In this blog i will reinforce the necessity to think about the International ballroom dance colonization as a political discussion. One of my aims is to educate about the technical richness of Brazilian dances, recovering our confidence to speak for ourselves and for our own culture. This way i can contribute to the latin-american dance studies that still do not exist, but that is necessary to set us free from the discursive imperialism of the international community.
quinta-feira, 11 de dezembro de 2014
A discussion about the legitimacy of International Samba
Salsa has also tight history with Mambo. Salsa has its own name and own style yet very similar. Guess what, there are trolls that demand salsa to be named mambo, coz it is stolen. My point is there will be always something about you can troll about. Dances envolve and you cant demand that people will dance in your ''frame'' coz you want so.
So true. I was learning Salsa from the migrant workers who came here to pick tobacco. Every one of them said their Salsa was the "real" Salsa and the others were wrong. So, whose Salsa was the "correct" one. Same as Rumba and Samba, all open to interpretation and also how the dances have changed considerably over the years.
+Cathie Penalagan Its really disturbing to see defenders of ballroom distortion appealing to the argue that "cultures are free to interpretation". Actually, ignorance is not something to be proud of. Students and professional artists study and knows what they are doing before they plead to make a new version. Someone dancing this video above know anything about "mangueira", salgueiro", the instruments, the era when samba players were persecuted by police? No right? International ballroom wants to plead they are doing something new in samba, but they do not even know what they are talking about. They are only presenting some stereotypes and reducing it all to their own rules. And then if someone calls them out, they act like they are heroes doing something great and artistic. They are not.
1. (cultures and art) Obviously, dances evolve and change. But Art is a expression of cultures. And cultures are the result of a legacy of experience. So, its to that experience that we should recur when we want to understand them. If someone calls himself a "professor" and are not interesting in learning, he is just a charlatan. To make a version or a new interpretation of a deep rooted culture like samba demands study, hard work, humbleness, and a lot of desire to learn with the roots of these cultures. Its not something that you simply do arbitrariness out of the arrogant feeling that "you know it all". The dance above is evidently something made out of European rules and techniches, with no link to any samba musicality or body expression. Its obvious that it is not even a 5 th degree cousin. There is no relation to samba but the name. And the name is there, why? the question that all of you have to answer? Why is it samba? What elements of it make it samba?
2.. (Technic and music). Even if you argue that to dance something you donot need to know it deeply, the problem with latin ballroom is that distorts the whole culture matrix and present something that is not even fit to that type of swing structure. Its a shame when someone says that teaches samba and dont even know a single instrument used to reproduce the samba beat. Its really hard to find one single video where this international ballroom guys are dancing to a real samba song. How would you expect that they can feel the samba spirit if they don`t even know the right music? A major goal of any dance study is to give technical naturalness to the movements of a dancer, unifying the dancer and the music. The rules of international Latin dances do the opposite: they give artificiality to the dancer's body structure, making it a mere stereotype, i.e, something that he doesn't really knows, but tries to imitate following alien criteria.
Basically those 2 point I summarize:''My samba is the ''real'' thing, your samba is bullshit. I'm good, you are bad. You should dance like me'' <-typical Brazilian attitude. Who gave you the right to copyright ''samba'', the right to dictate how to dance? You are like a gray rock, who wants to be all others to be gray. Firstly it is hard to copyright expression, secondly, your samba dance is based on/made from African, Arabic dances same as western ballroom samba is based/made from dances from other parts of the world. The word ''samba'' most probably came from Arabic region. Why can't you be happy and dance, enjoy samba in Brasil and let other people dance as they please?
+Artūrs Illarionovs Hi arturs, I dont think you are being fair. You make it sound like i`m the arrogant trying to say what is Real and what is not. Actually, i would say that International ballroom are the arrogant s for pleading the right of simply making their own rules to redefine a rich culture with a deep cultural meaning and history. And when you say they have the right to do so, what i see is that you are saying that their ignorance is something to be proud of. So, its even ironic. It is one of the most scandalous types of eurocentric blindness in recent times. But the truth is the opposite: People that has no humility to learn and listen to other cultures, and try to reduce it all to their own rules, should not call themselves professors or students.
The way european ballroom treats latin cultures is a phenomenon that is worth to be described in steps:
1 step one) lazy curiosity: in a remote era in the past, they were introduced to the rich variety of dance and musical expressions of latin america. They retain only the stereotypes and exotic figures, and never bother to make a deep study about the root of the body and musical expressions.
