Frevo: A reflection of the dance of resistance during the Times of Protest

A group of Frevo dancers, or Frevo Passistas, perform on the streets of Recife during Carnival 2018. Photo by Sergio Bernardo, PCR

I saw it for the first time frevo, I was stunned by its joy. The dancers wear colorful costumes and hold small umbrellas, which are called Umbrella, That they perform complex footwork and wonderful jumps and squats when they spin and toss in the air. The music is as bright as the dance – the bright sound of trumpets, trumpets and horns is driven by percussion.

Every year, Frevo draws at the Recife in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco and the Carnival Street Parade in Holland. Frevo dance, which is commonly called Step (“Step”), seems to be the purest symbol of joy.

Frevo is a performance of Parnambucan regional pride that has become a product in many ways in recent years. During the carnival, Freevo and its iconic Sombrinha are everywhere, from food product advertising to shopping malls and exhibitions at Recife International Airport. There is a description of Frevo’s inclusion: “You and I frevo”(“ You and I on the Freevo ”), a slogan printed on T-shirts and other products that maintains that Freevo for everyone. In class and on the streets of Carnival, the irresistible feeling is the “difference between unity”: anyone of any age, gender, social class, race, or physical ability can dance the freevo.

Shortly after I became acquainted with Freevo, I learned that its origins lie in Brazilian martial arts. Capoeira. Capoeira is often described as “fighting in the guise of dance” – a dance of resistance developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil, known for its ancestral relationship with Africa, and has recently become a global dance phenomenon. While practicing Capoeira here in Washington, DC, I was surprised to learn that there is a connection between this beautiful, yet often aggressive, martial art and the indifferent dance of celebration.

What does it mean to be a dance of resistance? How is the dance protest? How can we examine these exercises in more depth to find out what connects them to the attitude of resistance?

A group of young people are dancing outside, looking excited, holding a small rainbow-colored umbrella. Confetti is raining.

The Frevo group Guerreiros do Passo is gathered in one tight, joy Confusion At the end of class at Recife Prana Hipadromo.

Photo by Eduardo Arajo, Guerreiro do Paso

I went to Recife in 2018 to find out. For six months, I conducted ethnographic research that included pre-carnival parties, street carnival parades, classes in Frevo, capoeira, and other events with regional groups and other events such as lectures, concerts, and exhibitions. One of my main concerns while living in the huge city of Recife was safety; As a white American woman unfamiliar with culture and just learning Portuguese, I had a lot to learn and a lot of challenges to navigate. I have become acutely aware of the issues of violence and security in the city.

Over the past hundred years, Frevo has developed against a backdrop of aggression and violence. It appeared in the late twentieth century, 1 after the abolition of slavery in Brazil. Before the Carnival-Lent, the annual three-day festivities were a time for people from all walks of life to mingle on the streets. Frevo clubs consisting of military bands, working class workers and Prank, Or unreasonable crowds of people from poor communities, took to the streets to drink, play music and dance.

This is where Freevo Capoeira originated: Towards the end of the century, military bands recruited Capoeira fighters to defend against rival groups, and Freevo evolved from the initial tactics of these fighters. These rivalries often become violent and gang and Inventors, Or street innovators, continue to this day at the Carnival of Recife.

As my freevo dance teachers at Recife and Olinda explained to me, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Capoeira warriors would kick each other aggressively until the police arrived, at which point their movement would become more playful and repressive. In this way, to avoid being imprisoned (as Capoeira was forbidden from 1890 to 1930), frevo can be seen as a Disguise of disguise That is capoeira. Some freevo groups insist on representing this history after ordinary costumes instead of mainstream colorful carnival costumes and they include more aggressive movements in their dances and even capoeira games. Thus, these dancers bring attention back People, Or the working class and subaltern people who created Frevo a hundred years ago.

The municipal government of Recife commissioned a performance to open the carnival in 2018, describing the history of Freevo, showing the transition from Capoeira to Freevo, urging local groups to show different styles of dancers. Notice how the change of dress and movement is transformed from kicking and punching into two people into more qualitatively distinct techniques.

