Category Archives: Dance

Xote, Brazilian version of a Scottish/German dance

Normally, when a Brazilian refers to xote, he is talking about a dance fairly common in the Northeast region, similar to forró. Curiously, the word comes from the German schottische, meaning Scottish, or Scottish polka, a type of country dance probably originated in Bohemia.  It was introduced in the Brazilian court in the mid-19th century. When you see a performance of the traditional schottische (see below) it is pretty tough to figure how it evolved into its Brazilian descendants. Yes, descendants, in the plural, because xote is also danced in the extreme South of the country, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where it is known as xote gaúcho.

The following videos show examples of  the two Brazilian xotes (first the Northeastern style by group Fala Mansa – sorry for the intro ads -, and then danced in a ball in the South), plus a demonstration of schottische . Please, let me know if you see any similitude. Frankly, I don’t.

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Swan Lake meets street dance

John Lennon da Silva, a mind-blowing 20 year old street dancer, interprets the scene of the swan’s death, from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake – one of the most dramatic moments of classic ballet. He is a candidate of  “Se ela Dança, eu Danço“, a TV contest show that displays talented Brazilian dancers. In a tragicomic moment of his audition,  he makes one of the judges cry like a small baby; another one offers him a stand up ovation, while the show hostess has no clue what is going on.

Samba de roda, mother of Rio’s Carnival

Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr
Samba de roda in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia. Photo by imprensalauro/Flickr

These pre-Carnival days, turn your eyes and ears to Bahia and discover the music that inspired Rio’s Carnival. Samba de Roda, considered by Unesco an Intangible Cultural Heritage of  Humanity, was brought by slaves from Angola and Congo to the state  – more specifically to Recôncavo Baiano, region that includes Salvador. Eventually it was taken by migrants to Rio, where it influenced the rhythms present in today’s Carnival.

The participants of a samba de roda organize a big circle and one individual dances in the center till she gives an umbigada (a movement of the hips in which her belly button touches the belly of someone else). The person that was touched comes, at her turn, to the center of the circle. In other cases, umbigada is substituted by some other symbolic movement, such as a hand movement or throwing a handkerchief. According to Unesco, this tradition is bound to disappear. “The aging of practitioners and the dwindling number of artisans capable of making some of the instruments pose a further threat to the transmission of the tradition”, the organization informs, in the following video, which offers a good sample of samba de roda and of the various musical instruments and moves involved.

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