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This ethnographic project focuses on the frevo tradition of Recife, capital of Brazil’s Pernambuco state. Recife’s annual pre-Lenten Carnival is a spectacle that showcases a variety of local cultural traditions, including frevo—from the word ferver (“to boil”), it is an energetic music and dance that symbolizes Pernambucan culture. Loud brass instruments provide the fast-paced music, and dancers in bright costumes hold tri-colored sombrinhas, or small parasols, as they perform acrobatic feats, dropping to their knees before springing up into high airborne splits. Frevo originates from capoeira, a better known Afro-Brazilian art form, but it represents a particular Pernambucan regional variation on Brazilian national identity.

Frevo is listed among Brazil’s intangible cultural heritage for its role in Pernambuco’s mestiçagem, or “mixed” racial/cultural identity formation. Frevo represents a regional variation on Brazilian national identity and narrates notions of identity that contribute to social empowerment and valuation of popular culture. This research on frevo and other popular dances of the region aims to understand the political role of such performed cultural expression, how it serves to engage communities and empower marginalized individuals.

Project Summary

Image source: Prefeitura de Olinda/Wikimedia Commons

“The Frevo Tradition and Pernambucan Cultural Identity in Recife, Brazil” is an ethnographic project by Dr. Kate Spanos, who has received a postdoctoral Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to study frevo dance and music in Brazil. She will be based at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife for six months, starting in January 2018. The project is an extension of Kate’s dissertation research, which focused on similar themes in dance, music, and festival on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

This website blog features observations, photos, audio recordings, videos, and other resources gathered during Kate’s fieldwork in 2018.

Frevo, capoeira, e drible

Frevo, capoeira, e drible

In my last post, I wrote about Otávio Bastos' frevo cinquentão class and how we are playing around with dynamics
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Halfway point reflection

Halfway point reflection

It's hard to believe that three months have already passed! It's gone really fast and also really slow. Three more
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São Paulo

São Paulo

We've just returned from an unforgettable weeklong trip to São Paulo! The primary purpose of the trip was to do some
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Lecture at UFPE

Lecture at UFPE

Today I had a wonderful opportunity to give a lecture for students and faculty of the Master's in Music program
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Encontro de Cultura Popular – Buenos Aires, PE

Encontro de Cultura Popular – Buenos Aires, PE

This weekend we went to Buenos Aires (in Pernambuco, not Argentina; about 90km from Recife) to check out the Encontro
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Post-carnival reflection

Post-carnival reflection

Carnival has ended, which means that the first "phase" of my Fulbright research plan is over. I've been in Recife
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Maracatu de Baque Solto – Piaba de Ouro

Maracatu de Baque Solto – Piaba de Ouro

Yesterday we saw the incredible Maracatu de Baque Solto (or Maracatu Rural) group, Piaba de Ouro at the Pátio de
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Samba night at Marco Zero

Samba night at Marco Zero

Last night we enjoyed "samba night" at Marco Zero. Pablo plays cavaco and is a big fan of samba, and
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Carnival in Olinda

Carnival in Olinda

Yesterday we went to the ladeiras de Olinda (the hills of Olinda) to enjoy carnival. The crowds were incredible! I
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Escuta Levino

Escuta Levino

Last night we went to the Bloco Escuta Levino gathering, which was essentially a huge dancing parade through the streets
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Roda de Frevo com Maestro Spok

Roda de Frevo com Maestro Spok

Yesterday we saw some great frevo performances at the roda de frevo com Maestro Spok in front of the Paço
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Manuel Castomo

Manuel Castomo

Today I attended a very interesting class at the Paço do Frevo with Manuel Castomo, a dancer/musician artist from Mozambique.
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Concurso de Passistas

Concurso de Passistas

It was great to see the second day of the frevo passista competition! I saw the adult male competitors and
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Egberto Gismonti & João do Pife

Egberto Gismonti & João do Pife

It was incredible to see two legendary musicians on stage, with two very different styles of music but an obvious
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Concurso de Rei Momo e Rainha do Carnaval 2018 – Recife

Concurso de Rei Momo e Rainha do Carnaval 2018 – Recife

It was quite an experience to witness the competition for Recife's Rei Momo and Rainha (Queen) of Carnival 2018. The
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Boi Marinho

Boi Marinho

It has been great fun to attend the weekly Boi Marinho rehearsals/jams at Rua da Moeda in Recife Antigo the
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Prévias do Carnaval – Olinda

Prévias do Carnaval – Olinda

This was the first of what I hope will be many times experiencing the prévias in Olinda. We got there
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Bloco da Saudade – VII Noite dos Flabelos

Bloco da Saudade – VII Noite dos Flabelos

AABB (Associação Atlética Banco do Brasil, Graças, Recife). 19 de janeiro de 2018.
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Boi Marinho

Boi Marinho

Rua de Moeda, Recife. 16 de janeiro de 2018.
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Companhia do Frevo de Recife

Companhia do Frevo de Recife

Companhia do Frevo de Recife. Paço do Frevo. 13 de janeiro de 2018.
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Almost there! Quase lá!

Almost there! Quase lá!

It has gotten cold here in DC this week! I'm ready for summer in Brazil: carnival season, frevo, sun, music,
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Bem vindos!

Bem vindos!

Welcome to my blog! Stay tuned for my fieldwork updates starting in January 2018.
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About

Image source: Guerreiros do Passo (above)

I am a dancer and dance scholar who is interested in “dances of resistance” and the role of dance in cultural identity formation. I am especially focused on the interweaving of African and European traditions, stemming from my background in Irish dance, my doctoral research on Afro-Caribbean dance and music, and my interest in Afro-Brazilian and West African dance styles.

In my research, I am interested in bridging the academic studies of music and dance, which are necessarily intertwined in community practices, but less often explicitly linked in the methodological approaches of ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology, or the ethnographic study of dance. Such research can fill in gaps that other disciplines such as history, sociology, and literary studies leave behind, giving attention to forms of cultural expression that are not always written or voiced in archives or official documents. Research on the practice and preservation of the highly valued frevo tradition and other popular music and dance practices of Pernambuco may contribute to the local community, as well as to a greater understanding of this complex culture among non-Brazilians.

I received my PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, and my Master’s in Traditional Irish Dance Performance from the University of Limerick in Ireland. I work for the UMD School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies as coordinator of marketing & communications.

My host institution while in Recife is the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) Department of Music.

For more information, visit www.thekatespanos.com.

Contact

Photo by Kate Spanos