It might have taken us two and a half hours to get to BAM from Midtown Manhattan on Thursday night, but it was worth every second to see one of the world’s most innovative and entertaining dance troupes. Brazil’s Grupo Corpo, which was founded by Paulo Pederneiras in Belo Horizonte in 1975, has dazzled us before at BAM, in 2002 with 21 and O Corpo, in 2005 with Lecuona and Onqotô, and in 2008 with Benguelê and Breu, and they’ve done it again with the premieres of Ímã and Sem Mim, both choreographed by Paulo’s brother, Rodrigo Pederneiras, with artistic director Paulo handling the set and lighting design. Ímã, which means “magnet” in Portuguese, is a gorgeous interplay of attraction and repulsion, the movement flowing out and up from the lower half of the body as the dancers, primarily in pairs, join together, then thrust apart, the men bare-chested in jeans, the women also in jeans with tight tank tops of assorted hues that contrast and coordinate with the lush lighting that beams bold blues, greens, pinks, purples, oranges, and reds against the back screen, making the stage a bath of vibrant color. Mixing ballroom and ballet with Afro-Brazilian and contemporary styles, the company performs seemingly impossible twirls and awe-inspiring leg- and footwork to a percussion-heavy electronic score by the trio +2. Ímã is an energetic, energizing piece that deftly displays the vast athleticism of the dancers and the sheer joy of movement.
After intermission, Grupo Corpo returns with Sem Mim, a more delicate, intimate work inspired by Sea of Vigo, a thirteenth-century Galician-Portuguese song cycle by Martín Codax about maidens awaiting their lovers to come back from across the sea. The stage is now all black, save for a silvery fabric that serves as clouds, mountains, waves, and other natural elements. The dancers are wearing Freusa Zechmeister’s tight-fitting, heavily designed unitards emblazoned with colorful ornaments that look like they’re tattooed right onto their sleek bodies. There is more separation between men and women as they move slower to an original score by bagpiper Carlos Núñez and regular Grupo Corpo collaborator José Miguel Wisnik, highlighted by a central section in which a couple performs a romantic pas de deux in a makeshift cave. Ímã and Sem Mim are like a magnetic pas de deux of their own, two exquisite pieces from a supremely talented troupe. And although it’s probably unfair to single out one of the twenty-one dancers, Uátila Coutinho’s work in both pieces was simply breathtaking, a marvel to behold. (Oh, and getting back to Manhattan was much easier by getting on the BAM bus, which costs $7 and can be reserved either in advance or at the theater.)