The ‘CAPOS’ Porteno Swing Dance Championships


Sabado 14 Noviembre

I’m so glad to catch this! It’s ‘CAPOS’ time!

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.

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.


Dos Gringas

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.

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.)

southamerica map

Discovering Candomble on Itaparica, Part 1

Bem vindo :-)

Bem vindo 🙂

Sabado 28 June

I became acquainted with some inspiring and hospitable visiting artists in residence on the island of Itaparica. Much to my extreme luck they invited me to join them at an all-night and very special Candomble ceremony.

“Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion. It was born of a people who were taken from their homes in Africa and transplanted to Brazil during the slave trade. The religion is a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs originating from different regions in Africa, and it has also absorbed some details from the Catholic faith over time.

The name itself means ‘dance in honour of the gods’ with music and dance being important parts of Candomblé ceremonies.”

-Quoting from

Today in Bahia, the heart of Afro-Brasilian culture, Candomble is practiced with great reverence, pride and even secrecy (to nurture away from the vampiric tendency of tourism). As an anthropology geek I felt enormously privileged to gain access to this occasion.

Here’s what Happened According to my Diary:

“I have an afternoon siesta and then take an evening boat to Itaparica. The journey is a joy. Early evening, cool breeze, a quiet boat with a few locals. I take this time to think and reflect. As we get closer to Itaparica I can the see the pretty church illuminated like a beacon.



A boat bobbing in the water as my ferry arrives at Mar Grande, Itaparica. 'Negao de Ogum' = 'Denial of Ogum'

A boat bobbing in the water as my ferry arrives at Mar Grande; ‘Negao de Ogum’=’Denial of Ogum’. Wherever you wander on Itaparica you’ll notice Ile Aye references as this pretty island is the richest in Candomble heritage, preservation and practice. Ogum or Egun is the Orixa I was expecting to be in the company of that very night.

I arrive on the island and take some time to soak up the busy life of the praca by the large old church. Families and children everywhere. I love the outdoor play and social mingling in this country. I sit down next to a voluptuous Mae and her little boy having a cuddle and wish I could join them in this affection.

Food stalls, moto taxi, playground is buzzing. Lights, movement, dogs.

I imagine the Christians, colonisers and even further back, the Indians and their impression of this place on first arriving. When did time begin here? I am yet another visitor, my feet padding on to the shore, a new arrival. One of billions over the course of time.


I haggle and finally agree on a taxi ride to Instituto Sacatar – sleepy rural dirt track roads, such a different vibe here, horse in the street, red earth, a tropical version of where I grew up. Humility, peace, a natural place.

We (Eun Jung, Guillermo, Cecile, Jon, Niki and Cristina) go to the meeting house together by VW Combi van. I arrive a little late and only just catch them in the dusk light.

We arrive at the Ile Aye Tumtum Olokotum hall

‘Ile Aye’ = ‘House of Life’.

It’s simple building with a corrugated iron roof surrounded by tall palm trees. As we approach the narrow dirt rack to the hall I see women in Bahian white headwrap, lace and cotton walking ahead; a sign that something’s afoot.

I try to imagine for a moment the frame of mind of a local Camdomble follower in the lead up to a ceremony. I only have childhood Church to compare it with…feeling bored with a resigned sense of obligation. But this is a faith that has survived the test of time…displacement…cruelty. It’s a time capsule. A fundamental root. A family. I sense excitement!


Red Axes and White Cotton

We go inside the hall full of local people in their Candomble best. Women, men and children of all ages, amazing colourful clothes, arms and legs covered in respect, floral prints of every variation in lucious fabrics I feel I could be at a wedding. There’s a pleasant hub-bub. We are welcomed as guests and as women, given long skirts to wear.

There are red axe shaped decorations and big palm branches on the walls…, ..lots of long red and white bunting hangs from the entire ceiling. We wander further up to find a place to sit and see the most wonderful axe shape of fresh green leaves there on the concrete floor. An altar? It’s about 3 metres square.

The kitchen, just off the area of worship, is busy.



Communicating with Spirits

We are introduced to the priest and he explains, “when the ceremony begins Spirits of the Dead are invited into this sanctified place. As newcomers this can leave our own spirit vulnerable to possession and so, we are instructed:

“Don’t look at or touch Egun. Don’t speak to him. Don’t use your cell phone”

As a second course of protection he guides us to wash our eyes three times from a small dish of water. He wears a bright red voluimous tunic + white floppy hat. He looks amazing.

We admit a great sense of anticipation.

Eun Jung notices a rooster in the corner bound and moving helplessly.

Teenage boys practise drumming beforehand, warming up. Hip clothes – skinny jeans and baseball cap on top of their heads. In contrast to other men and young lads in regal traditional African garb. They are handsome and striking. Their drums wrapped in beautiful pink patterned fabric bows and of three different sizes.

Scribblings from my raggedy notebook.

Scribblings from my raggedy notebook. Rightfully so, cameras and cell phones were forbidden but no one seemed to mind me making notes and the occasional drawing.

And so Part One of the ceremony began.

The door of the hall is locked to keep the spirits inside and everyone safe. 

The congregation is divided according to gender with men and women sitting in two separate camps. 

The priest sings and calls out. Different sequences of rhythms. The drums are very loud. Metal percussion instruments. A band of boys and men.

As the singing and drumming begin a group of about thirty women get up and circle the axe of leaves. They sway, dance in simple symbolic movements and sing their hearts out. They sing and clap around the AXE.

One of the dancers wears a Hello Kitty t-shirt with her long floral skirt. This makes me smile. 21st century Candomble.

Candomble Itaparica (8)

Bronte dresses from 1830 + Tropicalia colour.

