A Little Bit About Brazilian Forro
Arguably my favorite Brazilian dance, Forró originated in the Northeast of Brazil, and is also known asarrasta-pé, bate-chinela, fobó, and forrobodó. Danced to the music of the same name, the movements have a variety of influences: indigenous ritual dances, traditional Dutch and Portuguese rhythms, German folk dance, and African hip movements. The dance is frequently peformed at parties and festivals in the Northeast. It is the centerpiece of the São João Festival in particular.
The origin of the name forró is disputed. Historians say that it comes from the Portuguese word forrobodó, which means confusion and disorder. The popular version of the story says that the name came from the English engineers living in Pernambuco in the early 20th century. During that time, the English would give parties with banners stating the festivities were “for all,” and these English words morphed into the Portuguese word forró.
Forró dance comes in two types: forró nordestino and forró universitário. Northern forró is more sensual, with a closer proximity between the partners and more body contact. University forró is more like salsa, with spins, quicker, larger movements, and constantly shifting proximity between the partners.
Here’s a cute example of a couple dancing forró universitário:
What is a “Xote”?
Normally, when a Brazilian refers to xote, he is talking about a dance fairly common in the Northeast region, similar to forró. Curiously, the word comes from the German schottische, meaning Scottish, or Scottish polka, a type of country dance probably originated in Bohemia. It was introduced in the Brazilian court in the mid-19th century. When you see a performance of the traditional schottische, it is pretty tough to figure how it evolved into the Brazilian version. Xote is also danced in the extreme South of the country, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where it is known as xote gaúcho.
Here is my favorite example of a Xote, preformed by the popular Brazilian group, Falamansa (sorry for the intro ads) :
This is actually one of my favorite forró songs of all time. It’s called “Colo de Menina” by Rastapé, a ”forró universitário” Brazilian band created in 1999. The lyrics are just so sweet and light, I could put this on repeat and dance forró to it in my living room all night long…
Forró in the Dark
Even if you can’t travel to Brazil, there are plenty of opportunities to experience Brazilian culture abroad, thanks in part to Brazilian expats and gringos dedicated to celebrating Brazil’s heritage. Forró in the Dark is one such example. The musical group, made up of Brazilians living in New York, started a band in 2002 by playing a jam session at a Manhattan club. They soon become a hit, and have recorded two albums since then. Forró in the Dark combines traditionalwith American musical influences like rock and jazz, and mix Portuguese and English in their songs.
I personally prefer the country retro, easy to dance to sound of Falamansa, but I must admit that it’s pretty interesting to see how forró has evolved in the states. Here’s a clip of Forró in the Dark’s song “Forrowest”:
Documentary About Forró
If you would like to learn more about Forró, I reccommend checking out this documentary produced in 2008 by journalists Adriana Caitano and Galton Sé. It’s a great overview of the Forró Pé-de-Serra movement. It shows how traditional forró – originally from the Northeast region – became popular among the young middle class of Brasília and the Southern cities, far from its origins. Played mostly with three instruments – triangle, zabumba drum and accordion -, it mixes a bunch of rhythms, such as baião, coco, quadrilha, xaxado and xote. Forró Pé-de-Serra is celebrated every year in three major yearly festivals – Rootstock (in São Paulo), RioRoots (in Rio) e Festival Nacional de Forró de Itaúnas (ES). If you need English subtitles, look for the “cc” caption button on the bottom of the video: