Dance is a form of non-verbal communication for expressing human experiences, which in the course of time has developed into a form of art. Brazil is a land of many popular dances that contain the elements of African, Portuguese and European dance forms. Samba, Carimbo, Capoeira, Forro, Coco, Cacuria, Jongo, Lundu and other dances are some of the famous dances of Brazil.
Here are 10 traditional Brazilian dances worth knowing about.
As the symbol of Brazil, any good list about traditional Brazilian dances has to start with samba. Samba is a Brazilian music genre and dance style notable for its fast footwork and flowing hip swings which, when coupled with the beats of a steel drum, seems to leave spectators in a trance. Its origins lie in the west coast of Africa, coming to Brazil through slavery. It is the music genre and dance most closely linked to Rio de Janeiro.
Some believe that samba was derived from the word ‘semba’, which signifies a navel bump in Kimbundo, the African Bantu language, and symbolizes the invitation to dance from a man to a woman. ‘Semba’ is also an infinitive of ‘kusamba’, which means ‘to pray’, or to appeal for the favor of the Gods or ancestors by singing and dancing. So, the dance was an indispensable part of the religious ceremonies.
Jongo – sometimes known as caxambu – was brought over to Brazil through slavery and is thought to have originated from Angola. The dance is sometimes referred to as an ancient form of samba and a performance of jongo does prove that the step work is often very similar. Lively and spirited, the dance is performed to a harmonious group of people singing and playing simple instruments. It is sometimes associated with Umbanda, a religion with roots in Africa.
The Jongo is still widely practiced today in various cities: The Vale do Paraíba in the Southeast region of Brazil, to the South of the state of Rio de Janeiro and to the North of São Paulo.
Although not fully classified as a dance, it is a unique combination of martial arts, dance and acrobatics. To spectators, the hypnotizing music and fluidity of the moves certainly appear dance-like. Capoeira is another dance that has an African origin, coming over to Brazil through slavery. The moves include fast-paced sweeps, kicks and dodges with the lower body playing out most of the moves whilst the upper body balances the actions.
Lundu is also a dance form brought by the Enslaved Africans, and it became very popular in Brazil during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The basic musical instruments involved are guitar, piano and drum. This dance also involves the use of handkerchief and castanets, an instrument consisting of a pair of hollow pieces of wood, or bone, and is held between the thumb and the fingers.
Xote is a typical type of forro dance that is incredibly versatile and has several variations across the country. Blending both European and African influences, it also incorporates elements of salsa, mambo and rumba, depending on the region in Brazil.