I watched Recife and Olinda play the carnival’s furious aggression on the street. People will officially dance alongside the parade, but things can quickly turn violent. It’s easy to blow up this violence not as a carnival spirit, but as a colleague. capoeirista (Capoeira practitioners) have encouraged me to recognize that the history of carnival is indeed violent. We can’t forget, or “whitewash”, that Frevo comes out of a history of resistance. It has become clear to me that, in this turbulent environment, that freevo is a breathtaking symbol of sweat, vigor, resistance. But I was still thinking: How?

I have taken classes with different freevo groups, each of which has different methods and methods of teaching. But they all discussed an idea Munganga. Munganga, sometimes spell Doctor, When a dancer travels, falls, loses strength or otherwise makes noise, they flow into exactly another movement so that the accident looks intentional. Munganga is an improvement practice that requires deep knowledge of dance, expert musical instruments and the ability to switch gears at the moment. Frevo practitioners use the word munganga to counteract the negative meaning of the Portuguese word Improvement (“Improvisation”), which proposes something that is done without strategy or rigor, an idea that is at the root of the racist notion that improvisational African and African-derived practices come “naturally” and do not require years of study and training.

Described by Otávio Bastos of Mexe Com Tudo Munganga As a central practice of Frevo dance, Frevo describes what Frevo dancers mean, including clips from master Nascimento do Paso (1936-2009).

At the societal level, having munga means embodying the potential of Freevo to resist social injustice and empower social dialogue in difficult situations. If one can use their improving experience and tangible knowledge to navigate a freevo solo, they can use that same mongoose to the unpredictability of the carnival, as well as the uncertainty and violence of an unpopular society.

Recently, I have been thinking about the role of resistance and dance in light of the current protests against racial injustice and for racial solidarity. Much has been said about the role of violence in these movements. We can think of resistance as public protest and the expression of secret beliefs and values. Often, dance, music, and culture fall into the next category as non-violent tactics for recent communities, but we must not forget that these cultural traditions stem from violence and suffering.

We introduce dance and music because they provide natural knowledge that cannot be done verbally. Marginalized or oppressed people find healing in such challenging cultural practices, e.g. Bomb And Capoeira practitioners have described it in a recent Story Circle discussion of the Smithsonian Folklore Festival. Dance and music create a place of ritual for communal memories, shared history and ancestral bonds.

At the same time, as we learn from Freevo, the dances of joy are also dances of resistance. We see laughter and joyous movements, but there is a history of violence embedded in the history of violence. As my Capoirista friend in Recife said, we can’t forget that. We can’t whitewash it. Dancing isn’t just what we see on stage, and it’s not just for entertainment. People dance to forget their suffering, and to remember why they fight.

People are dancing outside, looking happy and carrying small rainbow colored umbrellas.  The sky is dark, but they are bright.

Step warriors

Photo by Eduardo Arajo, Guerreiro do Paso

Kate Spanos, PhD, is a dancer and choreographer who specializes in dance, music and festival research in Brazil, the Eastern Caribbean and Ireland. In his research, he examines the natural techniques involved in the “dance of resistance” in cultures around the world. He researched Frevo in Recife, Brazil, as a postdoctoral Fulbright U.S. Scholar.

Quote work and read more

Matta, from Roberto. 1991. Carnivals, Rogues, and Heroes: An Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.

De Oliveira, Valdemar. 1985. Frevo, Capoeira and “Paso.” 2nd edition. Recife: Peranambuco Publishing Company.

Goreti Rocha de Oliveira, Maria. 2017. Frevo: A choreographic performance. Recipient: Richard Vega.

Rosa, Christina F. 2015. The Brazilian Body and Their Choreography of Identification: Swing Nation. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

2019 at Spanos, Kathleen. Journal of Dance Research 51 (3): 28–46.

Spanos, Kathleen A., and Amilcar Almeida Bejera. 2020. “Dance in Pedagogy and Performance: The Events of Guerreiro do Paso and Brazilian Frevo.” Dance Chronicle 43 (1): 3–31.

Other online resources

Learn more about Kate Spanos’s Frevo and the popular dance of resistance in the Pernambuco research project

Learn more about the history of freevo music and dance Pao do Frevo, a museum dedicated to all things in the heart of Recife Antigo

Visit Otávio Bastos’s Mexe Com Tudo to access YouTube videos and podcasts about Frevo, as well as to learn about virtual Frevo classes

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