Dancer – Researcher – Performer: A Learning Process

by Graziela Rodrigues (Author)
Monographs 224 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Crystals in the Mirror
  • Table of Contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Some Important Questions
  • 3 Which Brazilian Body is Talked About: The Source, the School, the Reference
  • 4 Physical Structure
  • 4.1 Symbolic anatomy
  • 4.2 The movement of the parts
  • 4.2.1 Lower parts – the roots of the mast
  • Feet
  • Knees
  • Pelvis
  • 4.2.2 Upper parts – the movement of the flag
  • Torso
  • Hands
  • Head
  • 5 Passages of Sensitivity – The Inner Movement
  • 6 Features of the Form
  • 6.1 Essential factors of the forms
  • 6.1.1 The senses in the body
  • 6.1.2 Pulse
  • 6.1.3 Acts of punctuating, impelling, and flowing
  • 6.2 Specific dynamics
  • 6.2.1 Ginga
  • 6.2.2 Incorporation/Disincorporation
  • 7 Confluent Elements
  • 7.1 Playing Singing: Pronunciations of the body
  • 7.2 The act of investing
  • 7.3 Buildings of space-time
  • 7.3.1 Landscape and scenarios
  • 7.3.2 Choreographic ramifications
  • 8 Looking Through the Crack
  • 8.1 The worked body
  • 8.2 The “devil” and the saint
  • 8.3 In the Gira of Pomba-Gira – The dance of Maria Padilha
  • 9 The Learning Process of the Dancer-Researcher-Performer
  • 9.1 The speech of dancers concerning the process
  • 10 Conclusion
  • 11 Addendum
  • 12 Bibliographical Reference

| 21 →

1 Introduction

The process of conceiving the dancer-researcher-performer was organized from two interrelated stages. In the first stage, I experienced a crisis in relation to my knowledge about dance, including my experience with the classical, modern, and contemporary dance as well as techniques related to the dynamics of the body and the theatrical performance.

This crisis did not mean a rejection of my previous knowledge; it meant a reinterpretation, drawing on the interaction between my personal findings and the knowledge acquired in the field research about Brazilian cultural manifestations. Beginning with the field research with the candanga women1 from Brasília – after the interaction between my personal findings and the universe of the investigated reality – I initiated the formulation of the body form of the dancer-researcher-performer. The final outcome of this stage was the creation of several dance performances, such as Graça Bailarina de Jesus (Grace, Ballerina of Jesus) and Coração Vermelho I and II (Red Heart I and II).

During the second stage of the Dancer-researcher-performer training process I developed the following script (for more, refer to chapter 9):

self-questioning of the dancer concerning his/her relationship with his/her body and the dance itself;

the implementation of initial experiences gained in the laboratory with Brazilian cultural manifestations;

direct contact of the dancer with the sources in the field research;

the dancer returns to the laboratory to articulate his/her creative work.

It is important to note that the stages mentioned above may be inconsistent with other stages resulting from the demands of each dancer. The Process is subject to the addition of other stages after the elaboration of the creative work to the extent that it leads to the constitution of a living, flexible, individualized body opened to different dance creations. The references to my personal history are due to the fact that the Process of the dancer-researcher-performer was developed in my own body. ← 21 | 22 →

My dance training was marked by rigorous discipline. During the time when I have followed every step of the formality of ballet (starting from 1967), there have been an ongoing tempest inside my body; the questions that have been arising were far beyond what the body could express, jump, or twist. Through this time there have been a number of sensations and feelings impossible to fit in the body I have been constructing. After all, what was my body? What was the other’s body established to be my model?

This search had no borders: in dance, theater or my work as a dancer and choreographer. I wanted to believe that the answers could be found in the different techniques and forms. The questions I could not answer were grouped in a single one: Am I a performer?2 The route indicated that I had to look for an inner answer.

The professional experiences in Europe (1977/1978) indicated an important question about the relation of the culture of a country with its artistic creation. In Israel, dance had an important role of unifying identities. In Spain, during a period when artists from different nationalities converged, cultural differences were evident among a unifying desire within the arts. My adherence to these movements and the invitation to continue working in these countries made me even more uneasy in relation to the questioning of my own cultural identity.

Due to the inner feelings that have been increasingly driving my body towards the construction of my own story, I decided to come back to Brazil, specifically to Brasília, in order to develop a project with other professionals.3 After having finished this collective project, whose importance lied in the exchange of experiences based on equality of relationships, I was in need of new personal resolutions.

My senses realized that a new process was under development. I felt under huge pressure caused by what I had experienced until then. A vital necessity urged me to put my effective answer as a performer through my pace. After several twists and turns, endowed with technical and expressive skills, what would this body (my body) organically establish in the artistic creation? At that moment, I had quit everything I had built until then in order to find the answer. Searching for a character was an alternative, but the search through the texts was in vain; everything seemed to be so distant from my own reality and the desire to find myself. This conjuncture convinced me that the character was alive on the streets, pushing me into researching the candanga women. ← 22 | 23 →

The power of that moment and my intuitive conviction pointed to an immediate implementation of the research; there was no reason to systematize a project and no time to seek funding. That moment required a full commitment to live that experience with freedom of action. The following procedure was found to be coherent: The “constructed” dancer would be “deconstructed”, as she interacted with the universe of the research. Therefore, the observation of the facts required accuracy, without any type of interpretation. Field experience and writing diaries were the only activities performed without previous establishment of duration. The geographical proximity determined the choice for the candanga women, as I needed to find a “flesh and blood” character.

The field research: during the urban bus journeys from Plano Piloto station (Brasília) to the satellite cities I found a huge number of women. I kept observing them, without any comments or interpretation, opening my senses with absolute concentration and neutrality. During the several bus trips, I identified that most of these women were housemaids. In Plano Piloto I followed one of them and I found out that she was heading to an employment agency for housemaids. I started to attend that agency, trying to remain as anonymous as possible.

