Dr. Ana Paula Höfling (School of Dance) received new funding from the National Humanities Center for the project “Dancing Brazil’s Other: Choreographies of Race, Class, and Nation.”
Dancing Brazil’s Other gives continuity to the research published in Höfling’s first monograph, Staging Brazil: Choreographies of Capoeira (Wesleyan University Press, 2019), where they explore the ways in which race and nation were “staged” through capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art practiced today throughout the world. Both books consider the role of bodies on stage (both embodied practice and visual representation) in the construction of Brazil as the land of purportedly harmonious race relations, still a defining national characteristic in the popular imaginary.
The book focuses on five choreographers and dance educators who have explored the notion of “Brazilian culture” through dance: Eros Volúsia (1914-2004), Felicitas Barreto (1910-2003), Mercedes Baptista (1921-2014), Graziela Rodrigues (b. 1954) and Jelon Vieira (b. 1953). The book asks which cultures within Brazil have been selected as exemplary – whose dances are included, whose are excluded, what is considered “exotic” or traditional – and how this cultural material has been staged.
As a dance scholar, Höfling pays particular attention to how vernacular or “folkloric” movement vocabularies were adapted for the stage, and what foreign movement languages, such as ballet and modern dance, were deployed in the process of adapting and “improving” these dances to meet “high art” standards. She focuses on racialized perceptions of various Brazilian dance forms – from the sexualization of Afro-diaporic dances to stereotyped notions of a pan-indigenous nobility – and their relationship to dance forms deemed “raceless” (i.e. white) and thus “universal.”