The biggest Latin American country, Brazil, has a huge and complex cultural diversity and a vibrant artistic scene characterized by the creativity and quality of its artists. In spite of its consistent growth, the Brazilian cultural market is still under-explored, if we think of its great potential. One of the main obstacles to growth and professionalization is the social and economic gap, which prevents the great majority of Brazilians from taking part in cultural activities.
Regarding contemporary dance, in these last years, the specialization of the theoretical studies in the universities, the powerful choreographic production in the artistic scene, together with the consolidation of festivals and other events all over the country, have contributed to a fierce moment, without precedents in the Brazilian contemporary dance.
Brazilian contemporary dance production is becoming increasingly known internationally, not only because big companies such as Grupo Corpo (Belo Horizonte), Quasar (Goiania) or Deborah Colker (Rio) have been touring abroad for a long time, but also because of other mid-scale companies which are starting to tour regularly, specially in Europe, such as Cia Lia Rodrigues, Marcia Milhazes Cia de Dança, or Grupo de Rua de Niteroi (Rio), among others. Other independent artists working individually or on a collaborative basis are also finding their way in the international scene.
The most developed centres for contemporary dance are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, all capital of states belonging to the wealthier southeast region which also attracts the majority of national and international cultural performances. There is also increasing activity in Salvador, Recife and Fortaleza on the Northeast, and Porto Alegre, Florianópolis and Curitiba in the South, as well as cities of the interior of the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul. Other areas with some contemporary dance production are Goiânia, Brasília in the Central West region and Manaus and Belém, both in the North region.
Maybe one of the reasons of the strength of current contemporary dance in Brazil is its capacity to respond to rough conditions with creativity. In the last years there have been a growing number of independent artist’s initiatives that propose new alternative forms of creation, presentation and thinking which have generated collaborative work, academic production, mixture of languages, philosophical discussions and some times political actions.
Two of the many good examples of artist-led initiatives that helped place Brazilian contemporary dance on the international map are the Festival Panorama de Dança, in Rio de Janeiro (created by choreographer Lia Rodrigues in 1991) and FID - Forum Internacional de Dança in Minas Gerais (created by choreographer Adriana Banana in 1996). These two international dance festivals, probably the most important in the country, have become places for artistic exchange, discussions and give the opportunity to see, or even work with important international choreographers. The last editions have also developed extra actions promoting collaborative creation and production of new works.
The Bienal de Dança do Ceará in Fortaleza and the Festival Internacional de Dança in Recife, which also happen in October/November, joined the above mentioned FID and Panorama in 2005 to create the network called Brazilian International Dance Festivals Circuit. In the last two years the circuit has been benefiting from a modest but symbolically important direct federal support attesting its growing importance in the Brazilian Cultural Calendar.
Other examples of festivals and meetings that feature contemporary dance are the Araraquara Festival in the countryside of São Paulo, an important promoter of regional integration outside the big state capitals; the Festival Novadança de Brasília with unfolded editions in São Paulo and Rio, and the Conexão Sul (South Connexion) a meeting produced by some local artists in the South region that encourages discussions, performances, and workshops.
Itaú Cultural Foundation organises every two years the Rumos Dança, a program carefully organised in which renowned researchers from all the regions in Brazil take part. The Rumos culminates in the Festival Rumos Dança in São Paulo, which in its last edition, in 2007, presented 25 choreographic premieres, 5 video dances plus exhibitions and seminars.
Some local initiatives bring dance closer to more popular audiences such as the Dança Alegre Alegrete, in the countryside city of Alegrete, state of Rio Grande do Sul, and the enormous and very popular Joinville Festival in the state of Santa Catarina also in the South, organized as a big dance competition fair that features dance academies and schools from all over the country presenting all kinds of dance styles, classified according to a peculiar selection. Joinville Festival has lately included contemporary dance and added discussions, performances and workshops of renowned professionals to the event.
In 2003 the 1st choreographic centre in the country, the Centro Coreográfico of Rio de Janeiro, directed by the choreographer Regina Miranda was opened. Maintained by the Town Hall, it is actually a place that offers rehearsal rooms, a theatre for performances and apartments for residencies.