Nobody ever asked me who I was and I have never asked anything as well, thereby generating a complicity. The intimacy led me to learn these women’s bodies, as I slowly began to apprehend them in my own body. A clear attempt to hide their dirty feet was observed. When they realized that someone noticed their attempt, they got clearly ashamed, rebelling against that poverty. Therefore, in view of the life of afflicted people we do not speak, we just remain in silence; we forget the civilized people’s ideas, get humble, and start to think…3

A world of pain, struggle, and disillusion, along with a life force and a great mystical belief, was revealed to me during the field research. It was a history of great disillusion as completed with this type of phrases: But I have the power of Pomba-Gira, or at night my shining siren passes into the holes of my shed, full of light, bringing me a message.

A “new space” was opened: the terreiros of Umbanda and several other spaces attended by these women. I began to co-inhabit with the source, as Carlos Mesters made us wonder in A parábola da porta (The Door Parable):

Entering the front door I looked at the richness and beauty of the house from a new perspective… The house unveiled beautiful things which were not told in books and [whom] ← 23 | 24 → the machines could not find… I became acquainted and accepted by people who did not distinguish the individuals inserted among them.4,5

After three months of intense daily contact, a rich lady, acting as if she were choosing a piece of clothing to buy, analyzed the row of women upside down, and pointed at me: “I’ll pick up this one.” The main part of the field research ended.

When I later came back to the space of my dance room that used to be so familiar, it started to cause a feeling of emptiness inside me. The laboratories conducted by the director6 used the field notes as reference. We talked very little, and with few words he suggested the actions and situations to be performed.

In the beginning, my body was not answering, but the emotional records gradually began to emerge in contact with my own affective memory, as a result of the universe experienced during the field research. The body assumed various sensations and configurations resulting from the images of places visited during the field research and the “unknown” images from my inner self. These images together exhibited a new landscape configuration – a space where life experiences established in the body were developed.

This stage lasted until the day I was asked to reveal the name of the character. In other words, this character began to rise as a synthesis of all the women that participated in the research. Information on the character that came from the laboratory showed a considerable coherence in relation to the universe in question. Graça (Grace) was the name chosen for the character. This fact marked the beginning of her existence in the space of the body that should dance the reality of the candanga women. This woman, Graça, amongst so many dreams, dreamed of dancing.

The result was presented in the form of a performance called: “Graça Bailarina de Jesus ou Sete Linhas de Umbanda, Salvem o Brasil”7 (Grace, Ballerina of Jesus or Seven Lines of Umbanda, Save Brazil). Its main meaning lies in the difference established, when the dancer-performer performs: there is a gift of the individual. He/she is totally involved in each fragment of the scene and the content becomes a part of him/her. In the subject-character interweaving, the dancer does not ← 24 | 25 → interpret; he/she lives in his/her body – without restrictions – the life shaped by the performance.

From the whole experience of “Graça Bailarina de Jesus”, with several complementary researches, technical works, and other stages until its final synthesis, the Character Incorporation is highlighted as the main stage. The character is a result coming from the field research, from the co-inhabiting with the source and what this experience awakened in the performer. In the laboratory work, the dancer-performer’s body assumes an imaginary body, “as if it did not belong to him/her”, producing the freedom of expression and permissiveness in the dance to experience voices and chanting without worrying about meeting any standards.

The dance is organized from the history of the character. The body works for the idea that the dancer-performer is free to be what he/she is at that moment. The needs of the dancer become crystal clear and acquire a reference of work continuity in relation to expanding the technical resources in a more sensitive manner.

The departure from space and time (mainly delimited by the dance universe) to step into a surrounding reality – now with an internal view of a culture at the margin of the Brazilian society – meant a contact axis interacting in my body. This experience provided the basis for the development of a line of work of the performer in the dance.

At the beginning, I saw this work in Brasília as a single experience. The subsequent professional experiences included the questioning of my own work. I also checked, in a practical manner, certain ways to reach the process of the performer. These experiences did not last long. The process was organically established, whether I wanted it or not. Soon I came back to the continuous field researches. The ritual dances demanded a deeper investigation of movement, leading me to study Chinese Eastern Arts in order to experientially understand the use of the internal movement of energy circuits in my body.

The strictness of the technique became intentional, as it was closely related to an increasingly demanding performance elaboration and the overcoming of limits of the dancer-performer. The daily technical training became more challenging because the focus had been changed. The technique became a research, enabling a self-reflection and, at diverse moments, insights about the development of the Process.

My personal growth as a performer led me to a continuous deepening of the process, not only in relation to body techniques but also in relation to the voice and interpretation connected to researches on different scenic expressions.

The creation of dance performances, along with my work as a performer, has always meant an integration of experiences. I experienced by myself many “obscure ← 25 | 26 → women”, as it was well put by Cora Coralina (a Brazilian writer and poet), coming from urban, suburban, and rural universes of Brazil. They taught me to rebojar (to eddy). The “rebojo” (the eddy) is the part of the river where the water moves in circles due to the presence of a deeper part narrowed by stones. The danger is detected by the water effervescence, whose agitation reaches the surface. When an object or individual falls in the eddy, this object or individual emerges, swirling, and then disappears. “Rebojar” is exactly to leave the bottom of the “rebojo” (the eddy) towards the vein of water (Núbia Gomes).8

Around 1986, I realized the importance of this work in the field of dance. I decided to quit my career as a performer to pursuit and develop this idea of a Process in which the dancer is not an object, but a subject. I made an extensive examination of my experience as a dancer-researcher-performer and elaborated the main synthesis. I structured the fundamentals from the Brazilian popular manifestations researched until then and created a technical body of knowledge in dance to be worked on in the rehearsal room, based on the decoding of the essential elements structuring this body. Different symbolic aspects of the Brazilian ritualistic dances were also considered, as well as the importance of making a personal history inventory. Diversified dynamics were created for practical purposes, including breaking with the conventional spaces of dance and conducting the field research and laboratories.

The projects after this stage aimed at expanding the field researches on the Brazilian popular manifestations in order to decode this universe from the performer’s perspective.9

The experience that I have been living since 1987 as a professor at Unicamp (University of Campinas, São Paulo) in the Body Arts Department brought me the inestimable satisfaction of having the contact with “new” dancers. Fundamentally, opening the Process enabled these students to see their dance from a new dimension as the performers-subjects. Through them, the Process is developed and sedimented every day. The outcomes have been performed in various syntheses of researches in the form of performances like: Bailarinas de Terreiro (Terreiro Ballerinas), Interiores (Interiors) Diante dos olhos (Before the eyes), among others. The satisfaction lies not only in good results of these dance performances but also in what they have been enabling (as practical exercises) their performers to do when undergoing the personal processes of growth. ← 26 | 27 →

The question of the dancer-performer remains as the main axis of my work. To be freed from styles and techniques without throwing them away represents an attribute of the dancer-performer. The instrumentalization of the body must create conditions for the dancer to be a “living organism”, ready to answer to the contents arising from his/her personal reality as well as the surrounding reality.

I see the Brazilian popular manifestations (with a sense of cultural resistance) as the frame of the development of the dancer-performer who is about to become a researcher. As Harvey Cox affirms: We cannot really see one thing when it completely fills our visual horizon. We need an anti-horizon against which to project its profile. The background or visual field is an essential element in the perception. We need a new frame10. It was necessary to penetrate this frame, that is, to co-inhabit with these sources of our culture, breaking prejudices, internally opening myself to relate with a world where the expressed devotion experienced through the body is an ability to survive as a human being.

In my path as a performer there was a rupture due to this new idea that arose as a consequence of my experiences. Now, I must assume that I open myself to new ruptures, as this is what I have learned in my path as a performer. This is not a research with a beginning, middle, and end structure, as it was neither premeditated nor planned in this sense. It consists in a history of life in which Dance is included.

In the existential context of the dancer, there is a passage that leads to his/her development as a performer. The progress of the Dance depends on his/her Process. ← 27 | 28 →

Graziela Rodrigues
Grace Ballerina of Jesus spectacle
Publicity photo

1 “Candangos” are the people that broke in new lands, without heroism; and until today, they fight in this concrete landscape surrounded by a futuristic beauty. Within this mass of underemployed people, housekeepers (“candanga” women) are one of the most problematic groups.

2 I reaffirm the importance of the works developed by the theatrical director Ademar Guerra in Ballet Stagium (1975), in which I participated as a student as such works awoke deep questions on the role of the performer in Dance.

3 Ensaio Teatro Dança – Escola Núcleo de Pesquisa e Produções Artísticas.

4 Carlos Mesters - “A Parábola da Porta” (The Door Parable) - Por trás das Palavras, 1984.

5 Carlos Mesters - “A Parábola da Porta” (The Door Parable) - Por trás das Palavras, 1984.

6 The theatre director João Antonio de Lima Esteves followed all the process and is the director of Graça Bailarina de Jesus.

7 Stage performances: Teatro Santo Antônio - Salvador, 1980. Tenda Xangô Ayra do Caboclo Itajaci (Casa de Candomblé) - Brasília, 1980. Teatro Dulcina - Rio de janeiro, 1980 Teatro Dulcina - Brasília, 1980 Teatro Goiânia - Goiânia, 1980 Teatro Ruth Escobar - SãoPaulo, 1980.

8 Edmilson Pereira - Rebojo, 1995.

9 The project “Trilhas e Veredas da Dança Brasileira” – (Trails and Paths of Brazilian Dance), (1987), initiated this stage counting on the support of IAMÁ (Instituto de Antropologia e Meio Ambiente, SP - Institute of Anthropology and Environment).

10 Harvey Cox - A Festa dos Foliões - um ensaio teológico sobre festividade e fantasia, 1974. (The Party of the Foliões - a teological essay on festivity and fantasy).

| 29 →

2 Some Important Questions

The fragmentation of the body is often shown in the dancer as a consequence of his/her own training. The acquisition of physical skills is centered on the desire to give an answer to the proposed model. The dancer constructs his/her self-image from the physical modeling – external to the dancer – and, each day, without any questions, the dancer assumes this image. The dancer rejects his/her own body in order to pursuit an idealized image. The dissatisfaction and emptiness generated by this process are compensated by the safety offered by this path, because, as the dancer follows the command instructions guided by the model, he/she reaches the estimated and socially accepted answer.

In this context, the dancer calls him/herself an Instrument and places the Dance in a oneiric space distant from him/herself. Upon tuning this Body-Instrument, in which the Dance will be performed, the history and the deepest senses of the dancer must be absent as they interfere in the balance of the perfect shapes. This proposal of body fragmentation dates back to Plato:

Throughout the time that we have the body and our soul is mixed with such bad thing, we will never fully possess the object of our desires! … The body floods us with love, passions, fears, imagination of all sorts, in short, an infinitude of trifles that through it (yes, true is what is said), actually we do not receive any sensible thought, no, not even once!1

The dualistic tradition of Plato, body and soul, echoes in the Dance.

The question is not to reject the official techniques and forms, but reevaluate their imperative usage to the detriment of other aspects of the body. The non-fragmentation of the dancer’s body represents the main plot of the present work.

We place dance as an activity in which various bodies are integrated to produce knowledge in the realm of the sensible, the perceptible, and the human relations from a direct contact with the surrounding reality. The detachment and running away performed by the dancer are replaced by a conflict – the dancer embodying him/herself:

Once the physical, the vital, and the psychic subject are distinguished only as different levels of integration as the body no longer allows the operation of systems of isolated behaviors, body and soul are no longer distinguishable.2 ← 29 | 30 →

The freedom of action“without a project”, without “academicism” represented an important aspect for the construction of the learning Process of the dancer-researcher-performer. As if it had become a life of its own, the maturation of its synthesis was expected as the imposition of guidelines. The interpretations of this process would result in a different work. In “quitting” the path offered by the acquired training, there was an inversion in the behavior of the dancer-researcher-performer, as such knowledge suffered changes due to what the sources have taught me. Therefore, a broadening of scope occurred, instead of losses.

The field researches were the sources in which the body depicted its history interweaving festivity and daily life in a personal integrity of being. When co-inhabiting without masks, the relationships of the body-identity became inevitable.

Speaking of a symbolic anatomy, we use the “mastro votivo” (votive mast), as it summarizes the unity of this body that is present in the daily life and constantly reaffirmed in celebrations. The body becomes a mast when it materializes its relations of human and divine being, understanding that it occupies a space and is beyond what its shape reproduces.

The references of the collective unconscious fly through the festive spaces of the Brazilian popular manifestations; Umbanda is a well-grounded example. Hence its importance to the research. Among the archetypes enunciated by its entities, we chose two in order to cover and find several important aspects: Eshu for his excellence of the movement, and Pomba-Gira, as our dancer-researcher-performer is identified in her archetype.

The approach to the Brazilian body based on the research sources results in a technique integrated to the senses. This is the basis of development of the Process; it prepares the dancer’s body, or even better, the dancer’s bodies, favoring his/her “gaze” in interaction with the field research. Then we have a stage called co-inhabiting with the source, followed by a creative process in laboratory in which the Brazilian Popular Manifestations are the focus, while the dancer is oriented on his/her inner self.

Continuing the training of the dancer-researcher-performer, the stage called Character Incorporation represents its main key. The character provides the aspects found in its reality. Its gestures are elaborated, resulting in a poetic answer in motion. When performing for an audience, both the potential and the limits of the dancer-researcher-performer become evident. Regarding the audience, each individual experiences the work from the level they can reach.

The results related to the dancers experiencing the Process are mainly linked to the discovery of their potential and of the autonomy of their performance. The awareness of prejudices, the questioning of values, the acceptance of their ← 30 | 31 → conflicts, and the identification of the fact that the model was inside them, produced a certain feeling described by the dancers as a “body being alive”. The “gaze” and the organicity of the movement became an incorporated reference, irrespectively of the chosen path.

The research sources presented new circumstances until the closing of the syntheses, either reinforcing or expanding what I had already learned as a dancer-researcher-performer. The researches about the Congado, Umbanda, and other manifestations were extended to several groups and places. The main researched places include the Comunidade dos Arturos (MG) (Arturos’ Community), since 1987, and the Terreiro de Umbanda “Pai Joaquim de Aruanda and Boiadeiro de Minas” (DF), since 1980. In my last visits to these places, a tuning was established in the relationships with the interviewees, as if we were writing some pages of this book together.

We did not foster an illusion in relation to the full possession of these sources or the line of research. This would mean to become crystallized, losing the flow that enabled us to go ahead. We glimpsed ruptures – protecting the essence – and transformations that were timely stimulated by life. Why? Because “the world is not what I think”; it is what I live. I communicate with it, but it does not belong to me. The world is endless. There is a world, or rather, there is the world.3

We acknowledge our limitations in relation to a non-fragmented report of the work, as the use of words may dismiss several things. Also, some things cannot be expressed in words, as they belong to the silence of the senses. ← 31 | 32 →

Terreiro de Umbanda Pai Joaquim de Aruanda.
Front: Gypsy Alejandro incorporated in

Carlos Aberto da Costa, Brasília DF
Photo: Juan Pratginesto’s

1 Plato - Os pensadores, 1972.

2 Maurice Merleau Ponty - Fenomenologia da percepção (Phenomenology of perception), 1994.

3 Maurice Merleau Ponty - Fenomenologia da percepção (Phenomenology of perception), 1994.

| 33 →

3 Which Brazilian Body is Talked About: The Source, the School, the Reference

We talk about a body that lies on the margin of the Brazilian society. However, this body contains the collective unconsciousness. Among various expressions, this body captures the sacred among the contingencies of the profane. Its manifestation, resulting from the integrations, deepens the meaning of the Dance.

In search of a dance characterized by its identity we traveled through Brazil, where the astonishing similarities of its cultural manifestations create a network throughout the country. It is something that could be mixed up with the folklore and that I will identify as popular culture.1 Breaking the official cultural barriers, we found a school that taught rare stuff.

In the search of this Brazilian body, it was impossible not to consider this body when it produces sings, talks, manipulates objects (incorporating their meanings), goes through, remakes, and retells its own history in an intimate relationship with both personal and collective identity. The integration of all these aspects leads to a unity of the whole body and, as a consequence, the movement exhibits a highly expressive quality. The sources of this study consist of individuals and communities where these senses were located as a result of a cultural resistance. In some groups, there were only traces of a given manifestation and cultural resistance was just a memory. The movement was diffuse and poorly designed, demanding a higher and more detailed effort in its observation. These sources helped to corroborate data from other locations where integrity of the manifestation was observed.

We approach this body from the learning experienced in the field research. It is important to mention that each manifestation has its specificities. It is singular in each region, and each group is unique in its expression. Therefore, we present a synthesis pointing out common and outstanding aspects. Each reference has ramifications that would be impossible to express in this first work.

The conducted researches included Umbanda, Candomblé, Capoeira, Congado, Maracatu, Folia de Reis, Folia do Divino and other Folias, Batuque, and several regional dances. The Divino cycles were also investigated, including its Cavalhadas and agricultural rites, such as the Festa do João do Mato or Festa de Capina. Regarding the researched communities, we had little contact with the indigenous ← 33 | 34 → community Xavante and a long time cohabiting with the Afro-Brazilian community of the Arturos. In relation to the female universe, we had contact with the rural workers (bóias-frias) and the healers (benzedeiras). The researches were mainly conducted in the Brazilian Federal District and in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goiás and Mato Grosso. Relevant contacts also occurred in Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Sul. Also, there were manifestations of other regions of the country that were told by the Mestres Populares (Popular Masters) out of their locations.

The researches present several contents (Afro-Brazilian, European, and Indigenous cultures) joined by discrimination. A cultural mix took place in the slave quarters, terreiros, and various covered and uncovered fields. Affinities and necessities allowed distinct bodies to find a common manifestation. Therefore, it can be noticed the existing cultural diversity in Brazil results from the oppressive conditions produced in the infinite network of human relationships. The work points out the importance of our African inheritance as a resistance power and as a source and receptor of several forms of expression.

The Congado is present in several regions of the country, but it is mainly found in the state of Minas Gerais. It was developed based on the reverences to Our Lady of the Rosary and several black saints, such as Saint Benedict and Saint Ephigenia. The main dynamics of the Congado is related to the presence of different groups called guardas, along with kings and queens representing the reincarnation of divine forces. The candombe (word meaning “sacred dance”) precedes all the guardas in the hierarchy; it is considered the oldest group of Congado. The guardas of Congo and Mozambique stand out during the manifestations of the Congado in Minas Gerais based on the following myth:

Other brothers, called the guardas of Marujos, Caboclinhos, Cavaleiros, Catopés and Vilão have joined the Congo and the Mozambique.

In relation to the Black Community of Arturos,3 the Congado is the unifying force of its members. Their Congado’s roots were left by Father Arthur. For the Arturos, the Congado means a sacred commitment to their ancestors, along with “old tree trunk” that came from Africa through the slaves. Through the chants, the Mozambique and the Congo of the Arturos, they call Our Lady, São Jorge Guerreiro (Saint George), Shango, Sereia do Mar (Mermaid of the Sea), Marinheiro (Sailor) and many other entities and saints.

Coming from different regions of Minas Gerais, several guardas are received in the territory of the Arturos during the celebrations of the Congado. Brotherhood is a beautiful combination because of the festivity, tells José Arthur. The festivity brings together all the differences, without distinctions. In the open space, at the same time, dozens of groups express their devotion, intercrossing the most diverse sounds, chants and instruments. Through their dancing bodies, the Marujos talk about the instability at high seas; through the free flow of their dancers, the Congos open and boost the space; through the movement the concentration and strength of their bodies, the caboclos draw their insignia in the space; through the movement, the density and outcry of their bodies, the mozambiqueiros harmonically convey the chanting into lament. In a single context, different forms are developed and each movement stems from a role. The festivity of the Congado is characterized by the meeting of all groups. ← 35 | 36 →

We found some terreiros of Umbanda that see the period of the Congado as the festivity of the Pretos-Velhos (entities related to old slaves). In addition to the media that incorporate the entities of Pretos-Velhos, groups of Candombe, Congo and Mozambique were also present in the Terreiro of Dona Ifigênia, in Belo Horizonte during that period. Other groups were also observed in one of its festivities, including the representation of an indigenous community (Guarani) through a shaman and a group of capoeiristas. Around the same votive masts of Saint Ephigenia, St. Benedict, and the slave Anastácia, different voices and movements were developed in a single act – the reverence. The African memories in Brazil are evident in several manifestations, where different cultural roots are interrelated.

The Umbanda, positively Brazilian, presents a complexity and symbolic wealth that are in constant development. In each village of the Brazilian territory the terreiro of Umbanda occupies a space according to its own identity. The research led us to consider them as an important reference to understand the expressive body of Brazilian Popular manifestations. It is commonly characterized as an Umbanda movement, whose origin dates back to the religious processes of the four ethnic groups (red, black, yellow and white).

The Umbanda reveals a large number of entities which originated in African pantheon (orishas), Europe, Eastern hemisphere, and even in Brazilian lands, such as the Boiadeiros, Caboclos, Marinheiros and Baianos. Grouped in the right or left side, they significantly show the two sides of the same face. As a characteristic of the Umbanda, the medium receives entities from both “sides”. Such polarities are part of a single body that will denote plasticity in the performance of bodily actions.

Through a single entity it is possible to observe the intercrossed cultural mixtures that are then transformed to acquire a new form in the body.

We followed the path of the Pomba Gira Maceió in a terreiro in the Midwest.4 Her performances and stories are consistent with the following reference: ← 36 | 37 →

The evolution of the Pomba Gira Maceió culminated in her passage to another line, the Caboclos. Let us observe a given moment of its identity as Pomba Gira: dressing seven skirts varying from chintz to silk, wearing high-heeled shoes and many ornaments in the body, Maceió performs the movements of Ijesha (from the Candomblé) strumming their castanets to the sound of the conga drums. She also undresses the skirts and adornments, takes the shoes off, and performs stripped movements. The representation of the Pomba Gira consists exactly in this construction and deconstruction with no aesthetic censorship, where all elements are possible in the different forms developed from her movement.

Breaking the spatial limits of the terreiro of Umbanda, the archetypes invoked by the Umbanda entities inhabit other territories of manifestations. In the Rural Maracatu of Pernambuco the Caboclos de Lança tell us about a feminine protection, an entity that, according to their descriptions, is very similar to the Pomba-Gira. Several aspects of the Umbanda were observed, including the representation of some of its archetypes or some content mainly enounced through its pontos (chantings) in the Congados, in the Bois, in the Folias, and other folguedos. The opposite also occurs, that is, some specific representations related to the dances and chantings of various manifestations are present in the Umbanda.

The spaces of the manifestations have flexible boundaries. Like the Bois in different regions, the Candomblés and other Afro-Brazilian rites receive in their homes the various folguedos before they go to the streets. Another aspect refers to the individual: the need to be part of a festivity cycle leads the individual or group to participate in different manifestations in the course of the year. Thus there is ← 37 | 38 → the occurrence of a composition of bodily forms enriched by the integration of different elements. However, there is a predominance of one of the forms that will be strongly imprinted in the body of the individual, irrespective of the manifestation this body is participating. The particularization of this evidence in the body is much more related to a choice of the soul than to an aesthetic choice for the body:

This testimony of Joaquim (Captain of Mozambique, from the Congado of the Arturos) is consistent with what his body expressed. Amid the diversity of forms that his body mastered, the Mozambique was his greatest expression. In the agrarian ritual festivity of João do Mato, Captain Joaquim replaced the stick with the hoe; however, a mozambiqueiro body played behind the João do Mato.

The maintenance of this culture, the basis of the manifestations, requires a commitment. The keepers of this culture are personified as father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, godfather, godmother, master, or captain. They transmit the secrets and the history contained in the manifestation to the chosen ones. The transmission requires the sacred commitment to continuity.

Near the cruise, the Captain of Mozambique recalls the old Captain that is gone. Through the berimbau (a percussion instrument), the capoeirista (Capoeira player) brings out the memory of the old masters. The Boi Janeiro de Rubim (from the Valley of the Jequitinhonha, MG) enters the cemetery saluting the masters of the Boi, these fellow foliões (merrymakers). The bodies move through a strong ancestral memory. At every moment of the present, the past is rescued and connected to the future, enduring the difficulties when the body, along with the “other” – the affective memory – performs the movement that is doubled by the force of maintenance.

Dance plays the role of reviving the memory; it is build up from the senses of the festivities. This is because the festivity is a reserved period for the full expression of feelings, including the acknowledgment of the tragic element. The affirmation of life and joy in spite of the failures and deaths. The recognition and overcoming of negative realities.6

To understand this Festive Body, it is necessary to consider the periods of preparations before the festivities as well as the daily lives of people involved in the celebrations. In the period surrounding the special days, the body is in a state ← 38 | 39 → of readiness, remaining sharp and alert. Small, subtle movements occur which are linked to the roles and forms of the festivity or ritual to which the individual belongs. José Artur carries a cattle and the flag of Congo. The devotion expressed by his body is built in the two time-spaces: the daily life and the festivity:

Within this context and this place, the ritual is conducted with the sense that the body becomes able to receive forces that lie within and beyond the individual himself.

The emotional extension expressed by the body is wide. From a profound seclusion, it goes through various emotional gradations until it reaches catharsis. This emotional gradation of varied hues has its overwhelming periods in which the body joins other bodies: When I dance, the other in me dances. There is a single moment when this meeting occurs, enunciated by the momentum of strong, precise, energetic movement. The individual is under intense emotional record. Another reference is the momentary loss of his/her own body to incorporate another body, belonging to the entity. In the lose-win passage, the body presents a commotion followed by self-reorganization and rebalance to turn into a new configuration – the incorporated entity.

A single manifestation contains several categories of dances, and each one of these dances has a specific movement form, common to all dancers. However, the force presented by the collective movement does not lie in the uniformity, but in the individuality through which each dancer receives the movement in his or her body. It is possible to say that the collective form is a matrix that remains alive due to the peculiarities and meanings that each person imprints to the movement.

In relation to these matrices that compose the dances, it is not possible to define their origins based on transplanted cultural references. The Batuque is an example: field researches conducted in several regions revealed a wide variety of dances that were considered Batuque by their “performers”. In some places the Batuque had a profane nature, called Bizarrias; in others, Sacred Batuque. Some Batuques exhibit certain similarities with the Flamenco dance in a series of aspects, particularly in relation to some steps/movements. Common characteristics found in the Batuques de Bizarria include: the prevalence of the circle and pairs, the use of stomping and clapping, and the mention of the umbigada (belly bucking). Old Batuqueiras revealed that the umbigada had been lost in time. Covertly, the sensuality and sexuality senses were present all the time. The presence of love games, conquests and challenges induced several characteristics in the dance movements composition. The sacred Batuques were performed before the altar or Conga, already interconnected with other rites. ← 39 | 40 →

All the batuqueira presented a fragment of the Batuque in their bodies and had many stories from their memories. However, not all data led to a single track; seemingly, at some point the Batuque was constituted of an entire manifestation in a broad context. There are chances that the Batuque has originated from the fertility rites, thereby bringing us to the genesis of dance.7

Various references to the ancient times were present throughout the course of the field research. When asked about the origin of his folia, a folião from Bandeira do Divino Espírito Santo, in Turmalina (MG), said: Ah ma’am, it comes from the dawn of the world.

The Brazilian countryside still rediscovers in their festivities the ancient and medieval scenery where man dives into the mysteries of his essential roots. In the Cavalhadas of Pirenópolis (Goiás) the Knight archetype was identified, as the “engrazamento8 of the Moor, with the Christian knight. When a gift was conquered in the game of ringlets a Moorish knight opened and extended his arms horizontally over the horse, with the gaze and projection of the whole body opened to the sky. At the same time, after his conquest the Christian knight dismounted, genuflected, crossed himself and, upon restraining his body, headed the gaze and the whole body towards the ground. It was observed that every manifestation teaches a specificity of dynamics. The example of the cavalhadas – whose outcome leads to the reconciliation between Moors and Christians – shows the union of polarities through two bodies.

The concreteness of this body as matter and soul teaches that dancing is a result of diverse interactions whose key is the memory of affection. Hence, to penetrate the symbolism of the Boi is to die and reborn, restoring vitality to the body. The capoeiragem, through which the body passes, means that the movement will have a strategic action force.

The development of the movements requires a constant opposition to the resistances. The shifts in values (mainly reflected in young people) increasingly intercept the transmission of knowledge from the old masters. As Antonio, Captain of Candombe, says: To lead a Candombe, one gotta have intuition, and this intuition is disappearing. But Salustiano, the old Master of Maracatu, although tired of his isolation in the command, resists: Sometimes you want to stop, but something makes you want to insist. Therefore, this culture is characterized by the tension of oppositions, configuring its own sense of existence. ← 40 | 41 →

Ogum incorporated in
Carlos Alberto da Costa 1995
Photo: Juan Pratginesto

Boiadeiro de Minas incorporated in
Carlos Alberto da Costa, 1988
Author’s archive ← 41 | 42 →

Folias de Reis
Heliodora MG, 1994
Author’s archive

Maracatu Rural Piaba de Ouro de Mestre Salustino Tabajara, Pernambuco, 1992
Author’s archive ← 42 | 43 →

Leni, Umbandista from
Vale do Jequitinhonha, MG - 1987
Photos: Ricardo Oliveira
Author’s archive ← 43 | 44 →

Entidade Maceió incorporated in Carlos Alberto da Costa
Brasília, DF - 1988
Author’s archive

First incorporation of Maria Padilha in
Carlos Alberto da Costa
Brasília, DF - 1988
Author’s archive ← 44 | 45 →

Mestre Salustiano, in the center, among the
Caboclos de Lança do Maracatu Rural
Piaba de Ouro, PE - 1992
Author’s archive

Cavaleiro Mouro e Cristão
Cavalhadas de Pirenópolis, GO 1994
Author’s archive ← 45 | 46 →

Cigano Alexandro incorporated in Carlos Alberto da Costa -1995
Photos Juan Pratginesto’s

Caboclo Serra Negra incorporated in Carlos Alberto da Costa
Terreiro Pai Joaquim de Aruanda and Boiadeiro de Minas - Brasília, DF 1988
Author’s archive ← 46 | 47 →

As Pastorinhas do Natal
Araçuaí, MG - 1978
Photo: Vicente Sampaio

Festa de Libertação dos Escravos - Arturos Contagem, MG - 1987
Author’s archive ← 47 | 48 →

Sá Luiza, benzedeira of
Araçuai, MG, 1988
Photo: Ricardo Oliveira ← 48 | 49 →

Details of the space in the
house of Sá Luiza
Photo Ricardo Oliveira

I am crazy about dancing -
Every kind of dance I like dancing ← 49 | 50 →

Mastro hasteado in Terreiro de Dona Efigênia, 1996
Photo: Eustáquio Neves

1 Marlyse Meyer - Caminhos do Imaginário no Brasil, 1993. (Imaginagy Paths in Brazil).

2 Núbia Gomes e Edimilson Pereira - Negras raízes mineiras: Os Arturos, 1988. (Black roots from Minas: the Arturos).

3 Communities of the Arturos - Contagem (MG). The research in this community were conducted in the years of 1987, 1988, 1995, and 1996. They were part of the Projeto Trilhas e Veredas da Dança Brasileira (Trails and Paths of Brazilian Dance Project), presenting extensive documentation, study and analysis. This community represented one of the most important learning centers as it concentrates several manifestations and has a cultural resistance nature.

4 Terreiro of Umbanda Pai Joaquim de Aruanda e Boiadeiro de Minas - Brasilia (DF). Researches in this terreiro started in 1980, with Carlos Alberto da Costa as the main pai-de-santo (the maximum authority in the Afro-Brazilian religions. It could be translated as the “father of saint”. In the hierarchy, there also is a filho-de-santo, which could be translated as “son of saint”). Among the various entities incorporated by him, Pomba-Gira Maceió wasstrictly studied, then becoming, along with other researches, the basis for the creation of the performance Graça Bailarina de Jesus (Grace, Ballerina of Jesus). In the years that followed, the presence of the Umbanda in the researches was incisive and striking. The various terreiros researched presented numerous aspects that referred to the terreiro of Carlos, showing its clarity and diversity of entities and bodily forms. These aspects were present in a number of other religious communities (terreiros), but in a fragmented manner. Another characteristic relates to the dynamism of transformation witnessed in this terreiro, with the continuous occurrence of new entities and consequently new rites. The rituals and entities evolved together for an increasingly elaborated “performance”. The continuation of the research in this terreiro occurred in 1982, 1985, 1988, and 1995. In 1988, there was the rite of passage (or farewell) of the entity Pomba-Gira Maceió. In the same ritual, after the disincorporation of Maceió, the medium received a new entity Pomba-Gira, a certain Maria Padilha. New developments followed, whose syntheses occurred in 1995.

5 Marlyse Meyer - Maria Padilha e toda a sua quadrilha: de amante de um rei de Castela à Pomba-Gira de Umbanda (Maria Padilha and her group: from lover of a king of Castela to Pomba-Gira of Umbanda), 1993.

6 Harvey Cox - A Festa dos Foliões - um ensaio teológico sobre festividade e fantasia, 1974. (The Party of the Foliões - a teological essay on festivity and fantasy).

