre with other familiar contemporary styles. The group performed part of their show Parabelo and new dancers appeared dressed as clay dolls, a common sight in the festivals of Brazil’s north east.
Grupo Corpo Parabelo
It helps to have a Brazilian wife! No sooner had I said I thought they were wonderful, she tells me who they are. I am not a dance aficionado but have watched classical ballet and don’t quite get the whole thing. The story of Billy Elliot, about a northern boy who wants to dance, was captivating from the story point of view but the dance? Nah! Have even fallen asleep watching Sylvie Guillem at Saddlers Wells. Actually if the truth were told, every time I go into somewhere dark and cosy and warm, be it a theatre, cinema or lecture theatre, I can nod off quite easily; even the latest James Bond movie we saw last year couldn’t compete with the need to close my eyes. But I digress.
Then out of the blue I am told we have been given some tickets, through a cousin’s father who worked at the Theatro Municipal here in Rio de Janeiro, for Grupo Corpo. Wow! What a great chance. The theatre itself dates back to 1905, when work started to provide the city, then the capital of Brazil, with a major venue for opera and music. Completed in 1909, it’s a wonderful example of eclectic architecture, where the imagination was allowed to run riot.
Theatro Municipal Rio de Janeiro
Mosaic tiles, stained glass, gold leaf, and large sculptures adorn every nook and cranny of this building. It’s been given various make-overs during its lifetime and today just under 2500 people can watch ballet or listen to classical music. The restaurant Assírius in the basement is peculiar in its impressive Assyrian decor. The connection between ballet and the Assyrians somehow escapes me. Any learned readers out there?
We watched two pieces from Grupo Corpo’s repertoire, their recent Danca Sinfonica (2015) and Lecuona (2004). Both quite different and visually stunning in so many ways. There is something about watching people with skill and energy tell a story, interpret music, that gets under the skin, almost as if you want to get up and ….. dance?
I saw from the little programme that the group has toured extensively, particularly in the UK, including Brighton. Maybe we’ll see them when they come around again. Said cousin, Bel Gasparian, found the link for the Parabelo performance and has posted it on Facebook – and shared it with me. So if you didn’t see it at the time, go to my Facebook and have a look courtesy of ‘You Tube’.
And these definitively are mere scribbles …… but hopefully you’ll engage in the technology and see what I mean.
Richard 22nd September 2016
PS “If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance; anyone can juggle and ride a unicycle, including you; but you have to want to.”