Bronte sibling fashion from 1830 + Tropicalia colour  (image refs: L, Antonella Delvecchio, Bottom R, revistacriativa)

Step forward, step back, arms swaying. Turn and repeat. Hips and elbows swaying to and fro to the rhythm.

Ankle length skirts, like 18C Bronte sisters meets Tropicalia. A shimmying wave, pulse of floral prints with ribbon trim at the bottom.

A man arrives wearing a cool cream crochet beret, French style, beatnik. He’s also wearing a white and silver embroidered tunic, white trousers and matching white brogue slip-ons. Such a dandy!! He about 60 years old. As he bellows out a song with everyone else I notice his two front teeth are missing which only adds to his charm.

The Dandy is full of humour and play. Calling out to specific women who smile and sing back a response.


Several sequences are danced and sung out, calling up the Spirits of the Dead. …Different rhythms, different songs….. Part One comes to a close as the women convoy down the hall in a grand finale  free flowing dancing queue and then back up to circle around the axe leaf altar.

Catholicism and Candomble

Small Orixa statues in the corner? A candle is lit to acknowledge them. I look later to discover that they are Catholic saints.

saints candomble

It’s midnight when  Part Two begins…..

Bahia Calling

Bahia Calling1

Casa de Yemanja. A meeting house for local fishermen and home to a shrine for this Sea Orixa (goddess) who is celebrated EVERYWHERE here!

Oh handsome land, I’m pleased to meet you!

I’ve arrived in ‘Little Africa’ as my Manchester pal Nuradin calls it. The bountiful fruit basket of Brasil. Archetypal images of Brasil depict Bahia first and foremost – palm trees along big white sand beaches, seafood, colourful sweet fruit, hibiscus flowers, lush jungle and beija flors (hummingbirds), statuesque people with black skin and green eyes.

Bahia map Collage

Even Brasilians go all misty eyed upon mention of this region which is thirty hours by road north easterly or a three hour flight.

Back in Sao Paulo, Bahian Ayume played me this music video by Salvadoran superstar Creole. The imagery says it all 🙂


The City of Salvador

Perhaps it because I’m finally in the swing of my travels, stringing together the lingo, feeling less like a stiff European but there seems SO much to explore here. I’m over-excitedly-whelmed – there are good vibrations on the Baiano breeze – it’s a melange that I looking forward to truffling my snout through.

I Couchsurfed with Luciano and his kind family in Salvador during my first week. Their apartment, a stone’s throw from Praia (beach) de Piata is where I walked the family pug and ran across the sand into the sea.

Formerly known as: São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos meaning City of the Holy Saviour of the Bay of all Saints this historic hotpot of a cidade was the first colonial capital of Brasil and the city is one of the oldest in the New World (founded in 1549 by Portuguese settlers). It was also the first slave market on the continent, with slaves arriving to work on the sugar plantations from Angola, Benin, Nigeria.



Bahia Calling2

Mosaic is also everywhere here. And graffitti. All in all: a visual feast.



The beach is buzzing early in the morning when local people are there enjoying the cool air. Men and boys play football right up and down the beach. The ball bounces towards the sea, they tackle in the waves. Some teams are more ’official’/organised that others with coloured bibs.

Lots of beach dogs, laying spread eagle or randomly barking. Their seem to hang out with the fishermen who, like others live on the beach as far as I can tell. Simple homes can be seen in amongst some of the ‘coqueiros’ (palm trees). I’m reminded of the equivalent fishermen huts on the Black Shore in Southwold, Suffolk where I’ve wandered since childhood.

Discovering Pelourinho and Santo Antonio

I take the bus to the Centro Historico and meet Monika in Pelourinho. It’s a happy coincidence that we’re both in Salvador at the same time. We worked together in Rio and became firm friends.

And oh—oh—OH! —this is a stunning place. I feel as though I’m suddenly in renaissance Europe,…..Italy or Portugal. This is one of the best preserved old towns in Brasil and it really does take your breath away.


Decorative features at every turn and a sweet shop palette of colour to boot. Is this place real?!

The name Pelourinho meaning Pillory, comes from the central whipping post “where slaves received punishment for various infractions, as well as for disciplinary purposes” (- Wikipedia). Crikey, this place is STEEPED in history and poignancy. It’s both an awe inspiring and thought provoking place to be.

Monika and I wander the cobbled streets through this neighbourhood on to the sleepier more residential yet equally colourful Sao Antonio. Sipping a couple of 4R$ (£1) cans of Schin beer the two of us perch in a Praca outside an old church with children playing and local families relaxing all around. Dreamy!

Salvador criancas 3

Salvador criancas

Salvador edificio antigo5

Salvador edificio antigo4   IMG_3192


Lost and found: In Search of Cachoeira Magic

Before we left Lencois Monika and I set out on a path to find the mystical Cachoeira Sossego, one of the prettiest most majestic waterfalls in this area. We asked around in the town, cobbled together some directions and off we went. We had such an adventure navigating our way through a kingdom of gigantic rocks but in truth: we were LOST.


On our way home we met Pablo, son of a Parisian toymaker and young musician spending time in Chapada Diamantina on an eight month Walkabout,

Walkabout (noun) – A nomadic excursion into the bush, especially one taken by young teenage Australian aboriginal boys in certain ancient-custom honoring tribes.

He was funny, kind and played a mean Flamenco guitar weaving in some unexpected samba rhythms.

He offered to guide us and so, the next day the three of us set out with with Sossego in our sights. ‘Sossssssssego’=’quiet’; we retraced half of our footsteps from the previous day of wandering. Ironically the correct route was easier than our previous of clambering and scrambling in a giant’s lair.

