Disclaimer: This post is really long, but I promise it’s because of the photos!
I’ve blogged countless times, probably more than every other topic, about my love for my dance group, Oré Anacã. However, after spending five and a half days with them in Porto Alegre, I realize just how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing group. The journey to the III Encontro Nacinoal Universitário de Dança Popular began around midnight on Tuesday. We met in the airport, divided our 350 kilos of luggage among 25 people, and got ready for our 2am flight to POA!
I love flying, but I was really grateful to be exhausted and sleep on this flight! Every day of the trip was jam packed with activities and, after arriving in POA at 9am on Wednesday, we hit the ground running and didn’t get to sleep until close to midnight!
We arrived early in the day and went to right to the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) to register for the event and drink a much needed coffee. We were greeted by smiles and hugs from members of TCHÊ (the dance troupe from UFRGS) including fellow ETA, Catherine!
The rest of the morning was pretty free while we waited for Flor Ribeirinha, the group from Cuiabá, to arrive so we could go on our tour of the city! I had previously met Michel, one of the dancers from Flor, when he came to visit Fortaleza back in March. It was so great to see him again and meet other members of Flor! In fact, one of my favorite parts of this festival was getting to meet people from all over Brazil!
Porto Alegre is an absolutely incredible city and I wish we had been given more time to explore. The tour gave us a chance to see important landmarks, and we covered a lot of the city, but it wasn’t the same as touring on our own. At the same time, this bus tour was a ton of fun! I sat with Syl, Gabi, and Emanuel, three of my closest friends in the group (and in general) and we had a blast! We took a ton of selfies (a Brazilian specialty) and enjoyed the sites of POA together.
After the tour, we took a quick detour to our hostel with enough to time to shower, change, and head out to the Encontrão (literally “the big meeting”) to celebrate our first night together! The Encontrão was held at a Centro Tradicional Gaúcho, or CTG and it was so cool! Malu, the coordinator of TCHÊ, had asked for typical music from each group beforehand, so we danced the night away to music from all over Brazil! The Encontrão proved, once again, how great Oré is. Members of Oré (myself included) we the first ones on the dance floor, the ones to get everyone else up and dancing, and the first ones to samba in the big circle. Ok, so that last one didn’t include me, but how can you not love such a great and enthusiastic group of people?
Thursday morning started off slightly on the wrong foot. Despite telling (what I thought was) a lot of people that I would be meeting them at their hostel to catch the bus, I walked up at 8:01 with Catherine to see it pulling away. I ended up sprinting after bus and waving it down (and anyone who knows me knows how much I hate running) and being told it was my own fault for not telling them I’d be there. At the time, it totally sucked, but after about 10 minutes, both Catherine and I realized just how funny it was and it became a running joke of the week. My unintentional workout also got me pumped for the oficinas, or workshops, that each group would be hosting that morning. Rosários, the group from the Federal University of Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, was the first group to go. Even though Oré does dances from all over Brazil, We actually don’t really cover much from the South or Southeast, so this was a great opportunity to learn more traditional dances! Oré was next with a workshop on Carimbó, a dance from the state of Pará in the North of Brazil. Carimbó is one of my favorite dances performed by Oré (although I have yet to learn all of it) and it was a ton of fun! Flor Riberinha was next, teaching a workshop on Siriri. Siriri is once of the dances performed by Oré, and I’ve learned some of it, but learning how to dance this traditional dance from Mato Gross from a group dedicated to it was absolutely amazing. Thank you Flor! We finished up with some dances from the South of Brazil and wrapped up for the morning! Aside from the actual presentations, the workshops were by far one of the most anticipated parts of this week. Like I said, getting to learn these dances by people who live this culture was an unforgettable experience. Once again, thank you Oré!
After our lunch break, we had about 25 minutes to mark positions on the stage (which was incredible difficult to do in such a short period) before giving various participants a chance to set up their banners with their research projects. Surprisingly, very few people submitted academic work, but the projects were interesting nonetheless!
