Dario taught a swing dance classes in Parque las Tejas/ Tiles park. Despite now living in Buenos Aires, he’s sowing small seeds and nurturing a swing dance community in his home city of Cordoba. Some of those in the class are hip hop and house dance enthusiasts as well as Dai Zapata, an experienced Cordobes tap dancer.
As it was Dario’s last night we had to commemorate the occasion with a dance under the white bridge with the Christmas tree of lights in the distance.
Although barely audible we’re dancing to ‘Wham’ by The Hot Sugar Band.
This is the Campeonato Porteno de Swing/ Buenos Aires Swing Dance Championships and the build up has been exciting with everyone seemingly rehearsing their socks off to refine their coreos/ choreographies. Dear Dario, another kindred Herrang spirit has been consumed with rehearsals and we’re yet to meet and share a mate.
Before I go any further, let me translate Porteno for you! This word refers to somebody from Buenos Aires, a port city = ‘port-eno’. For example:
a ‘Portena’ government building graced with Jacaranda trees of violet blossom.
A ‘Porteno’ taxi.
Elspeth la Inglesa
I meet Elsie, a new pal, on a sun-drenched Saturday morning Avenida and we travel across the city to Pedro Goyena together. Elsie is from Bristol and we met at a Swing City dance class the week beforehand.
She talks in the very best slang that is so familiar to me and her company is muy linda! Together we jabber enthusiastically ‘effing, jeffing as we go, flinging in healthy dollops of sarcasm and random metaphor. Yes, I’m learning Spanish but sometimes it’s nice to take time out and let off steam in your mother tongue.
Elsie’s here in Argentina for six weeks to take stock, dip her plimsolls into Swing dance in Buenos Aires and to work with an alternative farming community in the countryside beyond the city.
We arrive at a beautiful dance hall in a 1930’s building. Dancers are buzzing around with their contest numbers pinned to their clothes. As always in this scene there is the sweetest mix of ye olde 1920s-50s ‘vintage’ variation mixed with casual comfortable plimsols, t-shirt, jeans.
Las Chicas line-up for the Open Jack & Jill.
Meet Jack y Jill
El Campeonato begins with an Open Jack & Jill. To give you a quick definition:
a J&J allows your ability as a dancer to be tested by dancing with a random mix of partners to music chosen by the Deejay, over a number of heats.
This contest was Open to all abilities as opposed to an ‘Invitational’.
Elsie enters the contest but I’m afraid I cower out. This Jack and Jill takes place over four sets with the best dancers selected from Round 1 to compete in subsequent rounds. With each heat, the number of dancers is whittled down to finalists.
I get up and get busy during the 20 minute social dancing breaks in between the Jack & Jill. After some lovely dances I have a surprise reunion with Gabriela, Cinthia and Cesar – we met last year in Brazil. They’ve flown over to compete. Here they are in the Solo Charleston Finals.
As the afternoon progresses I swoon at the talent and dedication of so many dancers here. I am full of admiration. Here’s are the Jack & Jill Finals: *cut to 2:22 for the solos!*
Una Pausa por Alfajores y café con crema
Elsie and I nip out for a much need break of fresh air, natural light, alfajores y café con crema. Upon our return, las coreos comienzan and we sit cross-legged to enjoy the fruits of the previous weeks’ laborious practise. I do love this!! Such humour, creativity and endeavour. This community is motivated and progressive. The energy here is in full flow.
This is my favourite showcase! Rachel Austin y Alex Morgan mix it up and dance like ninjas: “increIBle”!!
Find films of other choreographies at the bottom of this post 🙂
After all, no After Party for Me 😦
As the CAPOS continues into the night, my social batteries slowly wind down and I decide to forego the after party. I catch the No.24 colectivo to Avenida San Juan where I’m staying with amazing Couchsurf host Luciana. Sweaty and in much need of a change of clothes I can’t even comprehend the after party despite Marcela’s encouragement, dressed as a 1920s flapper girl shouting across to Elsie y I on a busy bus at 1am.
Jazzy night bus.
The future is: Campeonato America del Sur
Back to normality at Swing City classes on Monday evening, Juan Villafane is describing his aspirations for the CAPOS. Over the next couple of years the team will continue to grow the event, link-up with scenes in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay and evolve this into the South American Swing Dance Championships. The ambition is exciting and I can’t help but feel drunk on Swing-love! (yes, I’m giddy!)
With such a feeling the enormous ocean between us here in Buenos Aires and Europe ….or the miles of land to North America and west to Korea, Japan, India, China….these distances all fade away and through this community I feel such a comfort of human connection 🙂
(Thank you Ana Luz Crespi, ALC Fotografica for permission to use your photos.)
I travelled to deepest darkest Capao with my Slavic hitch hiking compadre Monika.
Our host Sam sings to us one night and plays both the guitar and the accordion (not at the same time, that would be clever ….and strange).
We talk spiritual and philosophical matters, shamanism, animism and he tells about his experiences of taking the jungle plant Ayahuasca. The mind expanding properties of this natural trip allow you to understand the universe and all it’s mysteries.
Sam wrote Tamarindo, an ode to Ayahuasca and his visions. It’s a catchy number and I dance to it on tea breaks mid-trek. Rough terrain jiggery reminded me of John Cleese’ Ministry of Silly Walks; it was hard to maintain any balance!
New ideas about Shamanism inspire me to waft around butterfly styleee with Pablo’s colourful kanga. It’s easy to forget when out in this wilderness that it was once populated by Indigeonous people. And that the forest may have been full of meaning for them, a reverence held – spirits, seasons, symbols.
A Xikrin girl. This may be the ritual dress for the Hummingbird Ceremony.
TamarindoA Bitter Fruit – Fulano de Tao
O suco de tamarindo /The juice of tamarindo
Que eu tava com a colher bulindo /That I was with touching with a spoon
Nunca me deu azedo /Never felt so bitter to me
Nunca me deu prazer do seu amor /Never felt the pleasure of your love
A flor que tava se abrindo /The flower that was opening
Num cacto espinho surgindo /A cactus spike emerging
Nunca feriu meu dedo /Never wounded my finger
Nunca me fez arder do seu calor /Never made me burn by your love
De fato eu subi montanhas /In fact I climbed mountains
E montes eu descobri sobre voce /And hills I discovered about you
Agora to sozinho aqui no meu canto /Now i`m here alone in my corner
Com toda a certeza que nenhum encanto /With sure that no charm
Vai desaparecer com tudo que eu vivi /Will disappear with all that I lived
Mesmo sabendo que voce nao volta pra mim /Even knowing that you will not return to me
“Whoosh! I’ve just left Sao Paulo and am reflecting on what a wonderful time I had there. Already, I’m planning my return” – Domingo 20 Abril
My very first impressions were ace: I passed through the city on my way to the Hopaholics Lindy hop dance camp back in February. That evening three skateboarders came whizzing down a main road against the flow of busy downtown traffic. How dashing – how daring! My teenage ninja heros!
Some Sao Paulo graffiti.
My impressions on returning to Sao Paulo after Rio were not so good: oh crikey, what an UGLY place! Grey concrete high rises, scruffy graffiti and lots of street poverty. Last time I’d seen Sao Paulo at night and I think swooning over guerilla skateboarders had given me rose-tinted ‘oculos’.
However, over the mere two weeks that I spent within one of Planet Earth’s biggest urban jungles I began to glimpse something bright beyond the grey. Social slands of ´respite, light and delight’. Gem-like hives of rich creative activity that I devoured.
Let me tell you how it happened…..
Sweet graffiti Virgin Mary by the bus stop in Butanta.
Couchsurfing and Contemporary Dance
Tercafeira 8 – I decided to get into the swing of Couchsurfing following Soyeon’s recommendation and my first hosts Amanda and Ayume couldn’t have been better.
Amanda had just returned home from a Contemporary dance class. Ooooh, interesting! We compared our experiences of flinging our bodies about, all in the name of creative freedom and self expression.
The following day Ayume and I cycled to the USP campus nearby. She´s a film student there and was still buzzing following a recent masterclass with Jean Pierre Jeunet, the maker of Amelie! We chattered about our favourite films as we pedalled around this clean organised green space full of handsome contemporary buildings. For a moment I felt that I was back at the equally zen UEA campus in Norwich, a favourite haunt of mine.
Needless to say: I love university campuses!
A political hoe down at the cantina – USP Campus, Sao Paulo.
That evening we took the Metro to Santa Cecilia to meet some of Ayume’s pals.
We sipped the most sour wine we’d ever tasted! but their company was fabulous: Luis, an actor and rising star, Fernanda a film maker of dance and Andre, a contemporary dancer who tours the globe. By the end of the night I felt thoroughly inspired.
They too seemed admiring of the attitude of a gal who leaves the comfort of home for a backpacking adventure with no set plan.
Performances at Pinacoteca
Sabado 12 – On to the weekend and Amanda and I ambled over to Pinacoteca, one of the best public art galleries in the city. There, a cool installation of ceramic objects by Laertes Ramos filled the red brick atrium space. Wow, it was beautiful! and I couldn’t help but think what an excellent name Laertes is too 🙂
Casamata (Bunker) – Laertes Ramos
Upstairs we found work by Tino Sehgal in the form of two dancers, a singer and an actor who animated the historic collection through roaming performance and reciting the words of the artist, ‘This is Propaganda’. As my interest in performance grows ever stronger this piece of work was a happy discovery.
Voodoo Hopping at Teatro Oficina
That night I went to meet Fernanda at the infamous Teatro Oficina. Tonight was a Voodoo Hop party and I was told to expect a Dionysian fiesta.