2) step two) arrogance: once they have the stereotypes, they start to sell it like a circus artifact. Meanwhile they introduce their own rules and techniques and make the dance something else. The arrogance here is the illusion that they can reduce others cultures to a eurocentric view and that they already know it all, that`s why they think they don`t have anything to learn.
3) step three) delusion: in the era of internet, its inevitable that people will see that this so called international "rumba", "samba" and "tango" are very different animals than the originals. So, people will ridicule it and call them out saying, "hey man, this is not samba, rumba, tango". The delusional step is them saying that these people are "arrogant"! the cycle is closed.
4) step four) heart broken feeling: The same arrogant european culture that appropriate other cultures without study, without learning, without any effort to understand it, start to feel oppressed if someone try to teach them things.
There is no solution when a collective delusion is so strong that they think they are the victims, even when they are occupying and colonizing other cultures. What is left to say? Maybe they would suggest us to change the name of our culture right? haha, its hilarious! But also tragic.
PS. about the origins of samba: if UNESCO is not enough for you, try to read any book and to study a little bit. Yes, there is african and european influences, but SAMBA is a independent and mature form of art from Brazil, different than anything that you will find in africa or europe. Thats the same with ballet, waltz, etc. All of them have different influences, and that doesnt mean anything. You guys are trying to enter in a whole big universe of cultural expressions, that is part of the maturation of the very Brazilian soul. Its something that demands hard study and experience to know about. Its not something that you simply "say what it is out of your own arrogant arbitrariness".
+Latino M. ''International ballroom are the arrogant s for pleading the right of simply making their own rules to redefine a rich culture with a deep cultural meaning and history'' I feel like we are going in circles. I want you to simply understand that Brazilian samba and western ballroom samba are two different things, two different worlds. Ballroom samba is not under Brazilian samba. It owns nothing to Brazilian samba and Brazilian samba owns nothing to Ballroom. Nobody is trying to change you, nobody is forcing you to study history, music, instruments, body movement, soul, feelings of ballroom samba. I mean no disrespect to your samba culture. Looking from your comments looks like the opposite is true. I feel like you are thinking that ballroom is a bad copy and must be wiped out/replaced by Brazilian dance. I find it wrong. The most confusing thing is the word ''samba'', when one is speaking globally, I think one should use term ''ballroom samba'' to avoid misunderstanding, conflicts and comments like ''"hey man, this is not samba, rumba, tango" (although, IMHO people know what they are watching and often spread hate towards those who do something different from them).
I disagree with you on ''lazy curiosity''. In those times there was no youtube and good information exchange platform. Famous example is tango. Western folks have tango music, but have no teachers, no catalog, no books to study dance movement. So what they did is they danced to tango music with known foxtrot steps and made dance mutation, new dance called ballroom tango. Now we have even Finnish and Chinese tango and I find it great. I get pleasure, one kind of feelings dancing Argentinian tango and get different kind of pleasure and feelings by dancing ballroom tango. I am very open minded to all dances and want to try them all. If I had opportunity I would like to dance Brazilian samba, but my small country has no teachers. The only known seed of Brazilian culture here in Latvia is group Samba de Riga, I am hypnotized when I watch them live.
+Artūrs Illarionovs I see you are a reasonable man, and have a lot of good points. You are missing the fact, however, that this is not only a terminological issue. I will address 4 main issues that shows that.
1. If you are right, and the difference between the two is just about the names, then, why do most European ballroom schools that one can find in internet still tries to relate it to Brazil? Why they dont instead try to clarify to their students that they have something diametrically different, that it is not even fit to dance to samba music? This is not fishy enough for you? Seems that even Ballroom community do not like to recognize - as you do - that this is just a terminological issue. And why is that? Money maybe. The desire to sell cultures that they do not known a single thing, like a exotic piece of meat.
2. Names have a reason to exist, specially when it comes to cultural things. You do not confuse spanish with portuguese only because they share some latin traces. As you said, international samba and brazilian samba are two different things. It`s hard to even say that one is a version of the other, because the similarities between them are the same as the similarity between a rat and a monkey - in some remote past they shared DNA, but that does not mean that the monkey is a VERSION of the rat. So, the question about the "two" sambas is: which one is a misrepresentation of the other? Yes, there is space for only one here my friend, unless you think it is ok to confuse rats with monkeys in your biology book. So, why ballroom samba is called samba? Because of its remote past? Because the music (which is not samba, by the way)? Because of some political manouver? Why?
