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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.