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 months to go, and I am feeling the pressure to get a lot done before it’s time to leave.

Since the non-stop craziness of carnival has been over for about six weeks, it’s been good to relax and get my bearings back, travel a bit (see posts about my trip to Zona Da Mata and São Paulo), catch up on reading, and have more conversations with people.

I am feeling a bit more comfortable with Portuguese, but still get frustrated with not being able to communicate fully. This has been my process so far —— Month 1: total immersion, leading to total confusion, culture shock, and frustration (in a good way). Month 2: listening more attentively, including becoming slightly addicted to cheesy novelas with subtitles (“Deus Salve O Rei” is my favorite). Month 3: forcing myself to have more conversations and relying less on Pablo as translator. I think months 4-6 should be more of all of the above, with the specific goal of speaking in more complete sentences 🙂


I was delighted to find sombrinhas (little umbrellas) in the Labanotation
in Maria Goretti Rocha de Oliveira’s book,
Frevo: uma apresentação coreológica

I have been collecting a lot of books and articles about frevo, carnival, and Recife, so I am slowly working my way through those. I’m trying to take the time to read now, rather than rush through with the idea that I’ll go back later (I won’t). The literature on the passo (frevo dance, as opposed to the music or carnival in general) is somewhat sparse, but it is interesting to read perspectives from various sources, such as journalists, professional dancers, dance scholars, and more. I have also started working on a new project with Professor Amilcar Bezerra from UFPE-Caruaru on the relationship between frevo music and dance, along with larger questions about what constitutes performance in the context of Recife’s carnival. We are examining how frevo music and dance together create a soundscape through various “fields of cultural production” (to use Bourdieu’s terminology) that are all interconnected and interactive. We’ll be conducting a series of interviews with dancers and musicians from these different spaces (including schools, companies, experimental artists, etc.) in order to examine the connections, confrontations, and ambiguities between them.

In addition to this research, I am continuing to explore my questions about frevo as a “dance of resistance” and it’s relationship to (i.e., roots in) capoeira. What has been most helpful for me so far has been attending classes and hearing how this narrative is communicated to students. For example, I went to Alisson Lima’s frevo and capoeira class at Instituto Brincante in São Paulo and interviewed him about his perspective on the subject (see my previous post). In addition, I have been taking Otávio Bastos’ “frevo cinquentão” at the Paço do Frevo. His concept is to teach us how to dance frevo “for ourselves,” as opposed to the more presentational and virtuosic style “for audiences” that we see on the frevo stages during carnival. Frevo cinquentão is more like the style you would see on the streets, typified by someone who is 50+ years of age (hence the name cinquentão), and incorporates what he calls “mungangas.” This is what you do when you are dancing/improvising and you draw a blank. You have a choice—you can either freeze and stop, or you can figure out a way to keep going. This latter choice of simply finding a way to keep going is “munganga.” Of course, to “mungangar” isn’t simple at all and requires a lot of familiarity with and knowledge of the steps and the form. And although the name “cinquentão” suggests that the style is for an older, perhaps less physically fit crowd, I think the name really suggests how many years of knowledge and experience it takes to build up that ability to “mugangar no passo”!

Here is Otávio’s video about frevo cinquentão, on his YouTube channel “Mexe Com Tudo”:

In class, we are encouraged to develop our own individual style and play around with dynamics. For example, Otávio has us play with an idea that hearkens back to the days when capoeiras led the frevo bands and were subject to repression—we pretend that the “police are watching,” so we make our movements small, subtle, internalized, but when they “go away,” we can go full out, fully extending our limbs and taking up as much space as possible. In both cases, I am slowly learning to feel the “jack” of frevo (to borrow a term from house dance, meaning the “groove” or that internal feeling/bounce that underlies all movement in a particular style). So far, I am feeling it the most in my shoulders, but there is also that tension between introversion and extroversion in the chest. Frevo still feels structurally very different from capoeira, but there are some similarities in the playfulness of both styles and the feeling of playing “small” versus going full out.

On Monday, I visited the Escola Municipal de Frevo in Encruzilhada for the first time. I was able to observe the Companhia de Frevo do Recife during one of their rehearsals. I was surprised by how familiar it was to me because the format of the class was very similar to jazz, contemporary, and hip hop classes that I’ve taken in the U.S. They started with a warm-up, followed by about 40 minutes of choreography that looked like a combination of frevo and jazz. That is, every end pose was a frevo shape, but all of the transitions in between were from jazz or ballet (e.g., a barrel turn, a fan kick, a battement, etc.). Then they proceeded to do some short patterns across the floor, and finally they worked on a frevo choreography called “Frevariando.” This last choreography seemed more like “straight” frevo, although I could see influences from jazz and ballet as well.