3. I dont think your excuse for the misrepresentations of tango are valid. Actually, i think that as well-meant as you seem to be n your comments, your examples are actually points against you. That`s because the same example you are using to excuse ballroom community ignorance and adulteration of Tango could not be use to excuse a Brazilian indigenous from an amazon tribe that was willing to learn ballet in a pre-youtube era, and use his own traditions and rules ti invent his own particular ballet. Can you imagine? If ballet were danced like a "rain-maker dance" in Brazil thanks to the same conditions and excuses you just gave, do you really think you would excuse it? I bet You would say, with all your right: "hey, that`s not ballet!". Europeans would not excuse it, and they will have a reason to do so. And the fact that people excuse Europeans to do that a long time ago only shows how they are a little more used to excuse themselves over others. It shows some pretty shady egocentric and eurocentric presuppositions. In one word: there is nothing wrong with learning and nothing should be a excuse for voluntarily ignorance.
4 Finally, as long as Ballroom community use Samba as the name of their art, this community obviously OWNS something to samba culture, at least some answers.These are legit questions, that you are not taking into account when you reduce everything to "terminological differences". There is a whole universe of culture linked to samba, so, it is something that demands hard work and study to know. Its not simply: oh, i want to call my shit samba. Samba is a rich culture that is part of the best experiences of almost all brazilian. It is part of the maturation of brazilian spirit, politics and intellectual development. People study samba all over the world in universities as part of brazilian studies and to understand the spirit, the life style and the nature of samba beat (there are papers about the singular approach of the off-beats of samba). So its not something open to arbitrariness interpretation. What is happening in International samba is not just a "new interpretation or version" of samba, but a very disturbing misrepresentation, where not even the music is fit to dance to the samba beat.
+Latino M. ''1. If you are right, and the difference between the two is just about the names, then, why do most European ballroom schools that one can find in internet still tries to relate '' Yes, I have stumbled upon it too, I find it wrong and misleading, when in dance description you obviously have Brazilian samba. I have been tough ballroom from like 4-5 different teachers, no one states that this is the same thing. I was made clear that chacha that you dance will very differ from that that you will see in some smoked and crowded Cuban cafe. I fail to see how can you make big money on selling cultures, it is not like once a year in Paris, London or Berlin you have big samba carnival and you see half naked ballroom dancers, people come all over the world to see them. In fact competitive ballroom is so expensive and harsh, I wonder why people do why they do.
''So, why ballroom samba is called samba?'' I think it is simple fact that fathers and teachers of ballroom dancers called it samba before (same it is in Brasil), simple as this. Looks like you can trace that to some french dudes in early 20th century took notes on how those Southamericans are dancing, probably in Europe they came to something new +the dance evolved in competitive and sport environment, where dancers had to put a lot of physical power, harder technique and body movement to be better then other couples. And I am sure that in Brasil Samba has changed also by time, region, school and should not be quite the same as 100 years before. I think that poor African slave (who stepped on the soil of New world) with ''samba'' meant something quite different from samba that you can see now in Brasil. Now comes the big question - what change is big, significant enough that the new child of previous dance should be called by a new name? How do you define the change? Who has authority to change name? Maybe in Ballroom samba had 70 significant changes, maybe in Brasil you had 120 significant changes by time, place and school. Vuala, you have 70+120=190 new dances, new names. It is mind boggling, and I do not know how to call/or not to call that rain man ballet (and I wanna see it for sure). Same goes to all other things who are subject to change and evolution. At which point homo erectus became homo sapiens? At which point ''chikenozaur'' layed an egg and a chicken popped out bringing an end to philosophical distinction ? Change by father and son is neglectable, but in long run you have something different.
+Artūrs IllarionovsYes, first point is clear for both of us. We have almost the same impression, but i am more scandalized by it because, that`s my hypothesis, samba culture is not part of your life. So, i have a another question. You made a very emphatic point saying that your professors recognize that this samba international is not the same as Brazilian samba (i.e, the unique and only samba, as far as any history, anthropological and sociological book knows - 'sEmba' in africa is just the name for belly buttm, and not a complex and highly sophisticated culture) So, if you are right, i would like to know why, if you and the whole community wants independence - or to own anything to samba culture - from brazilian culture, why dont you fight to change the name? That would be a good begining. That`s what cultures actually do when they want independence and to claim its maturity. They claim their own terminology. But i see you, and the whole ballroom community, make the opposite! You fight to maintain the name. Can u at least understand my suspicious?
