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By Anna Kaiser, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Around 25,000 people gathered in Parque de Madureira in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) Sunday, April 28th, for the third annual Batalha do Passinho semi-final. The dance battle gives dancers mostly from Rio’s favela communities the opportunity to compete for a grand prize of R$10,000.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Passinho dancer Wellington Costa de Farias competes in the battle held in the City of God, photo by Catherine Osborn.

The Passinho is a new kind of dance to funk Carioca music (found at “baile funk” parties) which focuses on skilled footwork; the most popular Passinho songs have lyrics that depart from the common funk Carioca themes of violence, sex, and drugs.

The final Passinho Battle was be filmed Saturday, May 3rd and is planned to be televised nationally on one of Brazil’s most popular television shows, Caldeirão do Hulk on Friday May 18th.

At the semi-final, celebrity judges MC Koringa, Sandra de Sá, Carlinhos de Jesus, and Juliana Alves selected the four dancers from the sixteen who had advanced from previous rounds held in favela communities across the city.

The previous sixteen battles were held in pacified communities, sponsored by Coca-Cola, and promoted by the social services arm of Rio’s community UPP police (UPP Social). To many, the Batalha do Passinho represents a way of continuing the tradition of funk music and dance as a part of favela culture without association with drug traffickers, militia, or violence.

We think in the de-sexualization of funk, we think in good funk… to entertain, to dance, to have fun! The New Funk takes another breath, looking for its rightful place in the community” described one Passinho’s original creators, Rafael Naike.

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The Batalha do Passinho has drawn record crowds in different venues all over the city, photo by Catherine Osborn.

“It gives young people, both boys and girls, in the communities a great opportunity to be good at something and have fun,” said Jackson Carvalho Franco, one of the sixteen semi-finalists who competed in the competition last week.

“The Passinho Battle has an incredible mission to legitimize the artistic lives of these kids. The community is always full of young dreamers, full with hopes and willingness. In the past, these kids grew up having the reference of their lives being sold to drug traffickers. Now it’s different, the heroes of the favela have sophisticated hair cuts and crazy painted nails, they are the dancers who bravely participate in the Passinho Battle,” Rafael Naike told The Rio Times.

“The Batalha do Passinho is located in favelas with UPP… when there was no UPP in the favela and you wanted to go out and dance, everyone went to the baile funk dance event run by armed traffickers,” explained Franco.

“When I started dancing in 2009, I would go to the baile funks and on one side of me I would have a guy smoking weed and on the other side of me I would have a guy with armed with a gun. Now with the passinho baile, you can go out with normal people and just dance, it’s really really cool.”

Passinho funk songs and the dancing that goes with it is more complex than older types of funk. The rhythms are more musically complicated and draw from other kinds of Brazilian music.

“There’s rap funk music and there’s funk music that’s just about drugs and rowdiness. Passinho doesn’t have swear words, it’s about the rhythm. Older funk was musically simplistic; now it’s growing” explained Franco.

“Passinho has no limits to cross paths with any other style of dance or sport. It brings together a mixture of dances, with the DNA of Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) and Capoeira. It dares to play with Tango, classical music, Kuduro, and Frevo,” Rafael Naike elaborated.

While the Batalha do Passinho was held in 2011, the 2012 and 2013 events have brought much attention and fame to the movement. Journalist Jez Smadj reminded us that, “The dance battles are only one part of a much larger movement that emerged in the bailes but has spread and professionalized.”

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