Monika and Pablo and Magic Mud.

Monika and Pablo and Magic Mud.

A Snake in our Path

All of a sudden Pablo lept back and gasped!! A Cobra Corale was slithering across our path. And my….by golly….he/she/it was pretty!

Like a kinetic necklace.

And….according to our young guia, very poisonous too. Having rarely been around snakes I felt no fear at all – a numbness – strange to me. Pablo and I loitered and gazed in admiration at this truly wild beast as it slithered away and coiled itself around a tree.

There she is....the pretty deadly serpent of the forest.

There she is….O Serpente da Floresta.

Onward to a green grey boulders lumped in the river.

We hopped—skipped—and jumped over them—. Momentum is on your side.

It’s a great feeling to be in this bouldered valley, a remote peaceful place, only the sound of the rushing water between rocks. Yes, serenity. The sun bounces off these noble rocks – it’s bright and warm. A light drenched chasm. We feel like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Apparently we’re only two minutes away from our destination and then, soon enough, SHE IS:

…a beautiful world——a circular Cathedral-like fractured flume——-a long and furious waterfall….

The still water below is so deep it is brown and black, like strong tea. We slip into the cool brew and swim around, rinsing the sweat of our well exercised limbs.

Egg & rosemary sandwiches for lunch.

Afterwards we explore the surrounding cliffs.

I dance Shaman style with Pablo’s colourful kanga. Shaman/xama – animal/animal – forest spirit/espirito da floresta – butterfly/borboleta – rainbow/acro-iris.


At the end of the weekend the two of us packed up our tent and hitched a ‘carona’ /ride back to Capao…..

Truckin' for Jesus! - The charming view from our lift.

Truckin’ for Jesus! – The charming view from our first lift.

A strange shop full of compact disc decorations and two cats on leads....

A strange shop in Palmeiras, on our way home. It was full of compact disc decorations and two cats on leads….

Once back in the bosom of Rivendell….a-hem!….I mean Capao, we attempt to find Cachoeira Fumaca, the tallest/longest (how do your measure a waterfall?) in Brasil at 340m; ‘Fumaca’=’smoke’. It’s a wet day, muita chuva! – we are warned to turn back in these slippery conditions and without a guide, but, ….we stubbornly march on. Waterfall hunting can be rather addictive 🙂

We tie plastic scraps to shrubs, like Hansel and Gretel trying to keep track of our path. It’s surprisingly misty, much like the Peak District – a memory from home. After a couple of hours trudging I turn around 360 degrees: everywhere looks the same; another memory! call me dramatic but this is the Swamp of Sadness from Never Ending Story. We’re damp, disorientated, “let’s turn back…..!” I persuade Moni. Eventually the Polski ‘forca da natureza’ concedes.

Atrax the horse dies in the Swamp of Sadness, Never Ending Story :-( (image:

Atrax the horse dies in the Swamp of Sadness, Never Ending Story 😦 (image:


Where the heck is Fumaca?!

Back to the Big Salvadoran Smoke 

It’s time to go back to Salvador. Sam is driving there and we bundle into his trusty Defender along with his friend Daniel. The four of us set off around tea time.

Daniel has been living alone in the jungle for the past month. He’s an artist, tattooist, a Seeker of Truth, he has an enquiring soul and hates cameras. He paints fabulous t-shirt designs and makes etchings. I can feel a new friendship in the air.

Off we speed together, into the night along that same red track that led us to this precious green wilderness in the first place.

Some etchings (all details) by Daniel Emekin.

Some etchings (all details) by Daniel Emekin.


Farewell Capao!

“The Hills are Alive!” in Chapada Diamantina

A happy twist of Fate

After a failed hitch hiking attempt from Arembepe, Monika and I bought the last two seats on a late bus to Lencois. We were on a mission to get to the big green spaces of Chapada Diamantina, one of Brasil’s national parks.

Feeling gun-ho and on very low budgets we were heading out into the night on this seven hour journey with no accommodation arranged for our arrival. Well, in this climate, a park bench could always be an option.

In spite of our gaul, we began chatting to Samuel, our neighbour on the bus who promptly offered us a place to stay.

Jungle flora - One of many Morra

‘Diamantina’ refers to diamond mining here during the mid 19th century – One of many Morros – Jungle cactus family flora.


…..Sam turned out to be the most amazing and wonderful person!

We alighted with him in Palmerias – a sleepy town, exactly like that from a classic Western film. He fired up his safari style Land Rover Defender and the three of us went speeding off. —–As fast as you can along the very bumpy red dirt track—- into the starry night to Capao.


A Brasilian one horse town with buildings dating from the late 1800s. I kept imagining life back then…how the locals might’ve have dressed, exchanged daily conversation, slang, gossip, comings and goings….

The Secret Communidade of Capao

The next morning we awoke cradled in Sam’s jungle dwelling surrounded by bush and mountains. The smell of locally grown coffee, pina fruit and warm buttered ‘integral’ bread rolls wafted up to our mezzanine level.

Sam sleeps in a big hammock on the ground floor.

After ‘café do manha’ we ventured through the labyrintine tracks, lined with abundant green foliage and hibiscus flowers to a nearby waterfall. We swan starkers, dozed in the sunshine and drank from the fast flowing streams we passed….

Blossom and colour everywhere.

Blossom and colour everywhere.


n hn

All of this following a previous day of sketchy plans and a chance meeting. Hurrah for Magic! Serendipity/ Coincidence/ Intuition/ Care-less-free-ness!

Over the two weeks that followed Monika and I had the most idyllic time getting to know Capao: a very small town with an alternative vibrant community of families, a local circus, lots of vegetarian food, random horses in the street.


