The Brazilian population draws most of its cultural, artistic and economic aspects from Africans, particularly Angola and Congo. In the dance discipline, more emphasis is on the significance of dance as a key cultural tradition. People use dancing as a tool to communicate with others. It emanates from people’s thoughts and is part of the society and human framework. This essay describes the Afro-Brazilian dance and specifically touches on the theme, style and aesthetics involved.
The Samba Dance
Samba is a common form of the Afro Brazilian dance and is of the Angolan origin. It emanated from the slave quarters and spread around the country where it influenced its customs while adding a lot to its sensual rhythm. Presently, Samba is a popular dance form in Brazil and its key significance comes out well during the Carnival, where different schools contest. These schools get together each year to bring out a theme important to the folk history of Brazil via music songs and dance (Asante, 1994).
Carnival usually combines the fantasy and poetry of people and represents a crucial element of the Brazilian famous art. During this time, routines become highly creative moments, which are the time to laugh, dance, sing and play. The Afro-Brazilian dance is an important part of people’s social-cultural lives. The dance signifies human behavior and is part of the social process that reflects and affects the behavior of people. Therefore, its significance comes out well through the cultural values of its origin (Gannon, 2003).
The Samba dance often seen in Rio de Janeiro, among different schools of Samba, is based on common experiences. It brings out the dance activity used by all participants that shared a common life emotion during those days. It is during this dance and cultural representation that there is an expression of important aspects of the Brazilian society.
An important characteristic of the dance is choreography that refers to a circle formation with the soloist right at the center. After the soloist’s choreographic exhibition that is often marked by a rhythm of drums, another dancer replaces him.
The Batuque Dance
Batuque is the other Brazilian dance expression. Its origin is Congo and Angola, from where it moved to Brazil. In Brazil, this expression often designates some dance types and rhythms that are accompanied by the percussion instruments. Hand clapping, feet stamping and an invitation to take the place of the soloist characterize the dance.
The most common form of the dance consists of a circle where spectators and musicians take part, as one or more other soloists dance at the center. Violent hip movements and hip swings, hand clapping, foot walk, and snapping of one’s fingers are what characterize this dance (Asante, 1994).
In Angola, touching of navels and stamping of feet in front of the chosen dancer indicated the replacement of dancers. On the other hand, a quick greeting and stamping of one’s feet indicated the invitation. Generally, the dancer could touch the navel of another individual to decide who would replace him.
Songs may or may not accompany the Batuque, but often several percussion instruments sustain it. The Batuque is not only a circle dance, but also the dance of two columns that face each other and involving exclusively the “umbigada” (touching the navel of another person). The dance takes place with the column of males near the instruments that are placed on the floor. In front of these male performers is the women column. A space separates the two columns where they dance with the “umbigada” action that involves touching of the navel-to-navel (Asante, 1994).
When a male dancer faces a female partner, be starts swaying his body, kneeling and spinning with the rhythm of a tambu (a type of drum used in the Batuque dance). These movements are referred to as “Jongar”. The male dancer does not dance with one partner throughout but changes to a different female after making three “umbigadas”.
Studies show that before 1780, Batuque could not take place in the society. It could only occur in the huts of common black women as they stamped their own bare feet to the ground. The black woman and her bare feet signified an inferior social condition, and blacks were prohibited from wearing shoes at that time.
In the nineteenth century, the church prohibited this dance because it was sensual thus, being linked to the prostitution within the slave quarters. Because of the umbigada action, it was regarded as the ritual procreation dance (Asante, 1994). In spite of the slavery, the Blacks could still afford to keep this dance. With time, this dance spread from just the Black slaves to the free ones and was evident in some white families. However, with urbanism and the western culture, the song has undergone evolution and acquired a new name – Samba, at the end of the nineteenth century.
The new aspects of the Samba dance include pair dance, circle dance, line dance and Lundu. The pair dance is common among those blacks from Angola and Congo. As the other dancers form a circle, a pair jumps to the center and begins making movements of their arms, head, hips and feet (Asante, 1994).
The circle dance is where dancers form a circle with the percussion instrument players at its center. Although the dance is usually the same, its tempo only varies with the rhythm. On the other hand, the line dance is done in lines with two lines that face one another. As the dance goes on, a dancer moves to the opposite side and waves his or her handkerchief to the individual he would like to dance with.
In addition, the Bantu brought the Lundu dance to Brazil. The church condemned it because of the umbigada element in which couples touched their navels. It was the very first African dance that Brazilian rich classes practiced (Asante, 1994).
The Afro – Brazilian dance has its roots in Africa-Congo and Angola. Batuque is the main dance that has been practiced for years. It is characterized by umbigada (touching of navels of two people to invite another dancer), stamping of the dancers’ feet, and clapping of hands. This is the only dance that top social classes in Brazil practiced. The main theme in this dance is the expression of the African culture and human behavior through use of drums and body movements. The dance clearly depicts the beauty of the African culture. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the name of dance changed to Samba.
Asante, K.W. (1994). African Influence in Brazilian Dance: An artistic, historic and philosophical enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Asante, K.W. (1994). Traditional Dance in Africa: An artistic, historic and philosophical enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Asante, K.W. (1994). The dynamics of African religious dances: An artistic, historic and philosophical enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Gannon, M. J. (2003). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 28 Nations. London: SAGE.