Last night I started a new beginner frevo class with Junior Viegas at the Escola Municipal. Since it is Semana Santa and people are in holiday mode, the class was more informal than usual and we started with some “brincadeiras,” which in this case were variations on the game of tag, with a frevo flair. I’m looking forward to continuing this class. I am expecting it to be quite a different experience from classes with Guerreiros do Passo (who emphasize Nascimento do Passo‘s teaching method) and with Otávio. I am looking forward to examining the difference, in terms of class format, teaching approach, and how the movement style feels in my body.

In addition to frevo classes, I will also be starting another session of cavalo marinho classes with Fabinho Soares starting next week at the Paço do Frevo. Although I am here primarily for frevo, I am really interested in learning more about this dance and performance tradition from Pernambuco’s Zona Da Mata. I’ve learned that there are fewer passos (steps) in the cavalo marinho repertory than frevo, but, when I see it, I feel that each movement carries a lot of weight and significance. Fabinho’s teaching method also suggests how nuanced the movement is, as he is very particular about adjusting the body just so, in order to make it cavalo marinho and not “outra coisa” (something else). The footwork and rhythms are familiar when I compare them to other dance styles I’ve done (e.g., Irish step, flatfooting, house dance, etc.) but there is something particular and nuanced about the posture and the tilt of the head/upper body that I want to understand. I won’t get the full context of the dance just through classes (performances are 4-8 hours long with many characters and storylines!), but I will get some sense of what it takes to do it. Unfortunately, it seems as though cavalo marinho is more active during the other half of the year (July-January, exactly when I’m not here). Maybe I’ll come back? 🙂

Here is Fabinho’s group Estrela de Ouro performing cavalo marinho a few years ago:

So I am expecting a busy schedule for next three months! My reading list is growing exponentially, but I also have to use the time while I’m here to meet with people and take the classes that I won’t be able to do after I leave. Vamos dançar!

São Paulo

We’ve just returned from an unforgettable weeklong trip to São Paulo!

The primary purpose of the trip was to do some research at Antônio Nóbrega‘s Instituto Brincante, which included classes in music, dance, and poetry. The space itself is gorgeous and inviting; I immediately felt a great energy when I walked in. They have a few classrooms and dance spaces, lined with Brazilian percussion instruments and other costumes, props, and set pieces. I loved the staircase, where photographs and other memorabilia were displayed.

I participated in a number of classes. First, I attended a Brazilian percussion class for beginners with instructor Luis Zanetti. We started with some warm-up clapping exercises and gradually built up to more complex Brazilian rhythms, eventually splitting up into groups and playing different percussion instruments, including alfaias, caixas, shakers, tamborins, and agogôs. I spent the most time playing it safe on the agogô (already familiar to me from capoeira), but also tried a bit of tamborim, which was a bit more complicated but really fun to play. It always feels good to connect to other people through music and percussion.

I was most excited to attend Alisson Lima’s frevo & capoeira class, since my introduction to frevo was through capoeira, and specifically because I’m interested in frevo’s roots in capoeira and the connection between the two as “dances of resistance.” I’d seen this video from Instituto Brincante last year as I was preparing my research proposal, and I’d never seen anything like it! The idea of playing with frevo and capoeira together, and dancing frevo with a partner like in a capoeira roda, really appealed to me. Part of that appeal comes from my personal preference to approach capoeira training as a dance rather than a martial art (although I appreciate and respect both approaches and their histories). Check out the video:

Alisson is a great teacher and when I interviewed him one afternoon, he told me about his somatic research and dance pedagogy. What he articulates about his experience as a dancer and performer comes through in his classes. I was able to participate in two of his frevo/capoeira classes, the first of which focused on frevo and the second of which focused on capoeira. We started each class with playful exercises that warmed us up and also broke the ice a bit: solo improvisation, group improvisation, jump rope (it had been years since I’d jumped into a rope!), etc. We learned some frevo moves and some capoeira moves, which were familiar to me from previous classes I’ve taken in each style. However, what struck me the most was his encouragement to play with the movements and express ourselves. In class, he had us dance to all kinds of music—not just frevo or capoeira music—so it opened up a lot of possibilities that I want to continue experimenting with. I wish I could continue the semester in São Paulo to experience the journey he has planned for the class.