The local Moto Taxi point, school gates and circus. ‘Criancinhas’ = Small children.

In search of Aguas Claras e Morro Tabor

This is trekking territory and most days we had a destination cashoeira (waterfall) in mind. We got to know Steffa, another solo backpacker from Hawaii. The three of us went camping out into the wilderness.

Here are some words from my notebook:-

“Red dirt tracks, motorbikes, trucks, dust clouds….turned into insects, cicadas, wild flora, cactus, pink rock, sloping green hills and mountains.

We reach Aguas Claras and pitch up.

Enormous bats come out at night where we camp; the sound of frogs calling to each other throughout the night is like a relentless and eventually relaxing car alarm.

The next day – dappled light and shadow over the land. It’s only us – there’s no one else in sight. No alien sounds. We climb the mountain, skipping up like mountain goats initially. Then scramble.”


Steffa, Monika and I, some big country to explore and ‘Space flowers’ with white bobble blossom, very sci-fi to us and once endangered.

“I wonder how many other feet have trodden on these boulders, stones, wedged their fore feet into the nooks between plants and rocks?

Small universes exist at every level, nestled into the mountainside. Like a favela and skyscraper of nature. Spiderwebs span space between rocks: imagine being a spider living here – looking out each morning on this panorama?!

We continue to climb…figuring out our way as we clamber and hug the mountainside.—- – looking for hand holds and gaps for toes to pull ourselves up. You look back over your shoulder and see the drop – the space – the beauty!”


Gringas/ Hobbits on the uncertain path to Mordor….er-hum!…I mean: Morro Tabor.

“As we reach the top the terrain flattens. ‘chapada’=plateau: a wonderful Eden up here! Lots of tropical plants, like a garden, lush and green but succulent-like too, prickily.

I ponder —–these plants have all been born here and reproduce, -up here-, away from the towns and cities, away from people…..growing, evolving, with their insect companions….this world, one that doesn’t need the help or attention of anyone or anything…..enjoying and feeding from the daily sunshine, rain, wind…..

And the insects, flying here and there amongst this plant kingdom and then off the edge of this magnificent peak, dipping in and out of the ‘villages’ on the side of this huge entity.”


Half way up the magnificent Morro Tabor. As big hilly lumps fare this one was a beauty.


A Space flower up close!

A Little Town called Lencois

Monika and I camped in a mango orchard in Lencois over a long weekend. This sounds quite charming but mango trees are vast in size and the swollen fruit would fall at random from branches on high with a loud *thunk!* on the ground. We both escaped ‘death by mango’ unscathed.

The town was gorgeous. Small enough to be relaxing and big enough to have a buzz of activity. Old buildings, cobbled streets – unassuming – humble – the gateway to more of Chapadaaaaaaaa.


Home in a Mango Orchard.


. Banks of the river, Lencois.

“Went for a hike to a waterfall and got waylaid in a kind of heaven: a lunar landscape of pink rock and several rock pools of orange water. The water is apparently full of iron hence the colour.

Families hang out, bathe and wash their clothes, The rocks are strewn with brightly coloured clothing, all smacked, stretched, clean and spread out in the sun to dry – like patchwork, big colourful squares glued to the contours of the rocky terrain.”


Laundry day by the river.


These women had no idea how pretty the results of their labour looked to us.

“Such a relaxed intimate place, we decide to stay and wallow too.

Warm sun, a cloudy sky….an aeroplane streaks across the sky in the far distance; it looks like a shooting star – ‘Estrela Cadente’. Children yelp and call….play…and easy adventure…jumping in and out of the cool golden water. Like mermaid people: “mer-folk.”

This the best playground ever.






“A young girl has her hair combed, washed, groomed, tugged,…she sits there frowning. Babies are dunked, rubbed and rinsed.

This is a kind of Eden. An effortless paraiso.

Daily routines/chores/tasks are carried out here. To the locals this is not a big deal, but to me this is a special place.

Dogs are washed, soaped up and rinsed. Held still so they don’t run dirty soap suds all over the clean laundry. They rub their heads against the stone afterwards, to find a new natural scent.

Large reptilian spiders cling spread eagle on the edge of the rock near the water’s edge, soaking up the sun’s warmth – recharging, like eight legged batteries. They are pink brown in colour, well evolved in this landscape – gecko-like with a furry brown body; their black eyes glisten like caviar baubles, *alert* . I am fascinated.

Earlier in the day we see two bright green parrots calling as they chase across the sky. They are a happy surprise to us. There is beauty everywhere.

Like a Turkish bath from another century – a scene from a classical painting – and yet this is Bahia…on the banks of the river in a small sleepy town in 21st century Brasil.”





Dancing on the streets of Sao Paulo – Version 2


For the full story see my last post and Version 1 of my Sao Paulo jig to ‘Ask’ by The Smiths.

Morrissey expresses the experience of Shyness better than I can. It’s through Lindy hop that I jumped this social hurdle; bounding around a foreign cityscape is all part of exorcising my sweet yet sometimes debilitating demon.

The Smiths Collage

Left – extremely cool image from: & Right – the original 7″ single artwork (Raoul, is this right?!)


Dancing on the streets of Sao Paulo – Version 1

(Sao Paulo locations: Viaduto Santa Ifigenia, Rua da Consolacao, Praca ‘Rosa’ Roosevelt)

During my short stay in Sao Paulo I buddied up with Adriana. She lives in uber-central Republica in a cool 1940s apartment that’s barely changed since that era. We both admire vintage flavour.

I was her Couchsurf guest and boy, what a wonderful host she was. She teaches film and script writing at the local universade. The university is in the Japanese community quarter, Liberade.

