Rio’s Slums to Jacob’s Pillow

August 11, 2014

Marina Harss – The New York Times, 8/9/2014

As the protests surrounding the World Cup this summer underscored, Brazil is a complex country, blessed with gorgeous beaches and breathtaking landscapes, bursting with music, but also plagued by poverty and violence. Extremes of beauty and ugliness rub shoulders; they are intertwined in the national character. This tension is precisely what the choreographer Sonia Destri Lie, founder of the contemporary hip-hop troupe Companhia Urbana de Dança, strives to capture in her work. The company will appear at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., from Wednesday to Saturday.

Back in the 1970s, when Ms. Destri was growing up in the comfortable Rio suburb of Bangu, she did not yet know this would be her life’s work. She studied ballet and contemporary dance and went on to perform with the Brazilian dance-theater choreographer Suzana Braga and to choreograph for television, movies and fashion. In the ’90s, when the jobs in Rio dried up, she decamped to Düsseldorf to teach.

Just as she found herself in a creative slump, she was introduced to hip-hop by the American b-boy Marvin A. Smith, also based in Germany. In hip-hop, she recognized a language that offered the freedom she had been seeking. After a fire gutted her apartment, she returned to Rio in 1997 and began producing hip-hop events. She was invited to choreograph Rio’s fashion week and the film “Maré, Nossa História de Amor,” a love story set in Rio’s streets.

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Previously Banned, Brazilian Funk Music Takes Center Stage

July 31, 2014

Emmanuelle Saliba – NBC News, 7/29/2014

American audiences recently got their first taste of a new – and contagious – Brazilian street dancing style that has evolved from music born in the slums of Rio de Janeiro decades ago.

For the creators of Passinho, dancing at New York’s famed Lincoln Center on July 24th went beyond performing on a world-renowned stage. It was a vindication that a dance style associated in Brazil with criminals and gang activity is now seen as an art form that just happened to start in the favelas, or slums.

“Eleven passinho dancers came here to do something that when we started was discriminated against,” said Iguinho Imperador, a 21-year-old dancer hailing from Favela de Manguinhos. In Brazil, he explained, the dance is still often considered an activity for vagabonds, robbers or drug addicts.

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Economy In Gutter, Brazil More Expensive Than Europe

July 28, 2014

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 7/27/2014

Brazil’s economy might be growing near zero, and it’s currency isn’t as strong as it was in the heyday of the U.S. housing bubble of 2008, but that hasn’t stopped the country from becoming more expensive than the entire euro zone. In fact, according to The Economist magazine’s latest edition of the Big Mac index, Brazil’s currency is overvalued, and is third behind mega rich nations like Norway and Switzerland.

Brazil is the most expensive emerging market nation, and the locals are feeling it.

According to the magazine’s Big Mac index, the Brazilian real is overvalued by 5.86% as of July 23, more so than it was in 2009.  The Brazilian real is worth R$2.23. But it used to be a lot stronger. In July of 2008, it hit a strong R$1.55.  Despite a weaker currency, Brazil’s cost of living is on the rise.  For those living there, it’s a cause of frustration.  This is still very much a country where roads flood in the rain in major cities like São Paulo, and World Cup and Olympic quality cities like Rio de Janeiro have a whopping 500,000+ living in squalor in hillside slums.  The views are nice, but the poverty, the crime, the violence and the lackluster government services to those stuck there remain a national embarrassment.

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Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

July 22, 2014

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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Brazil’s ‘Quilombo’ Movement May Be The World’s Largest Slavery Reparations Program

July 11, 2014

Roque Planas – Huffington Post, 7/10/2014

When Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn’t let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

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In Brazil, Pacification Paves Way For Baby Steps To Democracy

July 8, 2014

Catherine Osborn – NPR, 7/7/2014

As World Cup travelers in Brazil flock to Rio de Janeiro for the tournament’s final, many are staying in newly pacified favelas, or low-income neighborhoods.

Among the most popular is Vidigal, which rises up a steep hillside over some of Rio’s most scenic beaches and offers some of the city’s most beautiful views. A government program to drive crime from the historically violent slum has attracted entrepreneurs and investors and also nurtured a step toward democracy.

It’s a Tuesday night at the entrance to Vidigal, and than 100 people have gathered at a forum to debate the recent changes in their community.

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