Category Archives: Dance

Brazilian batucada around the world

Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr
Batucada in Paris. Photo by Melanie M/ Flickr

Batucada, the joyful, noisy, fast pace percussive ensemble, capable of speeding up one’s pulse, is gaining the world. You can watch performances of local batuqueiros from Birmingham to Singapore. Check here how very different cultures interpret this African Brazilian tradition.

in Kobe, Japan (Bloco Feijão Preto)

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Dzi Croquettes – Rio’s revolutionary cabaret

936full-dzi-croquettes-poster “Not men, not women. People”, was their revolutionary motto. They were the Dzi Croquettes, an irreverent androgynous theater company directed by Broadway chorus line dancer Lennie Dale that defied the dictatorship and inspired a whole generation of carioca artists. The so-called besteirol theatre (anarchic, hilarious and politically incorrect) and several slang words and expressions ( Tá boa, santa?) are remnants of their influence.

They became so popular that their performances were finally forbidden, and they decided to tour Europe, where they conquered Paris and even appeared in a Claude Lelouch’s movie. “When I die, I want my show substituted by the Dzi Croquettes”, said legendary diva Josephine Baker. Continue reading Dzi Croquettes – Rio’s revolutionary cabaret

Rare videos of Mestre Bimba, Capoeira grand master

Bimba in action

Pelé is the king of soccer. The Gracie family rules in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. In the universe of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, the big name is Manuel dos Reis Machado, aka Mestre Bimba. Born in 1900 and deceased in 1974, Bimba codified the fight, developed a learning method, introduced new elements, such as the uniform (white t-shirt and pants), performed for the governor of Bahia and president Getúlio Vargas and, this way, gained respect for a martial art till then illegal.

There are very few images of Bimba practicing capoeira, playing berimbau and giving interviews. These are some of them:

 This is the full version of 2007 film “Mestre Bimba, a Capoeira Iluminada”:

Continue reading Rare videos of Mestre Bimba, Capoeira grand master

Gorgeous Maracatu

Maracatu Baquenambuco. Photos by Passarinho/the local Government of the city of Olinda/Flickr
Maracatu Baquenambuco. Photos by Passarinho/the local Government of the city of Olinda/Flickr

Maracatu is one of the best examples of fusion of Portuguese, African and Native Brazilian traditions. It is, basically, a street procession of a king, his queen and the court, followed by a percussion band. It evolved from the crowning of the Congo king, a popular festival apparently originated in Olinda, Pernambuco state. The music evolved from the chants played during Congadas, folk cerimonies that culminate with the election of the king and the queen of the Black Nation.

The details may vary and may include a multitude of princesses, fake Natives covered in feathers and baianas (women dressed in huge baloon skirts, white turbans and golden necklaces). They may pass around the calunga, a rag doll attached to a baton. The group is followed by the percussion orchestra that plays drums of different sizes, shakers, snares and agogô.

There are three main styles – Maracatu Nação, Maracatu Rural and Maracatu Cearense, this one practiced in the state of Ceará. Maracatu Nação or de Baque Virado originated in the early 18th century in Olinda, while Maracatu Rural, initiated in the 19th century in the countryside of Pernambuco. It includes a pilgrimage and a big reunion in Recife, the state capital.

Same source. Photo by Evane Manco
Same source. Photo by Evane Manco


Continue reading Gorgeous Maracatu

Capoeira through the ages

"Fighting Blacks", watercolor by Augustus Earle, 1822

Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art practiced all over the world, was originally a criminal activity. Even after the abolition of slavery, in 1888, the police would repress any manifestation of Black culture. Lots of the early records were destroyed and capoeira disappeared from several parts of the country, thanks to the repression. It only survived in regions where African culture was particularly strong, such as the cities of Salvador and Rio. In Recife, capital of Pernambuco, it morphed into frevo, a popular dance that was quite rough in the beginning of the 20th century. As recently as the 60s, the umbrella – at the time not covered with fabric – was used as a weapon. Today, it is hard to believe frevo descends from a martial art. Continue reading Capoeira through the ages

Xaxado, the outback dance

Xaxado is a popular dance from the sertão (outback) of the state of Pernambuco, in the Northeast. It is frequently associated to Lampião, the mythical outlaw that scared the region in the beginning of last century, that used to dance with his men after their victories. Even today the dancers wear rifles and leather hats similar to the bandit’s and his cangaceiros in their presentations. The name xaxado is attributed to the noise made by the cangaceiros’ sandals as they strike the sand.

Live statue of a cangaceiro photographed in São Paulo by Vana Gwen/ Flickr
Live statue of a cangaceiro photographed in São Paulo by Vana Gwen/ Flickr

Originally, it was danced only by men, organized in a line. The leader would sing the song and the other participants would answer back in chorus, insulting their enemies or praising their own bravery. They frequently mark the rhythm hitting the floor with their rifles.

Xaxado was discovered by the mass media thanks to composer Luiz Gonzaga, that you can see performing it in this film.

And here is Grupo de Xaxado Os Cabras de Lampião, from Serra Talhada, Pernambuco. Sorry, the quality of this video is not ideal.

Great documentary about forró, the popular Brazilian ball

Painting by Camilo Tavares
Painting by Camilo Tavares

This documentary, produced in 2008 by journalists Adriana Caitano and Galton Sé, is a great overview of Forró Pé-de-Serra movement. It shows how traditional forró – the big balls originally from the Northeast region – became popular among the young middle class of Brasília and the Southern cities, far from its origins. Played mostly with three instruments – triangle, zabumba drum and accordion -, it mixes a bunch of rhythms, such as baião, coco, quadrilha, xaxado and xote. Forró Pé-de-Serra is celebrated every year in three major yearly festivals – Rootstock (in São Paulo), RioRoots (in Rio) e Festival Nacional de Forró de Itaúnas (ES).

If you need English subtitles, look for the “cc” caption button on the bottom of the video.

Check also: The kings of Baião

Honoring Saint John

São João in Piraí, Rio state. Photo by João Vicente/JVC, via Flickr

Saint John’s festival, celebrated today, is a delicious fake celebration of rural lifestyle, with all the surreal stereotypes that this entitles.
It has, almost inevitably, the following elements:
1 – A mock wedding of a shy pregnant freckled bride in pigtails and a bridegrooms in shabby suit, straw hat and missing teeth. Continue reading Honoring Saint John