Finally, I attended a Brazilian poetry class with the great dancer, musician, poet, actor, and artist Antônio Nóbrega! I will admit that I was a bit star-struck. He is one of the foremost frevo artists in the world! The poetry class was quite a challenge for a struggling beginner Portuguese speaker like myself (rhyming in a foreign language is hard!), but it was incredibly inspiring to spend three hours in a small classroom with him. He not only spoke about poetry, but also about music, dance, theatre, art, and performance—and how they are all connected. I could see that connection in his body as he spoke and moved. He talked about erudite and popular culture in Brazil: where their different lineages have intersected and where they have branched off, and how they continue to do so. Besides learning about some of the technical nuances of grammatical, metric, and strophic forms in Brazilian poetry (!!!), it was a thrilling experience to hear him speak and sing—and even see him dance a bit.

Besides visiting Instituto Brincante, we also, of course, explored São Paulo. The trip involved catching up with our friend Lucas, meeting new friends, visiting a handful of museums, hearing live music and dancing (of course), and eating a lot of good food. We have to thank Lucas for being an incredible host and shepherding us through this enormous city! We certainly took advantage of our seven days in São Paulo.

Let me count the ways:

  • Museums: inspiring Aleijadinho exhibit and permanent art exhibit at Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP); incredible African and Afro-Brazilian art and artifacts at Museu Afro Brasil; gorgeous architecture and a wide variety of modern Brazilian art at Pinacoteca; the calm and tranquility of Casa de Japão; and the beautiful rose garden of Casa das Rosas

  • One of my favorite pieces of art at Museu Afro Brasil:
    part of
    The Veterans Series by Gerard Quenum of Benin
  • Parks, landmarks, and cool spaces: the fun and colorful graffiti at Beco do Batman; the impressive Catedral de Sé; the beautiful landscape and fun exercise equipment at Parque Ibiripuera; the Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture of the Teatro Municipal opera house

  • Beco do Batman
  • Markets and shopping: the Japanese neighborhood and market of Liberdade; the endless rows of delicious exotic fruits and insanely enormous mortadela sandwiches at Mercadão Municipal; the variety of musical genres (samba, forró, rock, axé, indie rock, heavy metal, reggae…) and people-watching on Avenida Paulista on a Sunday; a few shopping malls (obligatory part of any Brazilian city experience, it seems); and a unique flower and plant boutique at FLO atelier botânico

  • Bottom left: fruits at Mercadão Municipal /
    Top left: humongous mortadela and chicken sandwiches /
    Right: ceviche tower at Rinconcito Peruano

    Samba roda on Avenida Paulista

  • Music and dance: a stunning concert at SESC Pinheiros by Quinteto da Paraíba with virtuoso guests Carlos Malta, Mônica Salmaso, and frevo master Spok; an intimate and warm evening of samba and chorinho (with some rusty but always fun samba de gafieira dancing with Pablo) to the sounds of the Zé Barbeiro quartet and Edinho Silva at Ó Do Borogodó Bar; and an awesomely heart-pumping and friendly capoeira class with Mestre Kibe at Capoeira Cordão de Ouro Matriz
  • Sweaty capoeira class with Mestre Kibe
  • Food and drinks: drinks at Fast Berlin and Salve Jorge in Pinheiros; a pleasant afternoon chat over coffee and kombucha at Isso É Café; amazing ceviche at Rinconcito Peruano; the most incredible northeastern cuisine and beautiful fruit caipirinhas at Recife-owned Mocotó (where I sampled the tiniest bit of sarapatel, which wasn’t bad, but definitely doesn’t taste like chicken); authentic (so my Bahian expert friends say) acarajé at Tabuleiro do Acarajé; a quick coffee at Nano’s pop-up in Vila Madalena; an unforgettable coffee “ritual” experience the Coffee Lab; and famous São Paulo pizza at Carlos Pizza
  • Fruity caipirinhas, an unforgettable lunch with old and new friends, and photo with chef Rodrigo Oliveira at northeastern Brazilian restaurant Mocotó

Needless to say, I’m tired! But also refreshed and ready for the next phase of research in Recife.

Lecture at UFPE

Today I had a wonderful opportunity to give a lecture for students and faculty of the Master’s in Music program (Programa Pos-Graduação de Música, PPGM) at the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) in Recife. I was invited by acting program coordinator Gustavo Alonso to talk to the students about my research and academic trajectory. I was joined by fellow Fulbrighter, Dr. Janet Robbins, professor emerita of West Virginia University in Morgantown.

It was fun to be able to share my academic and dance experiences, from my background in Irish dance, to my Master’s in Irish Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance at the University of Limerick, to my dissertation work in Montserrat for the PhD program at the University of Maryland’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. I spoke about my interest in the themes of “dancing the archive” and “dances of resistance,” which I am continuing to explore in my current Fulbright project on frevo here in Recife. I was energized by the students’ questions and excited about making new connections at the university.

Here is a link to the presentation I gave: http://bit.ly/2FfIEgb

Janet Robbins gave a great presentation about her 10+ year collaboration with UFPE and her work in world music pedagogy, particularly using the Orff Schulwerk approach in music education. She is a Fulbright Specialist who is doing important work to bring “local” and “global” (= “glocal”) rhythms and music styles into the classroom to engage students in new ways. Over the years, she has brought many Brazilian students from UFPE to the WVU in the United States, and send many American students to Recife to study. She and the department are organizing a four-day festival for Orff Schulwek, starting next week.

(Also, special shout-out to my boyfriend and translator extraordinaire, Pablo! Not only did he translate for me, but also for Janet! I am continually impressed by his truly fluent bilingualism…actually, he is quadrilingual, but that’s another story.)

Today’s experience felt like what the Fulbright experience is all about: exchanging ideas about topics we are passionate about (music and dance!), as well as increasing cultural understanding by sharing similarities and differences between our respective academic systems. I am looking forward to more such exchanges over the next few months!

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 de Cultura Popular. The event was “revivendo o Carnaval [reviving carnival],” as the tagline said. The program promised a taste of many of the popular music and dance traditions of the region (Zona da Mata Norte in Pernambuco), including: maracatu rural / maracatu de baque solto, maracatu nação / maracatu de baque virado, coco de roda, frevo, ciranda, mamulengo, boi, forró, baião, caboclinho, xaxado, afoxé, and fusão.

It was wonderful to get out of the city after a very loud, crowded, and hectic week of carnival. The air was fresh, the landscape was green, there were geese squawking and toads hopping. We stayed at the Engenho Santa Fé, an old sugar cane processing plant with rooms that was rebuilt for guests, with rooms converted from the original horse stables. We had a beautiful view and delicious home-cooked food for every meal. We were welcomed by our new friend Afonso Oliveira, who helped produce and coordinate the event.

Engenho Santa Fé (Nazaré da Mata, Pernambuco)

Buenos Aires, Pernambuco

Saturday, February 17

We arrived on Saturday morning and saw the cortejos (processions) of the various maracatu, boi, and caboclinho groups. The sky was threatening rain, and it did pour down at times, but the show went on. The groups wore their elaborate, bright, and heavy costumes, while crowds gathered to watch them pass. It was quite a spectacle, and I couldn’t get enough of the bright, shiny colors.

My favorite characters were the burrinhos, with their scary plastic masks, patterned dresses with hoop skirts to accentuate the rear and “hobby horse”-like attachments at the front. They carried chicotes, or whips, which reminded me of those in Montserrat’s masquerades—I spent I lot of time in my dissertation work trying to understand and theorize those whips. Here, there were many more whips, many more cracks, and it felt more threatening than in Montserrat, and I wondered if this is how Montserrat’s masquerade troupe rivalries might have played out “before the volcano.” These burrinhos led each group and seemed to clear the path for them, even walking ahead of the warrior-like caboclos de lança with their shiny headwear made of cellophane strips, Ray-Bans, colorful sequined capes, and ribboned lances—clanking down the streets with big cowbells under their clothes.

I also enjoyed the group Boi Cara Branca from Limoeiro, who wore yellow, red, and purple feathered costumes and did back flips, one by one, down the street. After each one did their flips and showed off an impressively long handstand, they would crouch to the ground in a queda de rins position (to use the capoeira term) and the boi (bull) came over, spun over him, nudged him (like a blessing? or not?), and then ran off again. I would love to know more about what is going on here.

In fact, there is much more going on here with all the groups—boi, maracatu rural, and caboclinho—that I am still learning about. There were many more characters and personas and costumes and activities that I haven’t mentioned at all.

In the evening, there were performances on the main stage at Vila São Luiz. We saw a frevo orquestra, Orquestra Curica, from Goiana, which was an ensemble of young musicians, many of them children. I really enjoyed the performance by the group Xaxado Cabras de Lampião, which was a danced performance alluding to the story of the famous cangaçeiro, Lampião. There were eight performers (four men and four women) wearing the recognizable costumes of Lampião and his wife and literal partner-in-crime, Maria Bonita. They carried rifles and did an incredible sapateado (percussive footwork) that reminded me of a cross between Scottish highland dancing (the wide legs and one-arm-on-hip-with-other-arm-above-the-head) and flatfooting (all those chugs!).

Buenos Aires, Pernambuco. 17 de fevereiro de 2018.

Check out a live broadcast on Globo from Saturday’s cortejos: https://globoplay.globo.com/v/6511707/

Sunday, February 18

The next day, we saw many more performances on the main stage at Vila São Luiz. We saw a puppet troupe, Mamulengo Riso da Noite from Buenos Aires, followed by Afoxé Ylê de Egbá from Recife. After that were two amazing coco groups, Coco de Pareia from Goiana and Coco Popular from Aliança. Their styles were notably different, but both got the crowd stomping out the irresistible coco rhythm with their feet.

Buenos Aires, Pernambuco. 18 de fevereiro de 2018.

Post-carnival reflection

Carnival has ended, which means that the first “phase” of my Fulbright research plan is over. I’ve been in Recife for about a month and a half, and I’ve experienced some of the lead-up to carnival and carnival itself. I say “some of” the lead-up to carnival because it is clear that the prévias and ensaios of the various blocos have been going on for months, and I only caught the tail-end of it. By the end of carnival, men and women covered in glitter and wearing masks and costumes were commonplace, and I hardly even reacted when a man dressed as “The Mask,” in a bright yellow suit and green mask, cross the street in front of me. (Okay, I totally pointed and exclaimed, “The Mask!”)

I feel like we just plopped down into the middle of a huge vortex and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I am still struggling with Portuguese, although I am starting to understand better as I learn more vocabulary, and maybe more importantly, what to expect. For example, after ordering water, I can now anticipate the question, “Quer gelo?” and confirm, “Não, sem gelo [ice], por favor.” (That simple question took me by surprise for at least three weeks and I just kind of stammered and mumbled something incomprehensible in return; I need to be more confident, calm down, breathe, and realize that I know more than I think I do!). I am thankful that my partner Pablo is here with me, because without his total fluency between Portuguese and English, I think I would be crying a lot due to frustration and feelings of isolation. In our first couple weeks, we had to navigate a lot of bureaucracy that I think I would not have been able to do on my own.

Over the past month, there have been so many events to choose from! I came here to study frevo, which is central to carnival here, but is also not, of course, the only thing. There are also the caboclinhos, two distinct types of maracatu (baque solto and baque virado), papangus, tons of official concerts (frevo, samba, reggae, etc.), even more impromptu musical gatherings in bars, and just the millions of different costumes and creative personas that people put on for each day of carnival. And did I mention that there are three different types of frevo? Frevo de bloco, frevo de rua, and frevo canção. I only sort of knew this before I got here, but I certainly didn’t know how different they really are—not only in terms of style, but also the context in which they are experienced. But then again, they are also clearly linked, especially in the joy and alegria that they inspire as people jump, shout, and sing along.

I have met many people from many different areas of expertise and perspectives, who are opening my eyes to what carnival and frevo and other popular dances mean. I am interested to learn where they agree on meanings and, more intriguingly, where they disagree. The nice thing about this Fulbright research trip is that, although I have a primary focus on frevo, I am free to explore different paths and see where it leads me. I am coming from a very fast-paced working environment where I never had time to fully read, reflect, or think; and even with my dissertation work before that, I felt pressure to stay on track with my original proposal. Here, I have my central questions about “dances of resistance” that I’m working with, and those questions are getting honed each day, but I have the freedom to look for answers in more than just my originally planned focus. Frevo itself is not just one thing—as I hear over and over again, frevo “is everyone,” frevo “mixes with everything,” and frevo is “of the streets, of the people.” I’ve fallen in love with the genres of cavalo marinho and coco as well, which are stylistically so different from frevo, but which inform me of what frevo is and what it isn’t (and vice versa). Being able to dance down these various paths (pun intended) opens up new modes of understanding and, of course, introduces me to more people and more cultures.

I have been able to participate in a number of dance classes, which is by far my favorite way to spend my time (here, or anywhere else). I like to move, “try on” new steps and styles, explore different shifts of weight, try to train new “ways of being” into my body. I like feeling really uncomfortable and then seeing how I can adjust myself until, aha! everything snaps into place. (That aha! moment takes a long time and is just the beginning—there is still much more work to go.) I have taken classes with the Guerreiros do Passo, whose pedaogy is dedicated to the late frevo master, Nascimento do Passo. I have also been to the Paço do Frevo a number of times to see their demonstrations, participate in mini-workshops, view their exhibitions, and also take a couple of frevo and cavalo marinho classes. After everyone recovers from carnival, I plan to take many more classes with these groups and elsewhere, and also dig into the research—both in the archives and also talking more with people involved in popular culture about what they do and why. It has been hard, so far, to ask questions and get answers because carnival time is always so loud and I can only just barely understand and formulate my thoughts in English, let alone Portuguese. (Sensory overload!)

Now that carnival is over, I am also planning to take some trips to see more of the region and the country. This is my first time in Brazil, and I’ve heard that Recife is quite different from other parts of the country, especially those that are most often visited by American tourists (such as Rio, São Paulo, Salvador, etc.). Did I mention how few foreign tourists there are here? I have only met one other American. I’d like to experience other cities for some perspective.

It was to be expected that I would end up having many more questions than I arrived with, but somehow the flood of questions is still always surprising and overwhelming. It’s exhilarating and scary—how will I ever wrap my head around all of this? I won’t, of course, in just six months. But I do hope that things will start to fall into place a bit. I’m just keeping my eyes open and my feet ready to dance.

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 São Pedro. The group is led by a mestre and there are many different characters, each with its own specific and very elaborate costume. The Caboclo de Lança is one of the more visually stunning in the group, in amazing colorful sequined capes and bright cellophane ribbon headdresses, and holding long lances with colorful fabrics tied to it. The music of the brass instruments is punctuated by the sound of the bells under the caboclos costumes, and the mestre leads a call-and-response chant.

Pátio de São Pedro, Recife. 13 de fevereiro de 2018.

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 we go to a lot of samba events at home in DC, so this music felt more familiar to me than frevo. I felt at home, sort of! I knew the lyrics to more of the music and I knew better how to “respond” to the rhythm. We saw Gerlane Lops, Fundo de Quintal (incrível!), Casuarina, and Monobloco. Monobloco was especially exciting for us because we brought them to DC in 2016 for a concert at Creative Alliance in Baltimore and a percussion workshop at the Embassy of Brazil in DC. Really nice guys, really fun performers, great energy. They brought that same energy to Marco Zero—it was quite a party!

(Please excuse the poor photo quality; we were having too much fun to take good photos!)

Carnival in Olinda

Yesterday we went to the ladeiras de Olinda (the hills of Olinda) to enjoy carnival. The crowds were incredible! I saw some wonderful costumes and really enjoyed the bonecos gigantes and papangus, who are so funny, scary, intriguing, and revolting, all at the same time. What an experience!

Ladeiras de Olinda


Bonecos gigantes at rest

Escuta Levino

Last night we went to the Bloco Escuta Levino gathering, which was essentially a huge dancing parade through the streets of Recife, from the Praça Maciel Pinheiro to Recife Antigo. Maestro Lessa’s orchestra played and the Guerreiros do Passo performed. The Guerreiros created a roda at the beginning of the parade and gave a taste of what frevo might have looked like in the 1940s, in full costume and dancing in the style of the time.

This was the first bloco I’ve been to where, despite the crowds, people made space to dance full out. We would walk for a bit, and then, once the mood hit us, we would “cair no passo” again, finding a space to kick and jump and swing. Every so often, a roda would form amidst the crowds, and some amazing dancers showed off their tricks, maneuvering their sombrinhas and some full-sized guarda-chuvas (umbrellas) under their legs, between their legs, behind their backs, and up above their heads.

Indeed, the umbrellas came in handy. It poured down rain, which only made the frevo dancing more fervent! We didn’t have umbrellas, so we were soaked…and happy.

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 do Frevo! We saw Otávio Bastos, of the great YouTube channel Mexe Com Tudo, Wilson Aguiar of Brincantes Das Ladeiras, dance master Ferreirinha do Passo, and Jae Shin, the champion of the 2017 European frevo competition, among many others. Check out the video to see their individual styles and nuanced interpretations of the music!

Paço do Frevo, Recife Antigo. 4 de fevereiro de 2018.