Frevo, Mangueira, and Ants - Carnival Special
Struggle, resistance, joy, and camouflage. Frevo originated in Recife (Pernambuco) in the late 19th century as a fervent dance. The military band passed through the streets, and newly freed slaves danced frantically as a provocation, a mirror of the political effervescence of the moment. The dance has much in common with the steps of capoeira, a camouflaged fight and dance prohibited for slaves. The movement then emerges as a form of resistance to the prevailing power and protection for those surviving in the streets.
The work of Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca is a short film divided into four acts where dancers blend frevo movements with contemporary rhythms such as funk, electro, swing, and vogue, marked only by a metronome (the soundtrack was introduced later). If frevo was born from resistance and oppression against a specific popular group, today it is established as world heritage. What space is given, then, to new popular cultures and those who practice them? What do professional dancers listen to and dance to professionally beyond frevo for the rest of the year? Bárbara and Benjamin reveal this space of speech and body, colliding the past of frevo's history with similarities to other contemporary cultural movements, addressing issues of race, class, and gender. It's all there. Part 2 of the work draws our attention, presenting the dancer Edson Vogue. The Vogue style originated in the 1960s in Harlem, New York, in the gay black American scene. The dance has moments of pause that last a flash, where the performer transforms their body into an image, similar to photos in fashion magazines. "The universe of frevo, apparently so distant from American dance, finds in this static/movement dialectic and in its origin of marginality and blackness, points of convergence. Both dances perform, in their own way, a conflict, or a way of assuming non-hegemonic bodies, transforming movements from an action originally with a purpose (a fighting move, a fashion show) into a gesture, a dance, a means in itself." [work by Nina Velasco and Cruz]
Maureen Bisilliat and Alcione
In 1967, Englishwoman based in Brazil, Maureen Bisilliat, photographed Mangueira residents in their green and pink costumes at the invitation of Quatro Rodas magazine Special Tourism Edition (Rio de Janeiro). Set in the Mangueira hill itself, the photos reveal stunning costumes of the imperial court in contrast to the poor environment of the favela. Maureen managed to make the green and pink of the samba school stand out in the photo development, giving an impression of neon and tungsten, illuminated by themselves.
In 2024, Mangueira honors Alcione, the queen of samba. Alcione's relationship with the school began in the mid-70s when she saw photos of the baianas in Cruzeiro magazine. In 1987, she founded the junior version of the school, Mangueira do Amanhã, so that children could participate in the revelry, and offered her own home as the barracks for the new school. Samba and art as welcoming and encouraging powers for education. The daughter of 9 siblings, Alcione began her relationship with music at the age of 9, encouraged by her father. Now called the Black Voice of Tomorrow, this tribute reinforces and redefines her life and the fruits she planted. Alcione did not have children but is the mother of a whole school.
Ash Wednesday, Cao Guimarães and Rivane Neuenschwander
The last day of Carnival, the melancholy of Ash Wednesday representing rebirth and death. The end of the party, waking up for the return to work. In the video art by Cao Guimarães and Rivane Neuenschwander, the ants, known as incessant workers, have their party. Is it a parade? A celebration of returning to work? The cleaning of the streets after the party? The forest is alive and celebrates. The work is located at the Tate Modern in London, and there is not an adult or child who does not stop in front of it and is attracted to the festive ants. The soundtrack, composed by O Grivo, mixes ambient sounds with the samba of matchsticks falling to the ground.
Text by Luísa Pollo
Image credits: [1 and 2] Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca - Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel Gallery - frames from the video. Dancers Ryan Neves, Edson Vogue, Bhrunno Henryque, and Eduarda Lemos.  Video produced for the Contemporary Art Festival Sesc - Video Brazil [Cover, 4, 5, 6] Maureen Bisilliat - Instituto Moreira Salles Collection  Leo Aversa for Ela Magazine  Frame from Ash Wednesday, by Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães - Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel Gallery  Ash Wednesday, by Rivane Neuenschwander and Cao Guimarães - Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel Gallery