By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Providing an insight into the growth of an increasingly important dance movement and depicting a changing cultural scene in Rio, director Emílio Domingos’ documentary, “A Batalha do Passinho,” continues to screen in various venues throughout the country. Recent screenings of the film took place at Cachoeira Doc and at the MIMO festival in Olinda.
The passinho, or the little step, is a dance phenomenon that originated in Rio’s favelas in 2007. Danced to funk Carioca music, which also originated in Rio’s favelas, the passinho incorporates moves influenced by samba, breakdancing and frevo with a focus on footwork.
To showcase those moves, inter-community dance-offs or battles between passinho dancers are held in pacified communities. The first major competition, the ‘Batalha do Passinho’ (Battle of the Little Step) took place in 2011 and has continued annually since.
These battles and the growth of the movement are the subject of director Emílio Domingos’ documentary, “A Batalha do Passinho.” “The making of ‘A Batalha do Passinho’ was living in the eye of the hurricane events,” said Domingos. “It followed the growth of the movement and its establishment as the newest cultural representation of Rio.”
Appearing in the documentary, Gualter Rocha, known as Gambá, was the first champion of the Batalha do Passinho. The documentary captures his contributions to the movement, before he was tragically murdered in 2011.
Besides his now famous moves, Gambá, later know as the “Rei do Passinho” (“King of the Little Step”), also helped garner attention for the passinho by sharing videos through social networks. He and the other dancers used virtual connections to both share moves and learn from others.
“It was virtual activity meeting with reality,” Julia Michaels, who has written about the passinho in her RioReal blog, told The Rio Times. “The dancers researched what others were doing through the internet. It showed their initiative, intelligence and the ability they had.”
“[Emílio] started the documentary before many people knew about Gambá,” said Michaels. “He managed to capture something elegant, delicate and meaningful.”
“The dance is perhaps the most vital of artistic expression and without doubt one of the most democratic,” said film critic Carlos Alberto Mattos. “It is the voice of the body screaming, but it is not always the voice of the throat that is capable of expressing it.”
“All this is reflected in ‘A Batalha do Passinho’,” Mattos continued, adding, “Around the dance, it’s a whole lifestyle that is revealed in the words of these children of the street, their vanity, somewhat innocent affection overflowing, their peculiar language, and the ambitions of good guys.”
For his next documentary Domingos will capture a different view of favela and urban culture. Entitled “Deixa Na Régua”, the film will examine barbers, haircuts and the cultural importance of crafting style in changing socio-economical times.
Meanwhile, “A Batalha do Passinho” is still going strong since its debut last year. To learn more about “A Batalha do Passinho”, including upcoming screening schedules, and for more information about “Deixa Na Régua” see the production’s website here.