Rio de Janeiro street culture during the 2014 World Cup

Outside the stage door, post-performance: passinho kids play on Retangulo Vazado by sculptor Franz Weissman, just in front of the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, completed in 1887, only a year before slavery was abolished in Brazil

Outside the stage door, post-performance: passinho dancers clown around on the 1996 Retângulo Vazado (Cutout rectangle) by sculptor Franz Weissman, just in front of the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, completed in 1887, only a year before slavery was abolished in Brazil

With so many World Cup games around us, it’s a wonder any of us have time to do much else but hoot, whine and boo. But Rio is nonstop, particularly since 2008, when the city began to integrate formal and informal areas, improving acessibility. So last night, this blogger was racing around downtown, trying to keep up.

A fabulous Baile Charme at the Pedra do Sal went by the wayside, most unfortunately. One hears it’s an inviting and comfortable racial mix, with great music, at the historical site where slaves used to unload salt sacks.


Fractured history at the Imperial Palace, now a museum

First stop was the Imperial Palace in Praça XV, Rio’s answer to Boston’s Faneuil Hall, set, as in Boston, facing a former market area adjacent to a bay. The location is the first of six downtown spots chosen this month for a series of performances, carried out with a great deal of poetic licence, of key moments in Brazilian history.

Geography similar to that of Boston; history quite different

Geography similar to that of Boston; history quite different

The Imperial Palace is the only one of the six performance locations on the south side of Presidente Vargas Avenue, which cut the city in half in 1944. The north portion is the port area, which fell into decadence starting in the 1980s, with containerization — and is now being brought back to life, with the city’s Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) program. Notably, many of the port area venues have some connection to the history of Brazil’s citizens of African origin.

One spot, the Valongo slave wharf, was actually uncovered during the construction work, reminding Brazilians of a painful history glossed over for centuries. It will be interesting to see how the music, dance and theater performance scheduled there tomorrow at five p.m. will connect with that history. Last night’s work — the beginning of it at least, since this blogger’s rushing around involved missing part of it — seemed to continue the glossing, with smiling slaves making an entrance carrying candelabra, bird cages and a glittering pineapple, while the Portuguese court looked on from above.


Were the bird cages symbolic?

Fractured history certainly has its place in the arts pantheon, but it would seem that for a city that is rediscovering itself some plain historic reenactment might be just the ticket…


Infectious movement, light and music

Meanwhile, a group of young dancers, mostly black, mostly favela residents, were enthusiastically putting on Rio’s first passinho musical, Na Batalha (In the Battle) which will be performed over the next few weeks, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until July 12, at the João Caetano theater.

Written by Julio Ludemir and DJ Sany Pitbull, directed by Raul Fernando, choreographed by Lavinia Bizotto and Rodrigo Vieira, with amazing visual art by João Penoni, this is a show not to be missed. With great vibrancy, it honors black heroes, tells of group rivalries, the reality of crack, police violence, work, housing and so much else that is germane to life in Rio de Janeiro today.

Passinho stands out from street dance because it is so intimately connected with social media, particularly YouTube.

And if you’re not in Rio, race to New York to see them. Following the screening of Emilio Domingues’ fantastic documentary about the passinho dance on July 22 at 6:30 p.m. , they’ll be at the Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival, at 8 p.m.

Here’s an exclusive amateur video of the group, messing around after the show.





About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Porto Rio de Janeiro, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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