After a brief glance at the projects, a few of us snuck out to explore around the university for about an hour or so. We basically made it to a park a few blocks down the street, stopped for a snack, and wandered back. It was brief, but it was so nice to break free, even for an hour! The next item on our agenda was a presentation by Paixão Cortês, an 87-year-old gaucho who is, almost single-handedly, responsible for the preservation of traditional gaucho music and dance. While I admit to learning most of what I know about him from Malu’s introduction, it was really cool to hear him speak. He has a passion for his culture and tradition, even at age 87, and hearing the pride in his voice as he addressed all of us (but specifically the members of TCHÊ), was really cool.
The day wrapped up with the first dance presentation of the event: TCHÊ presenting “O Sul da América do Sul.”
Unlike Oré, which performs dances from all over Brazil, TCHÊ exclusively performs traditional gaucho dances, which was amazing. I admit that I knew nothing about gaucho dances, or gaucho culture TBH, before coming, so it was great! Did you know that gauchos tap dance? I’m not kidding! The men, in their gaucho pants, spurs, fringe, and all, tap dance!
Part of their show shows other influences on gaucho dance, including dances from Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay! This dance, from Paraguay, was one of my favorites!
After an amazing performance from TCHÊ (and Catherine especially!), we made our way back to the hostel, tried to get some sleep, and got ready for our performance the next morning! I don’t have any photos yet of the actual performance (just a few from before and tons from after), but as soon as I do, I’ll post them to the blog! We were the second group to perform, at around 10:30 am on Friday. It was such an exciting atmosphere! Obviously every time I’ve performed with Oré has been special (and amazing), but something about this performance was different. We traveled literally across the entire country to perform; it was if our whole year had been leading up to this moment. And, in a way, it kind of had. Since I joined the group, all anyone could talk about was the second Encontro last year in Ouro Preto and the upcoming trip to Porto Alegre in September. Now that trip, that performance, was finally here. It was definitely the most nervous I’ve felt. I performed four out of our nine dances: Celebração da Fé (an indigenous dance from the Amazon previously featured on this blog); Maracatu Pernambucano (a dance I’ve performed before, but in a different role); Congado (a dance from Minas Gerias); and Frevo (a wild and crazy Carnaval dance from Recife, Pernambuco!). I only had one dance to change from celebração to Maracatu (read: from one very elaborate costume to another very elaborate costume) and one to change from Maracatu to Congado, so to say it was hectic would not be strong enough. Finally, the moment to dance Frevo came. Frevo was the first dance I learned with Oré and it meant a lot to me to be chosen to perform it in POA. The dance is upbeat, to the point of being almost frenetic, and tons of fun, but it required a lot of hard work to prefect. I’m really proud of my performance in all the dances and, despite normally hating videos of myself dancing, I can’t wait for my DVD to arrive! Here are some photos from before and afer the performance! Unfortunately, it was too hectic to get photos in my maracatu costume (a beautiful pink princess dress!) or congado outfit, but hopefully some photos of the performance will surface!
After our performance, we were officially free! Well, we obviously still had our obligations to the festival, but it was as if this giant weight had been lifted off our shoulders. We were able to enjoy the last two performance in peace, as well as the last day of the festival. Following lunch, we got to watch Flor Ribeirinha (complete with live band) perform an excerpt from their new show. I have no words to describe how amazing they were. Again, I’ve siriri rehearsed a million times by Oré, including having a workshop with Michel during his visit, but watching them dance was a whole different level. Just look at the pictures! I could barely get a shot that wasn’t blurry because they’re moving so fast!
The final performance of the festival was by Rosarios, the group from UFOP. Like Oré, they perform dances from all over Brazil, including a bunch that we dance as well (like Lundum from Marajó, Coco, and Boi Bumbá) as well as a bunch of traditional dances form the Southeast of Brazil.
Again, it was so great to see these other groups and be part of an amazing dance community!
Another fun part of the festival relates to its dates. I didn’t realize the this festival was scheduled to intentionally coincide with an important holiday in Rio Grande do Sul: Dia da Farroupilha. September 20, or Dia da Farroupilha, celebrates RS’ fight for independence from the rest of Brazil. While the independence only lasted about 20 years, it’s an important part of the history and culture here in the South. Now, the day mostly celebrates Dia do Gaúcho! The celebrations last the entire month of September, but the week of is specifically known as Semana da Farroupilha. One of the special parts about this month is the set up of the Acampamento da Farroupilha (or this Gaucho encampment) in the middle of the city. Different CTGs from around the state set up a Piquete, or stand, and the owners sleep, eat, and work there for the month. The event is filled with churrasco, bailes, and events celebrating traditional Gaucho culture. One of my favorite things about Brazil is that, like the US, there’s a huge diversity in the culture and history throughout the country. Getting to experience farroupilha in Rio Grande do Sul and learning more about gaucho culture was an incredible experience. Thank you TCHÊ! We spent Friday night at a piquete with all the groups. We had a chance to wander around the encampment, but most of the night was spent dancing (albeit very differently from how the dance here in the NE), enjoying churrasco, and relaxing after our performances!
Saturday was Dia do Gaucho. We started off by attending a parade filled with gauchos, horses, and more traditional dancing. Despite my participation in Oré, a group that focuses on folk culture, I’ve noticed a lack of that valorization here in Ceará. In fact, if you asked me about the popular culture here in Fortaleza, I would talk about the beach. In Rio Grande do Sul, it’s a totally different story. Not only do they have an entire week (ok, an entire month) dedicated to their state history and culture, but you see men of all ages walking around in bombachas (traditional gaucho pants) every day! Gaucho culture is a part of everyday life in RS, and the valorization of the culture begins at a young age. It was just one of the many interesting observations about differences between Ceará and Rio Grande do Sul.
The parade was followed by a churrasco lunch at a nearby CTG. It was absolutely delicious!
After lunch, we went to the famous statue of Paixão Cortês, a symbol of the city, to take the official group photos for the event. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for the photos!
The festival officially came to a close during the fuxico, or wrap-up, after the photos. We split into different groups and discussed different aspects of our troupes, the support we get (or don’t get) from the universities, and how to improve the festival for next year. It was so sad to see the festival end, and there were lots of tears involved, but it was nice to end it all together, celebrating the official announcement of the fourth annual festival in Cuiabá.
Following the fuxico, we went back to the hostel (or, to Catherine’s apartment in my case), showered, changed, and packed our bags. I left my stuff at the group hostel and then we all went to a traditional baile gaucho at the acampamento da farroupilha! Once again, seeing the valorization of gaucho culture was amazing! Men AND women alike were dressed in traditional clothing, there was gaucho dancing everywhere, and performance by two famous local artists!
We left the baile around 3am and arrived at the hostel around 3:30, just in time to pack our final items and get on our 6am bus to Gramado, a small city outside of POA. That’s right, we didn’t sleep. But that didn’t prevent us from enjoying the beautiful city of Gramado!
Gramado is known as the Switzerland (or Germany) of Brazil due to it’s European architecture, fondue, and chocolate! Yum! Literally the only downside is that it’s in the mountains, therefore making it incredible cold (at noon, the temperature was just under 50 degrees!). You may thinking, hey Missy! Remember that polar vortex? Now that was cold! And you’d be right. But then you have to remember that I’ve spent the past seven months living in a city where it rarely gets below 80 degrees!
Following another delicious churrasco lunch and a quick trip to the Florybal Choclate Factory, we piled back into the bus and made our way to the airport. It was a little hectic (again, trying to divide almost 40 bags and 350 kilos among 20 people), but everyone and everything made the flight to São Paulo. Finally, around 11pm, we boarded our last plane back to Fortaleza. You would think that we’d be exhausted after over 24 hours awake, but no. Oré is never tired. Add in the fact that Tirullipa, a famous comedian from Fortaleza, was sitting right next to us, and the zueira (craziness) continued!
I finally arrived home around 3:30 am and was immediately grateful for scheduling Monday as my day off. But more importantly, this trip reminded me that, even though my real family may be thousands of miles away in DC, I have a family here in Fortaleza. I can’t imagine my time here without Oré, and certainly don’t want to think about these last two months as the end of my time with them.
Pessoal, muito obrigada por tudo. Vcs realmente são minha familia aqui em Fortaleza e não tenho palavras suficientes pra explicar quanta grata eu sou. Vcs são lindos, dentro e fora, e não consigo imaginar minha vida sem vcs!