Other important events created in these last years are Dance and Philosophy in Rio de Janeiro and the Dança em Foco, an international video dance festival that happens in August in Rio and São Paulo. Rio also has the festival Dança em Trânsito directed by Giselle Tápias who also runs the Espaço Café Cultural, dedicated to contemporary dance. In São Paulo the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil presents the event Dança em Pauta; in Belo Horizonte the 1,2 na Dança works on a smaller scale bringing groups and pieces together; in Votorantim, a small town in the countryside of São Paulo we have the Pública Dança, an annual event strongly supported by the local community and organized by the members of Quadra Pessoas e Idéias. The group Hibridus also organises a festival called ENARCI in the city of Ipatinga in Minas Gerais.
In addition, there are a few international theatre and art festivals which include contemporary dance in their programs: Riocenacontemporânea in Rio de Janeiro, Festival Internacional de Teatro de São José do Rio Preto in the state of São Paulo, Festival Internacional de Londrina in Paraná, Porto Alegre em Cena, Festival Internacional de Porto Alegre, both in Rio Grande do Sul, Festival Internacional de Palco e Rua de Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, Cena Contemporânea - Festival Internacional de Teatro de Brasília, Mercado Cultural da Bahia in Salvador, Campina Grande Festival in Paraíba and Goiânia em Cena in Goiás are some of them.
The festivals and events represent the best opportunities for international companies wishing to tour in the country; these are increasing every year, but continue to possess only small budgets that need to be complemented by international funding agencies, consulates, etc. Other opportunities to perform in the country can result from invitations to participate in cultural circuits promoted by organisations such as Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil or SESC, a big network of cultural centres spread all over the country but mainly strong in the states of São Paulo (with 17 big cultural Centres) and Rio de Janeiro, where they have the Espaço SESC, an important space for contemporary dance in Rio with regular programs with national and international artists and companies. Besides, foreign companies can look for invitations promoted by local government theatres or at private-commercial theatres in partnerships with specialized agencies or producers.
The space for foreign performances is particularly occupied by countries that have not only cultural but also institutional exchanges with Brazil. Some examples are France (Alliance Française - France Cultures), Germany (Goethe), United Kingdom (British Council) and, more recently Spain (Instituto Cervantes - AECI).
For local companies it is difficult to travel with their work inside the country and they rely on one national award, called Caravana, offered by Funarte - National Arts Foundation, attached to the Ministry of Culture, or on being selected by the few festivals’ and curators. In the last three years Funarte’s Caravana has allowed around 60 pieces from companies or independent artists to tour around the country, bringing dance to more than 150 cities, including a number of small towns. SESC and SESI (Industry Social Service) offer their theatre circuits to show the work from different states, and the giant energy and oil Brazilian multinational Petrobrás supports another national program.
To tour internationally Brazilian artists can apply at the Ministry of Culture which pays for travel tickets to participate in international festivals abroad but its calls and timing are erratic and usually released at the last minute.
Like in any other Latin American country it’s difficult to produce contemporary dance in Brazil. When compared to other Latin American countries, Brazil seems to have a better situation, but we should take into account the size of the country and its hundreds of groups, companies and professionals involved, not to mention a population of over 180 million people. The whole public expenditure in culture is slowly moving upwards, but has not yet reached 0,7% of the national federal budget (much lower than the minimum of 1% recommended by Unesco). Only a very small part of it is directed to the dance area. Something similar happens with the secretaries of culture of the different states and cities (only 4,2% of the municipalities in the country have a secretary exclusively dedicated to culture) where there is a lack of expertise professionals in the artistic area in general and the dance area in particular. This situation has been improving lately but a strong political effort has yet to be made in order to put pressure on the authorities.
Despite the difficulties regarding the funding situation for dance in the country, some of the strategies, which were put in place by the community, made further development of dance possible in the past 20 years. Maybe that explains the existence of over 50 stable companies, another hundred companies which are less structured and an even bigger amount of independent professionals. (The national prizes released by Funarte get around 350 project applications in every call).
