Note from BW of Brazil: Depending on what neighborhood you live in, you can always tell when Carnaval is upon us by the raucous sounds of the drum troupe rehearsals. And while Rio continues to garner the most tourist attention, the nearly week long festivities in Salvador, Bahia and the mega-city of São Paulo are also getting their fair share of notoriety. And beyond all of the bright lights, gyrating hips, flashy costumes and frenetic feet, there are real, everyday people who bring these shows of excess extravagance to life. This year, São Paulo’s Vai-Vai samba school will together 60 men in a celebration of black beauty and resistance. Learn more below..
Vai-Vai samba school brings together 60 men in a wing that represents black beauty and strength
By Mateus Araújo
It will not be only the muses that will beautify the Vai-Vai Carnival this year. The São Paulo school of samba intends to innovate and to draw attention also to masculine beauty. Sixty tall and strong black men, will compose the Força Alvinegra wing, in a parade that will recount historical struggles of povo negro (black people) for freedom and justice (check the schedule of the parades of the Grupo Especial of São Paulo).
For three years at the samba school, physical education teacher Luis Antônio F. Jr. has been one of the wing participants. “I was invited to parade in Vai-Vai for the first time in 2017 and I accepted,” he recalls. A resident of Interlagos (southern zone of SP), he says that he feels honored to represent the Bela Vista school on the avenue, which led him to take a liking and fall in love with samba.
Like him, 80% of the wing are of young people who have recently arrived at Vai-Vai. “I came in two months ago,” says mechanical engineer Denis Alves Ferreira. “I came with a friend who is from the community to see a rehearsal and I received the invitation to participate. For me, it’s been like a family.”
In addition to the tradition of the Alvinegra school, Ferreira highlights that the parade of this year is special and important. “We are living in a very prejudiced moment, including against blacks, and this discussion of samba is important,” he explains, referring to Vai-Vai’s theme, “Quilombo do Futuro.”
The male wing of Vai-Vai will refer to the period of exploration of pau Brasil (Brazil-wood), which marked the country’s history in colonization and during slavery. The choreographer and hairstylist instructor Cristiano Oliveira says that the idea is to show “the expressiveness of struggle and the victory, in various senses,” of black people. “We use a chain in the choreography to refer to that freedom,” adds Cristiano, who has been at the samba school for 28 years.
This way of reviewing the past by updating the narrative with the achievements of a people, highlights the electrician Washington Alves, “brings the quilombo [symbol of black resistance] to the future, which is us.” At Vai-Vai since he was 7, he says he is honored to be able to parade at the school, which is part of his family’s tradition. “I’ve been here since I was 7 years old. I’m 36 today. My grandmother was parading in Vai-Vai and, therefore, this love is in the blood.”