Second point, thought, is not. I will divide your argument in 4 main points, 1 - the semantic arbitrariness argument, 2. your attempt to detach samba from brazil, or weakening the link between samba and brazil. 3. the cultural changes argument 4. the philosophical relativistic or skeptic argument. This will be enough to approach your "big question". I`m really glad that you made that question, because it shows you are willing to sacrifice the final ground: you accept the fact that there is a limit, a line that you do not cross if you want to live in world as clear and rational as one could. I`ll leave you to make your own study and take your conclusions.I promise that, if - after seeing the degree of distance and difference - you still decide to consider both as legit samba, you will have to employ a great amount of tolerance to irrationality, ignorance, authoritarian arbitrariness and dogma.
1) ---} the arbitrary semantic argument---} You used the very weak argument that "someone call it samba long time ago, therefore it is samba". I do not need to say that any historian, anthropologist and sociologist would feel you are chosen a very easy and cheap explanation. You should at least develop your narrative: why does the father chose that name? You guys never criticize your fathers? Sorry, but if you fail to present the cultural roots, the tradition, the musical elements, the political and intellectual scene, the big poets and the parties and celebrations that build this samba culture, I am afraid that your argument is empty. If you admit that this "international samba" is nothing but a gratuitous terminological arbitrariness, so i have to say that you do not have any good argument to counter all the brazilians that came into this videos to say "this is not samba". Actually i have to say that this argument is very disrespectful with all those scholars (anthropologist, sociologists) that spent their lives trying to understand samba culture.
2)detach samba from brazil) Your second point was trying to weakening the link between samba and Brazil. The strategy here is trying to invalidate the voices that say "this is not samba", by saying that we nobody own samba. Well, that`s not a very good strategy if you do not have any other reasons and arguments to present any of samba cultural elements that survived outside of Brazil. I can guarantee you that we do not call samba just because some "father" gave this name. There is a whole set of heavy literature explaining the root of samba culture and the way that it is linked to brazilian national identity. This was a complex culture, build out of African(SEMBA was the prior-african name for something that is NOT samba at all), European and native-american elements, and - as you can see at UNESCO - is a independent culture from Brazil, that you cannot find anywhere else. So, if you want to detach samba from Brazil and transforming it in a cosmopolitan culture open to any free interpretation, you have to present arguments, reasons, and i guarantee you that you will have to fight with every history book available. Good luck.
3) the cultural changes argument ---} yes, of course a culture has changes and multiple versions. Although, as i said before, to change a culture is a hard job, that demands not only a lot of study, but also experience and immersion in the universe of that culture. So, again, if you fail to present any good cultural, political, tradition, reasons to say that international samba is a modification or a version of original samba, i`m afraid your argument is empty.
4) your philosophical relativistic argument---} Last, i would like to comment your attempt of philosophical skepticism to justify the arbitrariness of the use of the name. Why i find it fishy? Simply because i dont belive you mean it. I believe that you are not a relativist/skeptic when it comes to things that matter to you! I believe that when someone mix spanish with english, or confuses your nationality with your neighbor countries, you will promptly challenge the confusion and misrepresentation. I also believes that you would confront anyone that uses stereotypes to define your own culture. I also believe you would not like to see the national identity of your people being used like something free to adoption and misrepresentation. I believe you would not be able to survive for long if you ignore the biological reasons that differentiate a shark from a dolphin . So, i believe you are not a real philosophical relativist when it comes to things that matter for you. But you feel comfortable to discard all the anthropological, sociological and cultural reasons that identifies other cultures. Maybe it is because that cultures do not matter for you? (now if you prove to me you are a philosophical skeptical even in matters that matter to you, we can have another conversation)
4.1. Lets give you the benefit of the doubt and suppose you are really a relativistic and philosophical skepticism even when it comes to things that matter to you. Oh, in that case, there is no reason to believe more in you when you say that this is samba, than there are reasons to believe in all the Brazilians saying that this is not samba. If you really believes that anything goes, so you will not have anything to object to Brazilians that say that this is not samba, and your whole argument becomes empty, again.