The Sao Paulo sunshine was shining on me as Adriana agreed to be my camera woman for 2 days. The pair of us sauntered around the city talking over our favourite locations – her as a local and me as a visitor with my first impressions.

Adriana and me hanging about the city.

Adriana and me hanging about the city.

At the end of Sabado, although completely pooped we dragged our sorry bodies out into the night and bopped until the early hours at The Clock Rockabilly Club. I had an ball!

The Sao Paulo cityscape although gritty and tough was a feast for the imagination and we took loads of footage!  So I’ve edited this wedge into 2 versions. Version 1 is above – version 2 is on it’s way!

The song – ‘Ask’, The Smiths, 1986

The Smiths are amazing – end of story. The melodies uplifting and the lyrics tell many a witty tale. This song is one of my favourites. The lyrics about Shyness resonated with me. As I pranced about, feeling awkward initially, receiving puzzled glances I felt that Morrissey was spurring me on!  🙂

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to

Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to

So, if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me – I won’t say ‘no’ – how could I?

Coyness is nice, and
Coyness can stop you
From saying all the things in
Life you’d like to

So, if there’s something you’d like to try
If there’s something you’d like to try
Ask me – I won’t say ‘no’ – how could I?

Spending warm Summer days indoors
Writing frightening verse
To a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

Nature is a language – can’t you read?
Nature is a language – can’t you read?

So… Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me

Because if it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb
That will bring us together

If it’s not Love
Then it’s the Bomb
Then it’s the Bomb
That will bring us together

So…Ask me, ask me, ask me

Ask me, ask me, ask me
Oh, la la la la laaaaaa la…!

Once Upon a Carnaval

Now let me tell you a colourful tale….

On the eve of Carnaval the call of relentless drumming echos all around. I’m staying in Santa Teresa, a maze of cobbled streets perched on a hill overlooking Lapa and Centro. The view from this part of the city is great – helicopters, jumbo jets and birds from the Tijuca park cruise across the panorama of blue sky day in day out.

And, in memory of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a rhythmic cacophony rises up. It’s like you’re being summoned. There’s a great feeling of ritual. Submission. A call to abandon yourself to the season of madness.

Like an enjoyable itch!

Excitable whispers are all around about which bloco? when? where? Now this really does feel like a marathon of sorts. Both locals and traveller friends all exchange advice on how to go the distance during Carnaval so you don’t burn out after 2 days

It’s Thursday night and I pop along to L’Argos des Neves. (literally: Square of the Snows, from the Catholic Maria of the Snows).

LArgo des Neves bloco1

The beautiful unused church at L’Argo des Neves, surrounded by merry makers on the eve of Carnaval week.

LArgo des Neves bloco collage

Left – The ‘bonde’ (tram) rails lead us home with the pretty church a-glow in the background. Right: I loved this woman’s head dress. It was the first of many ambitiously crafted that I was to see.

Friday – ‘Carmelitas’, Santa Teresa

A gang of us make-up, mask-up, dress-up and walk fifteen minutes to Praca Gomez for the Carmelitas bloco. It’s thrilling. The streets are heaving with the colourful joyus rabble. It’s impossible to resist this affectionate wave of energy and camaraderie.

The fews cars daft enough to attempt access down this part of town are covered in jovial bodies. I’m squashed against a VW Beetle (engine running, driver looking pissed off, revving the motor) …by loved up revellers, my Danish, Argentinian and Canadian compadres and I being some of them. All we can do is look at each other and keep repeating the same words: “this is amazing – this is amazing – this is amazing!!!”

Essential pre-bloco warm up exercises!

Essential pre-bloco warm up exercises!

Saturday – ‘Ciel na Terra’ (Heaven on Earth), Santa Teresa

Juan and I agree to rise early and catch another local bloco, Ciel na Terra. We’re there at 8am and the gorged parade is already in full swing as it actually started at 6am.

Okay, so I’m becoming accustomed by now to the Wonder Women, the men dressed as Nurses, Mario Brothers, all round eclectic fancy dress. BUT! then come the huge puppets and banners, floating along above the umpteen people beneath – WOWee!! Trumpets sound, chants are called. My bottom lip begins to quiver, my face rushes with sensation, I start to weep! This is overwhelming and wonderful!

I’m across the globe from my sleepy rural home in ye olde labyrinthine Santa Teresa; it’s early morning and all these people are absolutely fully committed to looking incredible, coming together, finding an instrument and playing it, hearing a rhythm and dancing to it, seeing a face and kissing it.

This IS the pyschedelic storm I anticipated!

Oh, how I love all this pagan wierdness!

Oh, how I love all this pagan wierdness!


Isn’t she beautiful?!

Never has there been a better reason to get up early and party. This bonanza of colour and delirium was a pleasurable sight for sore eyes.

Never has there been a better reason to get up early and party. This bonanza of colour and delirium was a pleasurable sight for sore eyes.

The banners - the puppets - wonderful!

The banners – the puppets – wonderful!

'Luta Bonde' - Stolen tram. By the time I arrived in Rio the quaint old yellow tram of Santa Teresa has been pulled out of action as a result of safety issues. Signs of protest against this decision are all around the neighbourhood. It's presence is missed and the World Cup is held partly to blame for it's neglect.

‘Bonde Luta’ – Tram Stolen. By the time I arrived in Rio the quaint old yellow tram of Santa Teresa has been pulled out of action as a result of safety issues. Signs of protest against this decision are all around the neighbourhood. It’s presence is missed and the World Cup is held partly to blame for it’s neglect.

Sunday – ‘Boilata’, Praca XV and Praca Tridantes

The jaded bunch.

The jaded bunch.

Word on the street is that the hoe-down at Praca XV is gonna be good today.

