Brazilian, Portuguese, African, Lebanese and Japanese traditions have all shaped Brazilian music, dance and martial arts styles. An annual festival in Phoenix highlights the different flavors of Brazil with live music and dance performances, authentic food and drink and interactive workshops.
The 7th annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival will commemorate Brazil’s Independence Day with a cultural celebration on Sept. 24 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Founder and director Miguel Ivery said the festival provides a taste of the rich music and dance traditions of Brazil.
“You really get an understanding of where Brazilian music has come from, where it is going and everything in between,” Ivery said.
The event started as a showcase for artists from Ivery’s record label, Afro-Baile. Over the years, it has grown into a local cultural celebration attracting thousands of people.
During the festival, local and international bands, singers and dance groups will perform modern and traditional styles of Brazilian music and dance.
Internationally-known artists Jahgun of samba-reggae group Olodum and Renni Flores from Brazilian percussion group Ile Aiye will headline the festival.
The event will also have performances from Grupo Cupim do Samba, a five-piece band out of Rio de Janeiro; the SambAZ Dancers of Phoenix; West-African drumming group Kawambe-Omowale of Phoenix; samba-reggae drum troupe Batala Los Angeles and capoeira group Axe Capoeira Arizona.
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DJ Chris Brazil from Los Angeles and DJ Seduce from Phoenix will also get the crowd moving with high-energy music.
Along with music and dance performances, the festival will have a children’s area with face painting and jewelry-making activities, a film presentation on Brazilian music and culture, a live art show and a Samba Queen contest.
Local food vendors will offer Lebanese, Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinian, Cajun and American styles of food. Festivalgoers can try popular Brazilian foods such as coxinha, brigadeiro and pastel.
Caipirinhas, Brazilian cocktails prepared with cachaça, lime and sugar, will also be available for purchase.
During the interactive festival, guests can take part in workshops on capoeira, Afro-Brazilian dance, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Brazilian percussion styles and sweaty sexy samba.
Ivery said the workshops expose festivalgoers to Brazilian dance, music and martial arts in an immersive and educational way.
“You’re going to be able to experience things you’ve never seen before, that you will to be able to see, hear, touch and take part in. We really want people to leave knowing that they had a real experience of Brazil,” Ivery said.
Throughout the day, students and teachers from Axe Capoeira Arizona will perform and teach different styles of Brazilian dance, music and martial arts.
The performance styles come from northeast Brazil and have been influenced by African dance rhythms and movements.
All of the music, dance and martial arts styles have rich histories.
Styles of dance such as colheita and maculele were traditionally performed during the harvesting of sugar cane.
Samba-reggae has been influenced by music styles from Brazil and Jamaica.
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Afro, a type of Afro-Brazilian dance style performed since the Colonial Era, incorporates drumming and rapid dance movements.
Contramestre Jay “Camara” Spain, senior teacher and director for Axe Capoeira Arizona, said Brazilian dance styles such as samba and Afro can be difficult even for trained dancers to learn.
“You use your hips, shoulders and diaphragm; open your chest and curve your back. And then there’s a lot of small, intricate steps, especially in samba and Afro, that are not easy to do,” Spain said.
Spain said African slaves incorporated music and acrobatics into capoeira to disguise the martial arts style as a type of dance.
Capoeira has influenced dance styles in other countries. Spain said early break dancers in New York blended hip hop dance styles with capoeira movements.
“The people who were, back in those days, doing locking and popping and spinning on their backs on cardboard boxes on the sideways, they saw capoeira, and they copied from our footwork, what we call ginga, and called it the ‘uprock step,’” Spain said.
Many Brazilian martial arts and dance styles, including capoeira, bring together people of different ages and backgrounds.
“We do it all together in a community-based format, so it’s very inclusive. We like to let [audiences] see that, hear that and experience that,” Spain said.
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Brazilian Day Arizona Festival
When: 2-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.
Where: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale.
Admission: $15 general admission, $7 children 11 and under, children 2 and under free.
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