Teatro Oficina is uber avant-garde; their performances last several hours, include plenty of nudity, real sex and orgies, defecating on stage, blood, vomit……the whole shebbang! I couldn’t help but feel curious….
A strange ginger Brasilian man I met in the Banhero Feminino – Fellow party-goers including a ‘Gringa’ from Mumbai, India – Projections inside the club.
On entering there was a barefoot policy so I left my shoes in the cloakroom. The interior was catherdral-like: clad with a tall industrial scaffold structure from which bodies writhed, part gymnast/part pole dancers. Behind a vast glass wall was a huge tropical garden. Andy Warhol’s Factory came to mind: communal, free, experimental.
I arrived late so missed the naked Flamenco dancer and other crazy business but played with a ‘bambole’ (hula hoop), watched lots of clothed love-making with a degree of English awkwardness and saw a Condomble infused performance that made me smile.
Condomble rhythms and men dressed as Wombles wearing hairpieces of Loofers(!) A refreshingly barmy performance at Teatro Oficina.
Skateboarders at the Museu Afro Brasil
Domingo 13 – A Manchester friend put me in touch with his pal Lowri Evans. She’s a performance artist living between England and Sao Paulo. We met on Paulista last week and I quickly decided that she was one of the sincerely warmest people I’d met in a long time.
Lowri has been working on a year long performance project about the life and letters of social activist Roza Luxemburg with Sao Paulo based artists. Her Brasilian partner Rodolfo is also that way inclined as a founding member of alternative theatre company Grupo XIX.
Lowri Evans 🙂
I bobbed over to the gigante Parque do Ibirapuera and went to the Museu Afro Brasil with Lowri, Rodolfo and another Inglesa, Alison. The museum is brilliant, go if you’re ever in Sao Paulo!
Afterwards, I filmed the resident skateboarders. They totally enhance the Niemeyer designed walk way that leads from the museum to the park.
David Bowie Is…..Cool
Tercafeira 15 – A V&A show I missed in London has toured to Sao Paulo: David Bowie Is. I caught it at the Museu Da Imagem e Do Som (Museum of Moving Image & Sound) before it closed on 24th April. As a lover of fashion, alter egos and gender blending I left the show totally in love with this humble English creature (who turned into a butterfly).
The man sporting some wonderful heeled boots and high waisted trousers. Swoooon!
Beautiful brilliant Bowie baby!….on English TV show, Tops of the Pops.
Opening performance of ROZA
Sextafeira 18 – Following a week of rehearsals Lowri’s ROZA ‘espectaculo’ was opening that night. I was really excited to see it having heard snippets from behind the scenes.
This multi-layered multimedia masterpiece began with an intro by the Roza Band before launching into an improvised script, using an innovative stage arrangement, projections, film, theatre, !!passion!! (as was Roza Luxemburg’s character), and more music.
I sat there and like a sponge absorbed it all until full, not understanding all the Portuguese bits but enjoying this creative bubbling brew nevertheless. It was an incredible creation.
ROZA – Lowri Evans, Martha Kiss Perone & Lucia Bronstein. Photos by Marilia Scharlach.
After the show Lowri and I jabbered in our relaxed English tongue for a few moments before I met Celso a theatre director from Brasilia, Rita a contemporary dancer from Portgual, Edson drummer of the Roza Band and successful experimental musician along with many more friendly interesting folk.
GRUA (Gentlemen of the Street) Performance
Qunitafeira 17 – I caught a free performance by GRUA at old fashioned shopping centre Galeria Olido. Yet more inspiration. Performance and dance seems to ooze out the bricks of this city!
On this ocassion they combined Contemporary dance with Parkour and Capoeira and this, along with their gentlemanly attire woo-ed me! This is an earlier piece of work by the chaps.
Dancing on the Streets
Sextafeira 18 e Sabado 19 – After almost two weeks in Sao Paulo and many conversations and thoughts about favourite city spots I was ready to take to the streets and dance. And so was Adriana, my second generously spirited CS host.
We had lots of fun in the hot Sao Paulo sunshine. Something life affirming happens when passers-by are moved by the moment and dance along with me. Non-verbal communication: ” hello friend!”
Our final spot was Beco do Batman in Vila Madalena. It’s a back street alley covered plastered in graffiti and a dreamy location.
My favourite graffiti wall down Beco do Batman/ Batman Alley.
Rockabilly for Desert 🙂
Early hours, Domingo 20 – It was my last night in Sao Paulo and despite having tired ‘corpos’ we couldn’t resist a bop at rockabilly club The Clock. This was just the ticket.
‘Muito cansado!’ became ‘muito animado!’ as soon as I heard that familiar Little Richard tune ‘Lucille’ booming from behind the entrance door. Something otherworldly came over me and I lept onto the dance floor almost immediately and bopped my socks off.