The public funding takes different forms: direct funding, with funding programs made through public calls addressed to companies, producers or professionals, for production, travelling and lately for research as well. The Prêmio Funarte Klauss Vianna granted about 170 dance companies and professionals (with a majority of contemporary dance ones) with resources of around 8 million reais (4 million USD) in 2006 but it has been cut to a little more than a third in 2007. Similar prizes are launched in other states and cities, with smaller budgets. In the city of Rio de Janeiro the end of an important program of continued sponsorship that was considered partially responsible for the steady leadership and national presence of its companies took local companies to a critical situation. On the other hand, in São Paulo City the struggle for better public policies at the local house of commons led to the creation of the first law establishing a program for dance development in which companies can construct their own projects and strategies. Generally, on direct public funding the procedures are very bureaucratic and conditioned by budget, political, and administrative constant changes that provoke permanent instability and misinformation.
Indirectly, public funding works through a system of a 100% tax break for supporters of artistic projects, the Lei Federal de Renúncia Fiscal (formerly known as Lei Rouanet). This way of funding puts the decision of where and how to spend public funds in the hands of the marketing directors of big companies and multinationals who usually prefer to support big and commercial artistic pieces or events addressed to big audiences. This also creates a false sense of private sponsorship. Unless the resources are public funds, actually very little, almost none purely private funding is directed to culture development in the country. Nevertheless, most cultural institutes and a great number of events such as Dance Festivals have benefited from this mechanism.
Great arguments take place about the advantages/disadvantages of this tax breaking policy and an increasing number of professionals in the cultural area openly defend its end.
In the last years one of the faster growing areas has been the production of knowledge and information about contemporary dance which has strongly increased its quality standards due to this big academic interest. Maybe due to the growing interest in sustainable survival many dance students started to look for academic careers and new courses were created, adding up to the existing ones. Nowadays there are around 14 different dance or dance related university courses and there is a great regional movement demanding new ones. Lately masters, post-graduate courses and specializations were created in different universities all over the country and the first Phd exclusively dedicated to dance opened last year at Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), UFBA is also the first dance college course in the country, and opened more than 50 years ago. More information about dance courses in the country are available at http://idanca.net/2007/07/05/nirvan...
The academic level has contributed largely to reduce the lack of documentation dedicated to contemporary dance and many students and researchers in dance and in neighbouring areas have published in the last years articles, critical dissertations, thesis, catalogues, books on memory, language, philosophy, video and technologies, biographies, etc. An article written by the choreographer and researcher Nirvana Marinho, with a list of publications is available in the web Idanca at http://idanca.net/2007/02/01/livros...
Among the dozens of publications recently released in Brazil we can highlight Lições de Dança, the most important academic publication in the country coordinated by Roberto Pereira and Silvia Soter and edited by the university Univercidade (Rio de Janeiro). We can also mention the magazine Humus an initiative of Sigrid Nora (Rio Grande do Sul) with interesting articles about Brazilian contemporary dance. FID Editorial, an initiative of FID- Forum Internacional de Dança has published the Phd thesis of some important Brazilian academics.
Idanca, www.idanca.net, is the most important publication on-line dedicated to contemporary dance in the country. Idanca brings to the community a selection of texts in Portuguese and English, critical comments, interviews and news covering Brazilian and international current productions. A quick note section updated weekly comments and calls attention to important registration dates, auditions, premières and other subjects. In addition, a comprehensive schedule keeps everyone informed about what is going on. A virtual gallery highlights the work of photographers and video makers. It also has a specific space for the academic production in the area.
Brazilian contemporary dance is increasingly embracing the contemporary issues being discussed all over the world; questions such as hybridism and dialogue with different languages, different approaches to the body itself, alterity, identity, research on new technologies, movement and no movement and so on, are very present; at the same time the artists research about the peculiarities of Brazilian bodies, ways of moving and about what Brazilian culture brings to those concepts previously mentioned.
Text written by: Marcos Moraes & Isabel Ferreira, October 2007
Sources : Study on the performing Arts Market in Brasil by Articultura, Nirvana Marinho, Idanca. Data base of Rumos Dança (Itaú Cultural).