Sample History Paper on The Afro-Brazilian Dance

The Brazilian population draws most of its cultural, artistic and economic aspects
from Africans, particularly Angola and Congo. In the dance discipline, more emphasis is on
the significance of dance as a key cultural tradition. People use dancing as a tool to
communicate with others. It emanates from people’s thoughts and is part of the society and
human framework. This essay describes the Afro-Brazilian dance and specifically touches on
the theme, style and aesthetics involved.
The Samba Dance
Samba is a common form of the Afro Brazilian dance and is of the Angolan origin. It
emanated from the slave quarters and spread around the country where it influenced its
customs while adding a lot to its sensual rhythm. Presently, Samba is a popular dance form in
Brazil and its key significance comes out well during the Carnival, where different schools
contest. These schools get together each year to bring out a theme important to the folk
history of Brazil via music songs and dance (Asante, 1994).
Carnival usually combines the fantasy and poetry of people and represents a crucial
element of the Brazilian famous art. During this time, routines become highly creative
moments, which are the time to laugh, dance, sing and play. The Afro-Brazilian dance is an
important part of people’s social-cultural lives. The dance signifies human behavior and is
part of the social process that reflects and affects the behavior of people. Therefore, its
significance comes out well through the cultural values of its origin (Gannon, 2003).
The Samba dance often seen in Rio de Janeiro, among different schools of Samba, is
based on common experiences. It brings out the dance activity used by all participants that
shared a common life emotion during those days. It is during this dance and cultural
representation that there is an expression of important aspects of the Brazilian society.

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An important characteristic of the dance is choreography that refers to a circle
formation with the soloist right at the center. After the soloist’s choreographic exhibition that
is often marked by a rhythm of drums, another dancer replaces him.
The Batuque Dance
Batuque is the other Brazilian dance expression. Its origin is Congo and Angola, from
where it moved to Brazil. In Brazil, this expression often designates some dance types and
rhythms that are accompanied by the percussion instruments. Hand clapping, feet stamping
and an invitation to take the place of the soloist characterize the dance.
The most common form of the dance consists of a circle where spectators and
musicians take part, as one or more other soloists dance at the center. Violent hip movements
and hip swings, hand clapping, foot walk, and snapping of one’s fingers are what characterize
this dance (Asante, 1994).
In Angola, touching of navels and stamping of feet in front of the chosen dancer
indicated the replacement of dancers. On the other hand, a quick greeting and stamping of
one’s feet indicated the invitation. Generally, the dancer could touch the navel of another
individual to decide who would replace him.
Songs may or may not accompany the Batuque, but often several percussion
instruments sustain it. The Batuque is not only a circle dance, but also the dance of two
columns that face each other and involving exclusively the “umbigada” (touching the navel
of another person). The dance takes place with the column of males near the instruments that
are placed on the floor. In front of these male performers is the women column. A space
separates the two columns where they dance with the “umbigada” action that involves
touching of the navel-to-navel (Asante, 1994).
When a male dancer faces a female partner, be starts swaying his body, kneeling and
spinning with the rhythm of a tambu (a type of drum used in the Batuque dance). These

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movements are referred to as “Jongar”. The male dancer does not dance with one partner
throughout but changes to a different female after making three “umbigadas”.
Studies show that before 1780, Batuque could not take place in the society. It could
only occur in the huts of common black women as they stamped their own bare feet to the
ground. The black woman and her bare feet signified an inferior social condition, and blacks
were prohibited from wearing shoes at that time.
In the nineteenth century, the church prohibited this dance because it was sensual
thus, being linked to the prostitution within the slave quarters. Because of the umbigada
action, it was regarded as the ritual procreation dance (Asante, 1994). In spite of the slavery,
the Blacks could still afford to keep this dance. With time, this dance spread from just the
Black slaves to the free ones and was evident in some white families. However, with
urbanism and the western culture, the song has undergone evolution and acquired a new
name – Samba, at the end of the nineteenth century.
The new aspects of the Samba dance include pair dance, circle dance, line dance and
Lundu. The pair dance is common among those blacks from Angola and Congo. As the other
dancers form a circle, a pair jumps to the center and begins making movements of their arms,
head, hips and feet (Asante, 1994).
The circle dance is where dancers form a circle with the percussion instrument players
at its center. Although the dance is usually the same, its tempo only varies with the rhythm.
On the other hand, the line dance is done in lines with two lines that face one another. As the
dance goes on, a dancer moves to the opposite side and waves his or her handkerchief to the
individual he would like to dance with.
In addition, the Bantu brought the Lundu dance to Brazil. The church condemned it
because of the umbigada element in which couples touched their navels. It was the very first
African dance that Brazilian rich classes practiced (Asante, 1994).

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The Afro – Brazilian dance has its roots in Africa-Congo and Angola. Batuque is the
main dance that has been practiced for years. It is characterized by umbigada (touching of
navels of two people to invite another dancer), stamping of the dancers’ feet, and clapping of
hands. This is the only dance that top social classes in Brazil practiced. The main theme in
this dance is the expression of the African culture and human behavior through use of drums
and body movements. The dance clearly depicts the beauty of the African culture. Since the
end of the nineteenth century, the name of dance changed to Samba.

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Asante, K.W. (1994). African Influence in Brazilian Dance: An artistic, historic and
philosophical enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Asante, K.W. (1994). Traditional Dance in Africa: An artistic, historic and philosophical
enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Asante, K.W. (1994). The dynamics of African religious dances: An artistic, historic and
philosophical enquiry. Trenton, NJ/Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press.
Gannon, M. J. (2003). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys