Dance is anÂ often overlooked, central part of many of the music scenes we are interested in at Dutty Artz. It has been important for usÂ since the early days — when Matt Shadetek’s Brooklyn Anthem became dubbed Craziest Riddim and spread like fire amongst the Brooklyn-teen Dancehall scene.Â Today so many local dances and DJÂ scenes have such an intimateÂ symbiotic relationship,Â so I’m gonna start a new column here to putÂ some of the developments in musically-informed body movement back at the center of our attention:
Since the world is currently focused on Brazil, and I’m based in Rio, I wanted to start by highlighting a local dance phenomenonÂ in my own backyard:
This scene, that looks like it could take place in any U.S. city, is Baile Charme. The above video takes place in Madureira, a neighborhood withÂ an historicalÂ Afro-Brazilian community inÂ Rio’s North Zone, and the epicenter of the Baile Charme movement. The coordinated dances to smooth American R&B tunes seemed out of placeÂ when I first saw them in Rio. But after understandingÂ that this North American expression of blackness was one of the few places for black-identifying people in the cityÂ to congregate, I realizedÂ thatÂ such a movement was actually somewhat ofÂ a political statement. The mission statement of the Baile Black Bom party at Pedra do Sal explicitly states that they,Â “are a Baile Black who’s purpose is to valorize black culture through music, literature, and afro-entrepreneurship.”
Granted, Samba is ostensibly Afro-Brazilian, and many of its stars areÂ black Brazilians. However, with the help of the Estado Novo, it was fully appropriated by white Brazilians and became a symbol of a multi-racial Brazilian-ness.Â Funk music came out of a very similar Baile Black scene in Rio, but after co-option by drug dealers, and the focus on lyrics that depict sex and violence, anÂ explicit blackness has been weened outÂ ofÂ a genre that now represents the (multi-racial) favelas. So, what results acrossÂ Brazil is that expressions of blackness are often done through theÂ appropriation of foreignÂ cultures, which can’t be appropriated as Brazilian by the greater population. Jamaican and the U.S. cultures, with strong histories of black empowerment movements become aÂ convenient way to channel this identity.
To see the roots of the scene, check out myÂ favorite scene fromÂ the movie Cidade de Deus,Â which takes place duringÂ a Baile Black/Old School Funk Party in that neighborhood:
In the states, theÂ coordinated line dance style, isn’t asÂ has hip asÂ twerkingÂ today. But it, does still have its space in U.S. culture. Two of the biggest line dances of the last decade, and staples of the black Midwestern and Southern family reunion/wedding scene were theÂ Cupid Shuffle, and theÂ Cha Cha Slide.Â Of course the black fraternities on U.S. College campuses areÂ the most fervent defenders (and innovators) of theÂ tradition:
And in Oakland, the spiritual home of the hyphy movement (if Vallejo was its creative epicenter), a new hybrid twerk-stepÂ dance called Yiken has emerged (apparently merging withÂ moves from theÂ Gas Pedal.) Many of the moves are R-rated, what I initially called hyphy daggering, but this group of ladies really shows the creative side ofÂ the dance, and the energy of a place like the Town: