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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras on the Inspiration Behind Bach & Gira

Brazil’s Grupo Corpo brings Bach & Gira to the Howard Gilman Opera House (Jan 31—Feb 2). Choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras answered some questions about the productions.

Q: What inspired you to pair Bach and Gira?

A: Bach is a piece from 1996, and the main idea was a tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. Starting from there, we wanted something superior, elevated, that transmits the greatness of the German composer. Gira, a view of Afro-Brazilian religions, has a spiritual characteristic. From this angle, we have the elevation of spirituality throughout both pieces, and it seemed interesting to present them together.

Q: What was it like to premiere Bach at the 1996 Lyons Dance Biennial?

A: That was our first premiere abroad and the reception was more than we expected. This premiere was in a festival which has global importance, and it was both a great honor and an immense pleasure to have this experience.

Q: For Bach, how did you decide upon Marco Antônio Guimarães for the score?

A: At the time we already had two partnerships with Marco Antônio Guimarães, so we knew very well his accomplishment and talent as a composer, besides our friendship. He was a cellist with Minas Gerais Orchestra for many years, and as we are, he is a great lover of Johann Sebastian Bach’s work.

Q: And in the same vein, how did you come to work with Metá Metá for Gira? What specifically did they bring to the work?

A: Metá Metá was a different process. Paulo Pederneiras (the artistic director) invited them to compose the original music. They brought an unknown world to us that demanded deep research from all of us. I attended on a daily basis the “terreiros de umbanda,” (temples of Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian religion) and slowly started to learn how the rituals happened, how each entity manifested itself when incorporated in a “cavalo” (the person who lends his body to the entity to be manifested is called a “horse”).

Q: Can you talk a bit about how Umbanda informs the aesthetics and form of Gira?

A: We did huge research on how each entity manifests itself. Each moves in a particular way and has its very own grimaces. Then we incorporate those movements to the contemporary dance that Grupo Corpo has been developing for all these years. Each entity has a lineage well-marked, easy to identify, but still, each one has very specific movements.

Q: You are known for combining numerous forms of classical and traditional dance techniques into your works. How did this come to be?

A: That started in the late 80s and early 90s. We always heard about Brazilian dance, but what we saw were ideas or Brazilian characters represented by movements that weren’t ours at all—sometimes by the classical technique, sometimes by great international masters such as Martha Graham or José Limon. So, at that time, we started to research the Brazilian traditional dances and popular parties. It’s important to highlight that Brazil is diverse, and when we talk about Brazilian culture, you have to consider the influences from Europe, Africa, our indigenous people, and so forth. So, little by little, we transformed those dances in contemporary movements and assimilated that to our repertoire, which had a classical base.

All photos by Jose Luiz Pederneiras.
© 2019 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.


  1. Choreographers are incredibly talented people because they can make people understand the feelings he put into this production.

  2. Dance is a completely unique art. Far from everyone can convey feelings and history through body movements. I read the work on the about the history of art and the emergence of dance is extremely entertaining. I am glad that in modern times this art form is popular and is transforming every day.

  3. BAM blog: In Context: Bach & Gira
    Absolutely fabulous! An immense reward for facing the arctic temperature and icy wind to get to the theater and thank the Brazilian dancers for giving us this gift, leaving the warmth of their country and facing the grim cold to perform for us! Muito obrigada!

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