Beijos from Brazil! Updating is a bit more difficult than I imagined from this absolutely beautiful South American country. I am still trying to work out how to share pictures with you! The sights here are astounding, and there are may beautiful things to see!
Rehearsals for our Carnival festivities are well underway and we are doing quite well, considering we are supposed to not only tap dance, but sing in Portuguese! The song is a celebration of the history of samba here in Brazil, which is both a dance and a rhythmic structure. It's also a cultural touchstone for Brazilians, and the history of samba seems to mirror the history of tap dance, which absolutely fascinates me! Here's an abridged version: Tap dance is an American art form with a multitude of influences, but one of those is from African slaves. Chain gangs of slaves would use chanting and rhythms to keep in step, and the rhythms and sounds from the chains themselves influenced the ideas of what was to become tap dance (granted, that's the simple version). In Brazil, as we are learning from Christiane, freed slaves began to make these rhythms in communities after they were freed to help each other, and to bring each other together. It amazes me that on two continents, on two hemispheres, we can have similar stories that influence two very different art forms that are coming together a full century later! Yes, the samba school we are working with, Mociadade Alegre, is also honoring the 100th birthday of the samba in this year's parade!
The rehearsals are hard and hot, and we are taking class too, but it's so very worth every moment. The samba and tap dancers have welcomed us with open arms, offering help and kindnesses when we are unsure. I think we were all very surprised with what we did know when we got here. Today, we specifically went over the words and the story of our song, from the above anecdote to the prayers and praise of the gods of music, rhythm, and even rainbows. We've had costume and shoe fittings, hair and makeup suggestions, nail appointments, and more, trying to put together the best performance we absolutely can.
It isn't all sweat and work, however. We've taken in many sights, both together as a group and on our own. There's wonderful shopping, especially chocolates, shoes, and fashion. We've eaten our weight in Brazilian foods, which are incredible and eye-opening. It's amazing to have succulent and fresh fruit in the "middle of winter" - because we arrived from the opposite! Many of us have visited Parque Ibiripuera, similar to New York City's Central Park in concept, as well as the Museo de Arte de Sao Paulo, which has a beautiful permanent collection of art as well as really interesting temporary exhibits (for instance, one of the current ones is a display of 1960's fashion!).
Many of us eat together every night, and it has truly become a tap dance family. I know that personally, I couldn't ask for a better first excursion into South America, nor better company than the tap dancers I have been with every day. I fall asleep every night in the hotel filled with complete joy, not only for a dance form I love, but for an absolutely unforgettable experience.
Pictures will be forthcoming!
With love, mucho mucho beijos,