7 Núbia Gomes eEdimilson Pereira - Negras raízes mineiras: Os Arturos, 1988. (Black roots from Minas: the Arturos).

8 In the Cavalhadas of Pirenópolis. The word “engrazamento” is often used to refer to the various choreographic times when the sequence of lines formed by horsemen occurs.

| 51 →

4 Physical Structure

Physical structure is how the body is organized to perform various categories of movement expressions.

The analysis and decoding process of the physical structure and movements of the body parts were conducted within some Brazilian popular manifestations. In addition to the fragments of the dynamics in question, commonly referred to as “the dance moments”, the actions permeating the rituals were also taken into account.

Study procedures included:

(1) observation and learning the movements with popular masters during the field research;

(2) analysis from the video recordings performed in the field;

(3) learning from the actions of characters stemmed from research.

The association between observing and doing (experienced in the body) was constant. The ramifications of every movement were performed taking into account the body parts involved, the amount of efforts applied, the quality of the generated flow and other analysis of the body in action and inaction. The aim was to understand the configurations and meanings of the body. By virtue of relating with one another the movement forms of various manifestations, it was possible to identify a single physical structure.

The criterion of observation in each study was established as a “new way of looking”. After analyzing and decoding our previous research, we were able to avoid the crystallization of the references. Thus, the reading of the body was performed at each point of the study. The conclusions presented herein come from the data found throughout the research and evidenced in the movement practice.

We emphasize the idea that this structure is more explicit if the individual is integrated to the ritualistic manifestations. The senses through which a person connects to the sacred drive him/her to react in a symbolic way. It was observed that the quality of the physical structure enables one to be a part of the symbolic field and that a sensitivity in the apprehension of symbols causes the body to be able to gain this structure.

Dance in popular culture is embedded in a broader context that goes beyond what we consider as the choreographic framework. The forms vary, but the way how the body is moved and structured within the Brazilian popular manifestations is quite homogenous. ← 51 | 52 →

4.1 Symbolic anatomy

The body is organized for dancing through its intense relationship with the earth. The feet’s ability to be deeply placed on the ground allows the entire physical structure to be built up from its base. The image we have of the alignment is that the structure has its roots.

Through the parallel position of the feet, the entire bone structure is aligned and the muscles are activated by following its own constitution, in spiral. In the alignment, we intend to comply with the joint space and the broadened mobility of each of the joints.

The structure absorbs the symbolism of the votive mast that is enunciated by the flag representing the saints of devotion. The lower part of the mast is connected to the ground and the upper reaches up to the sky. An energetic circuit takes place around the festive mast represented by the body. With this symbolism, the body assumes the configuration of its psychical power.1

In the lower part of the body-mast, in addition to the intense contact of the feet with the ground, the sacral region exerts its force in favor of gravity through the coccyx. As a continuation of the spine pointing down to the feet, the coccyx establishes a third base. As a result of these images, the recurring action of placing the mast on the ground is represented by the consequent elevation of the iliac crests.

The coxofemoral joints present no tension, and the pelvis, “supported by the ischia”, finds its place at the midpoint of the physical structure. Through the coccyx image, the pelvis takes part in the alignment of the mast-axis. While favoring the movement towards the ground with some level of flexion, the knees and ankles are sustained. Like a tree penetrating the earth – in the two directions of the mast connecting the high and the low – the body enables the sap to scroll through its trunk.

The upper part of the body is symbolized by the flag mobilizing the ethereal space around and beyond itself. From the spinal column, the breastbone centralizes the flag. As a fabric that opens and closes, the breastbone region mobilizes the emotional space. Arms and hands interact in the construction of the mast and the flag by invigorating the energies in the upper part. The belly centralizes the gathering of forces, working as a part of the maintenance. The bottom part of the spinal column places the mast on the ground; the upper part climbs toward the sky, moving to the top of the mast. ← 52 | 53 →

The energies from the ground and from the top go through the body-mast. The energetic circuit directs the force to specific parts of the body when they become evident in the performance of the movement.

The crossing of energies (relationship between the upper right and the lower left sides and vice-versa) strengthens the center of the body, promoting a high level of balance and a sense of unity (overall participation of the body in the movement).

When maintaining an apparent inaction, the structure reveals the moment when the inner movement strongly happens. Pulsations and small significant changes are observed; and, in the next moment, the explosion of the movement is triggered.

The body-mast is firm and flexible; it is articulated in all directions and integrates the inner and outer parts, the upper and the lower, the front and the back. It receives and processes the symbols. From the parts to the whole, the unity of the body is established.

The physical structure is in harmony with the very nature of men, that is, the attempt to overcome the limits of one’s physical body. ← 53 | 54 →

← 54 | 55 →

4.2 The movement of the parts

We presented a vision of the sources experienced in the way they have been practiced in our classes with the basis for the development of the dancer-researcher-performer. The data are full with subtleties and it is necessary to be careful about their interpretation and practice. We also observed that relevant kinesiological studies should be developed in order to contribute to the improvement and better understanding of this work. We will present the movement of the parts of the body as a starting point in this and other parts of this essay.

4.2.1 Lower parts – the roots of the mast


The feet have an intimate relationship with the ground. They penetrate the earth as if they had roots; they absorb it as if they collected sap; they work the clay; they raise dust; and they chew, restore, and revolve the earth through its multiple supports.


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2017 (May)
Brazilian Dance Corporal Identity Dance Performance Anthropology of Dance Sociology of Art
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 224 pp., 157 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Graziela Rodrigues (Author)

Graziela Rodrigues is Full Professor of the Department of Dance at the Art Institute of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. She works as a dancer, choreographer, actress, director, and psychologist and received a PhD in Arts (UNICAMP).


Title: Dancer – Researcher – Performer: A Learning Process