Monday, August 6, 2012

Quadrilha -- 2012

June is here and carnival has past.  What is there to do in Brazil?  "Festa Junina" or as my friends call it - "Quadrilha" ... that's what.    So, what is a Festa Junina / Quadrilha?  Festa Junina is a celebration that historically goes back to the European Midsummer festival which celebrated the bountiful harvest.  In Brazil it takes place at the beginning of winter and it isn't about giving thanks. Quadrilhas are a celebration in honor of Saint John the Baptist,  Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter.  Unlike carnival,  the most well known of these parties are not on the eastern coast of the country around the cities Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.  They happen in Northeastern Brazil in the state of Bahia.
This celebration is centered around a dance called "quadrilha" similar to square dancing back in the United States.  It is a party in honor of rural life featuring typical clothing, food, and dance found in farming communities during the colonial period.  I had been to a quadrilha in Atlanta with some Brazilian friends so I had some expectations of what I was going to see but i was still excited to be a part of it in Brazil.
Over the month of June we went to several of these festivals throughout the city of Goiania as almost every school and many organization hold them to build community,  raise funds, or just have a good time.  The venues we went to were all decorated with stings of flags flying from one end of a huge open space to the other. Reminding me of used car lots back in the U.S.    Tables, chairs, or grandstands sit at the edge of the open space depending on the size of the party.  Not far from these open areas are thatch huts
built into booths to sell everything from cotton candy, beer, and some traditional foods as well.  As people arrive they mingle in this area tasting the typical quardrilha dishes which include pé-de-moleque (candied peanuts), canjica (sweet corn pudding) and bolo de milho (corn cake).  As the time to dance gets closer the crowd gathers around the dance area in expectation of a showcase.  Some of the quadrilhas are competition between dance groups which have several groups perform and some are just for exhibition.
Let the dance begin as a line of couples dressed in costume approach the open area following behind a couple dressed in white. The choreography is based on a mock wedding
with bride and groom at the center of all the attention.  The men dress up like farm boys with bib overalls and straw hats while the women wear pigtails and red checkered dresses, not to mention the freckles and painted gaps in their teeth.  All this tacky dress is a loving tribute to the old time farmers and rural areas of Brazil.  Nowadays, these festivals are becoming popular in urban areas as well and the costumes are becoming more ornate and more like carnival leaving behind the hilly billy look.  I have to say that the quadrilha I attended in Atlanta was more traditional then any of them I enjoyed here.
During my visit we attended three different quadrilhas.  A charity for a local burn hospital,  the one put on by the city in Goiania city square, and at a country club that a friend organized.  At all three the dancing was spectacular and the performances were enjoyable.  They all told stories of brides and grooms and the costumes and dancing was spectacular.  I wish I would have had my camera which takes video along as still photos cannot capture the true essence of these parties but you will just have to visit Brazil in June and see a quardrilha for yourself.
(thanks wikipedia)


Andrew Francis said...

The northeastern "festas juninas" seem to be more popular these days but festa junina is also very traditional in the countryside of the state of Sao Paulo. Don't forget that everyone dresses up as "caipiras", the hillbillies of Sao Paulo. :)

Dave said...

Thanks Andrew -- maybe next June I will try and venture to Sao Paulo to check out how this festival is celebrated in this part of Brazil.