A bunch of us head down and catch the last of it. We perk ourselves up with salgados and acai to the terrific sound of drums around us.

I bump into Marisa and leave my hungover friends to go with her to Praca Tridadentes where another bloco is underway.

The walk across this central business district is an event in itself. There are few cars around, lone skyscrapers stand. Crazed packs of Carnavalistas occupy the streets. I’m reminded of one of my favourite zombie films ‘28 Days Later’ where London is deserted.

The universal ´we´ are all walking in the same direction teasing, chasing, playing with each other, marching on to the next sound cloud somewhere in the distance.

Vendors selling popcorn, hotdogs, coconut water are here and there. Stood by their barrows, they too are happy!

The Afrika Folk Pop dancers are busting out some great moves. I’ve seen them around the city in the weeks leading up to this, busking around the city.

Afrika Folk Pop Dancers – near Praca Tiradentes, Rio de Janeiro from Dusty Sioux on Vimeo.

The quiet yet crazed streets of central Rio.

The quiet yet crazed streets of central Rio.

Praca Tirandentes Collage

A man who could do the splits – a plump wonder woman – smiley girls in wigs – a VERY rude priest! – pink ladyboys – and some excellent drag.

More beauty: a galant indian.

More beauty: a gallant pink indian.

Lovely legs rest on a taxi.

Lovely legs rest on a taxi.



Grand building1

A man wearing a camel - Happy Chappy - Pirates at the bus station.

A man wearing a camel – Happy Chappy – Pirates at the bus station.

Monday – ‘Sargento Pimenta’ (Sergeant Peppers), Parque do Flamengo

There’s a bloco at Flamengo today. The theme: Sargento Pimenta/ Sergeant Peppers, a samba band playing the Beatles. I have reservations about such a combination: Sambarised Beatlemania?!

The bus journey there is colourful. The holiday vibe is so normal now – the whole city is at the mercy of Carnaval! I’m in love with this.

Parque Flamengo is expansive. Peter, Juan and I join the crowds walking along. You can´t hear the music yet but the magnetic pull of the bloco draws us in to worship.

Ah-ha! As we get closer the excitable samba bateria drums call out, “…You got to admit it’s getting better, it’s getting better aaaaalllll the time….” is sounding really bloody good with the added dimension of this bossy rhythm! Oh heck! I know the words! I spent many a day as a teen gobbling my way through the Beatles back catalogue, whilst absorbed in art homework – I know ALL the words – hurrah! No more attempting to mime my though a marchinha.

Despite warnings of a potential camera snatching I clutch my prized DSLR baby and snap away in the heaving crowd. More colour – more energy – more enthusiasm – with a sassy Beatles soundtrack. YES – I think this works! 


Tuesday – Final official Carnaval day 

……and I wake up feeling sick. Aching body, sore throat, headache. I stay in bed and wonder if this has all been a dream. I prop myself up with herbal tea and porridge and sleep and sleep and sleep.

To conclude? it’s been brilliant fun. I’m already planning my return and a more ambitous costume for next year.

Hound dog!

Hound dog!

Parque do Flamengo.

Parque do Flamengo.

Cheeeesey grin.

Cheeeesey grin.



Cupid's Corner - Misleading Vodka Smoothies - Prisoners -

Cupid’s Corner – Misleading Vodka Smoothies – Prisoners – Carnaval Staffy – Bunny Bears.

And yes, more beauty still....

And yes, more beauty still….




There’s a Pyschedelic Storm a brewin’!

Completely bonkers as you can see.

Salgueiro Samba school parade….courtesy of The Guardian.

I’ve noticed this fragrant waft in the air ever since touchdown in Brasil. “Carnavalcarnavalcarnavalcarna….! It turns out there’s a storm a’ brewin’, a colourful one and the anticipation is palpable.

“Between New Year’s Day and Carnaval Cariocans are restless,” explains Natalia, a young lass from Santa Teresa where I’ve been living and working. “we can’t focus on work and making plans; when the party’s over, it’s then that the new year officially begins.”

Portela & Mangueira Sambadrome 2014

Portela and Mangueira samba schools – Rio Carnaval, 2014

Gosh, it feels so different from England where I’ve grappled for a Bank Holiday Monday like a precious extra day of freedom. This country, in contrast enjoys a lot of public holidays and dancing in the street is perfectly normal.

La Diablada....The Devil's Dance, Oruro, Bolivia. Just as trippy it seems.

La Diablada….The Devil’s Dance, Oruro, Bolivia. Another psychedelic affair on my calendar!

On the grapevine they say that the season of Carnaval is like a Bacchian orgy of excess and unadulterated fun. Mayhem! A blow out! “Woooooo hooooo”, I think: “I can’t wait!”

Now, for those of you who know me (well) you’ll also know that I take my Orgies very seriously so, of course, preparations are order. Here goes :-

1. Learning Samba No Pe

Gabrielle, a swaggering Sambisto

Gabrielle, a swaggering Sambisto

Apparently everyone will think me -c-o-o-l- and be surprised that a ‘gringa’ (stiff, self-concious, flat-bottomed European) knows the solo Samba foot shuffle.

I join a dance class with Felipe, Flavia’s brother. This year he’s determined to master the nimble footwork and as a lindy hopper, I feel confident that I can too! We go along to the ‘espacio de danca’ of famous Cariocan dancers, Sheila Aqunio e Marcello Chocolate on Rua Bento Lisboa. Surprising to me, dance lessons of every kind are everywhere in this city – yes – another stereotype broken: some Brasilians need dance tuition.

The teacher Gabrielle tells me to keep my footsteps close to the ground, no need to bounce on my feet or swivel my legs as is the Lindy habit of my muscle memory.

Samba class

Samba class

As a menina (girl) I dance on the front of my foot. As a menino (boy) Felipe on his heels. You push into the ground. “Um, dois, tres…um, dois, treeeees……pisa, pisa, pi—sa”. This all feels within my grasp until the tempo increases and then my style flies out of the dance school window.

The samba rhythm is hard to resist, “Chik-chik-a-boom-boom”. Before I know it my feet are drumming away, my inhibition begins to lessen, I imagine myself as the smiling minx in the clip above and I’m in Samba mode! A vision of what a Carnaval street party could be is conjured up in my mind.

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, 1964

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, 1964

2. Learn a Marchinha

Over breakfast one morning and in reference to my sister’s name Joy – Flavia, Felipe and their magnificent grandmother Elena try to teach me ‘Aurora’. The song is a well known ‘marchinha’ sung during Carnaval. These are the traditional songs wailed by the masses – everyone seems to know the lyrics!


Copacabana beach, 1940

Copacabana beach, 1940

Don Elena went on to recall how quiet Carnaval became during WW2 and, in turn, the most wonderful bombastic of Carnavals when the war was finally won and families were reunited. I really enjoyed hearing her tale and it set me off on a reverie of what war time Rio may have been like through the eyes of a teenage girl.

3. Acquire some Carnaval attire

The Rio Carnival, 1964

Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro, 1964

As part of getting my bearings, I hop on the Rio city Metro to Uruguiana and the Mercado Populaire to do some costume browsing. It reminds me of Camden, London – somewhere I worshipped as a teenager, going to the big smoke every now and then from Suffolk, on the train.

Carnaval Clothes Collage III


The streets are chokka block with shops of tack, chintz, fancy dress, haberdashery, wacky glasses that glow in the dark. I coyly come away with a R$10 mask and a note taken of the best plastic flower and fruit shop I’ve ever known. Mmmmm, at the very least a Carmen Miranda hair-do is in order! If there’s ever been an occasion to dress up and dress wild then this is it.

Oh Carmen...*sigh*

Oh Carmen Miranda, how I love thee! ….*sigh*

4. Bloco Band Rehearsal

A couple of weeks before official ‘kick-off’ I join two friends on their way to a Bloco band rehearsal in Gloria. The Carnaval of the everyman is the umpteen block parties on every street of every neighbourhood of Rio and beyond, across the whole (vast!) country.

 From sundown to moonrise the band get going - Gloria neighbourhood.

From sundown to moonrise the band get going – Gloria neighbourhood.

My friend, Jonathan is playing his soprano saxophone as part of the band of players. It’s all so effortless! A bunch of folk play their instruments on the street, sup ice cold beer courtesy of the beer man, children run around and locals, curious about the cheerful melody bouncing off the brick walls, trickle in to enjoy the foray from their nearby homes. As dusk settles and the moon rises the atmosphere gains momentum, foot tapping turns into hip swaying and not before long, a bloco is born!

The Carnaval fragrance grows ever stronger…..

Gloria bloco

Band rehearsal becomes a Bloco, Gloria

5. Go to a Sambadrome rehearsal  

On a Saturday eve, 6 days before it all goes officially nuts and I decide to hot-foot-it to the Sambadrome to see a samba school rehearse for the parade. “How cool,” thinks I, “not a Hippodrome, but a SAMBAdrome!” It tickled me to discover this purpose-built stadium all in honour of samba and it’s not just Rio that has one.


As luck would have it, I wangle a part time job within a week of my arrival at a guest house overlooking this beast of a stadium. To get in the mood for this ‘season of meat’ (carne=meat, eval=farewell to) I scurry along on a rainy night. Giddy supporters of the school beckon me over, thrust a plastic cup of beer in my hand, duck under my umbrella and proceed to teach me the Beija Flor (Hummingbird) samba school chant.

“Beija Flor – me escola – me vida – me amor!”

“Beija Flor – my school – my life – my love!”

Beija Flor samba school sashay down the runway in the drizzle – full of gusto, big smiles and big costume.


6. My first Bloco – Feira das Yabas

It’s Sunday, 5 days and counting. I go along to Oswaldo Cruz in Zona Norte (North Zone) with Marisa, a cool lady I met at a local party at L’Argos des Neves just around the corner from where I live.

Feira das Yabas

We take the train there and every carriage is full of revellers practising their chant. She tells me that Oswaldo Cruz is the original home of Samba and all the best dancers and schools originate from here.

We’re here for ‘Feira das Yabas’, an originally traditional do but essentially a warm-up bloco to the official Carnaval week. The word refers to Yaba Yemanja, a feminine deity. The ‘Yaba’ or matriarchs of the community cook delicious grub that is typical African within Brasilian culture.

A posse of us bundle off the train and walk through an unassuming residential area to the main street. There before us is the action – like a crazed mob from a zombie invasion – music, people and creative colourful head wear is a-plenty. The music is coming from a large float with singers aboard, gazing down from on high.

The Crooners at Feira das Yabas.

The Crooners at Feira das Yabas.

They serenade the heaving crowd who gaze back in adoration, arms outstretched, smiling and singing straight back. I’m told some of these singers are of cult status in Rio – Carnaval celebrities.

We enter the jolly crowd and my feet begin to shuffle on the ground, along with everyone else. Beer, smiles and ‘abracos’ (hugs) are all around.

Love is in the air!

Feira das Yabas collage


Farewell Blighty – Oi Brasil!

My feet on Cariocan soil…

I arrived here in Rio at the end of January and had the pleasure of staying with a local Lindy dancer Flavia, in Laranjeiras, a leafy part of Rio’s Zona Sud (South Zone). Lucky me I thought.

The idea was to orientate myself around this tropical metropolis and adapt to the climate, lingo, geograpghy and etiquette in the five weeks leading up to the thronging mayhem of Carnaval.

Bazaar Laranjeiras on Rua de Laranjeiras!

Bazaar Laranjeiras on Rua de Laranjeiras!

Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) - a local resident of nearby Cosme Velho.

Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) – a local resident of Laranjeiras.

The Rio Hoppers.

The Rio Hoppers.

From England I contacted Cinthia from the Rio Hoppers and she put Flavia and I in touch. Travel anywhere in the world and if there’s a swing dance scene, you’ll generally have a instant posse of pals….I might just test that theory!

Flavia is a 24 year old dentist who has long loved dancing – such is the stereotype of a Brasilian. She began Lindy three years ago with the local Hoppers and she’s a great Samba de Gafieira dancer too according to her brother Felipe.

(I know nothing about this dance form…yet….but judging by this clip he’s completely right. I love the smooth footwork, spins and hip action!)

Flavia BSOE 2013

Flavia, swingin’ right out! – BSOE 2013

Hopping in “Hio”

We go to Lindy na Lapa on Thursday evening and I meet the some of the movers & shakers of this city. Santi, Luana, Jorge and Cinthia are full of beans, talent and vintage charm. They launch themselves into a lesson of the Tranky Doo and the class of mixed abilities follow like a bunch of young pups. It’s so good to hear this music in Rio! and I feel instantly at home.

Cinthia & Jorge

Cinthia & Jorge

Lindy na Lapa

A couple more regular Lindy Thursdays later and I’m getting to know Nico from Argentina (who misses the Buenos Aires scene); Gabriella who first tasted Lindy hop in Leeds during a year of study there; Luiz, Joy, Thais, Gido – a vivacious dancer if ever I’ve known one! – and Ana, who’s sporting some super high waisted shorts (like Hen’s teeth to find in Rio, grrrr…!).

I also meet Paolo who tells me bluntly that I need to wear more deodorant, ha! Pretending not to care I blush, and take heed, oh goodness!

Nico & Thais

Nico & Thais

(L-R) Luiz, Joy, Pedro & Gabriella

(L-R) Luiz, Joy, Pedro & Gabriella

The core Hoppers meet weekly to compose and practise choreographed routines. They treat Rio to flash-mobbery every now as well as regularly performing at Manie Dansante, a roaming club night of vintage delight led by the best Latin American electro swing DJs.

Manie Dansante - a roaming club night of Vintage delight & an Electro Swing soundtrack.

Manie Dansante – Rio’s alternative den with a vintage flavour

Santi & Gabi - Manie DansanteSanti & Gabi – Manie Dansante

The Shim Sham - BSOE 2013

The Shim Sham – BSOE 2013

From small coconuts big palm trees grow!

As the days turn into weeks I learn, through hearing tales from the gang, how Lindy hop has found fertile soil here in Rio. A Carioca, Flavia and American student, Ese started a class…from which grew a troupe…fast forward to 2011 when the Brasil Swing Out Extravaganza was born – yeah!

Alternately shared between Rio and Sao Paulo as host cities, BSOE is an annual Lindy festival of non-stop dancing. Now in it’s fourth year, they bring in international teachers (Kevin St.Laurent and Jo Hoffberg in 2013) and last year Lindy veteran and performer, Dawn Hampton – wearing some really cool shoes.

Save the date! BSOE 2014

Save the date! BSOE 2014

A Jack & Jill contest - BSOE 2013

A Jack & Jill contest – BSOE 2013

Dawn Hampton's bedecked golden feet - BSOE 2013

Dawn Hampton’s bedecked golden feet – BSOE 2013

Leme beach, early evening.

Leme beach, early evening.

Tiki heaven

It’s Sunday and I travel across the city to Leme, near Copacabana for Lindy na Praia – Lindy by the Beach. Woweee – this is a tiki style heaven.

It’s early evening and the beach is cooling down, families all warm & sleepy from the hot sabbath sun. I sip ‘agua de coco’ and enjoy ukulele music from the Digga Digga Duo. Some wear 1940s style swimsuits that go against the grain of the ‘Almighty (and extremely small!) Brasilian Bikini’.



Nico tells me I have to work on my swing out. It’s all a humbling experience being here – speaking baby Portuguese and, as it turns out, having my bad dancing habits revealed to me. I remind myself: this what I was looking for. A step out of my comfort zone and to see how Lindy hop is evolving beyond the shores of England.

Afterwards we go for ‘choppis’ (draught beer) and fritas Portuguese. I meet Paola, whose first priority on moving to Santiago, Chile in a few days was to check out the Lindy scene.

I learn about Passinho, an incredible dance evolved from the favelas, via Jorge.

Together we compare stories of our first Lindy hop memories and that same familiar bright-eyed expression of wonder bounces across our faces like a Mexican (Brasilian?!) wave! If ever there were a healthy addiction then this is surely it.



Indie Lindy

Feeling a little deflated due to ‘social dance withdrawal syndrome’ I receive a word-up from Gabriella about Indie Lindy. She must be psychic!

She and other Lindy lovers in the city want to dance more (yes!) share and practice together more (yes!) and all for FREE (yes please! says my meagre backpacker budget).

So I go along to the first of many a regular Wednesday night in a mirrored studio in her apartment block. A small group of us dance, laugh, offer a critical eye when needed and end our evening taking away new moves. Such delight!

We round off a happy night with Acai cremosas (a mildly sweet berry slushie – serious heaven and unique to Brasil) on our way to a bar where we banter until the early hours under the light of a starry urban sky.

Indie Lindy!

Indie Lindy saves the day!