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Research Article Volume 7 Issue 1

Maracatu bodies: some reflections crossing in the light of the Laban/Bartenieff system

Marcilio de Souza Vieira

A Bolsista de Produtividade em Pesquisa – nível 2, Artista da Cena, Pós-Doutor em Artes e em Educação, Doutor em Educação, Professor do Curso de Dança e dos Programas de Pós-Graduação PPGArC, PPGEd e PROFARTES da UFRN. Líder do Grupo de Pesquisa em Corpo, Dança e Processos de Criação (CIRANDAR) e Membro pesquisador do Grupo de Pesquisa Corpo, Fenomenologia e Movimento (Grupo Estesia/ UFRN), Brazil

Correspondence: Marcilio de Souza Vieira, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte/ Brazil, Campus Universitário - Lagoa Nova, Natal - RN, 59078-970, Brazil

Received: January 15, 2024 | Published: February 2, 2024

Citation: Vieira MS. Maracatu bodies: some reflections crossing in the light of the Laban/Bartenieff system. Open Access J Sci. 2024;7(1):31-39. DOI: 10.15406/oajs.2024.07.00212

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This text deals with the approximations of the Maracatu dance, a typical dance from the Northeast region of Brazil, with some concepts and practices coined by the Laban/Bartenieff System and aims to identify and analyze the basic movements/steps of three emblematic characters in the Maracatu dance. of this fun, namely: the caboclos, the dama-do-paço and the baianas. The methodological contribution comes from Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology in particular from the researcher's lived world and the sensitive senses of the Maracatu phenomenon.

Keywords: playing, body, dance, maracatu, Laban/Bartenieff system


This text deals with the similarities between the Maracatu dance and some concepts and practices coined by the Laban/Bartenieff System. Its objective is to identify and analyze in the Maracatu dance the basic movements/steps of three emblematic characters of this celebration, namely: the caboclos, the dama-do-paço and the baianas. This analysis is based on the categories Body, Effort, Space and Shape of the Laban/Bartenieff System. The methodological contribution comes from Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology in particular from the researcher's lived world and the sensitive senses of the Maracatu phenomenon.

My experience with Maracatu starts from observing this festivities,1 as well as the joke2as a joker.3 To deepen the research, I visited Maracatu groups in the Zona da Mata of Pernambuco/Brazil, talked to Masters and players, participated in rehearsals and workshops given in periods close to the Brazilian carnival. This time, my world lived with Maracatu is the experience of observation and, above all, of doing-learning by playing with the Masters of this game. This positioning implies a perspective of understanding fun not only to be contemplated and admired from a distance, but also to be experienced with the whole body in all its dimensions, whether aesthetic, artistic or festive.

The phenomenological understanding of revelry is based on movement, in this sense, perception is an event of existence, and the body is the creator of meanings, a horizon that breaks with the subject on one side and the object on the other. Phenomenology does not abandon indexes, it is known that the data are insufficient to provide an answer to life. From this perspective of looking at research, it recognizes the historicity, intentionality, error, uncertainty and incompleteness of things, opening itself up to experiences through the notion of the lived world or lived experience of the body that is presence in and with the world in the movement of looking at Maracatu festivities. Although this research does not account for the complexity of the knowledge of the aforementioned fun, the lived world or life-world in all its complexity is assumed to be what is there, involving the person who lives the experience, interpreting it and appropriating it.

By bringing together experiences with/from Maracatu and experiences with the Laban/Bartenieff System, the intention was to seek in the festivities some answers to the experience with the Labanian system and how this could be applied to popular festivities, in particular Maracatu, bringing the light of knowledge through experiencebasic movements/steps of the characters Caboclos, the Dama-do-paço and Baianas, essential characters in a Maracatu procession. Thus, the criteria used to identify basic steps of the aforementioned characters started from the categories Body, Effort, Space and Form ofLaban/Bartenieff system.

From the Body category, we observe and experience postural organization and neurokinesiological development from central radiations (from the navel to the extremities of the body), the body in homologous organization (upper-lower), the mobility-stability of the lower limbs, the bony connections of the head -tail/coccyx and the body organization of the aforementioned characters in contralaterality or crossed sides. From the Effort category, we were interested in the qualities of weight movement, space, time and flow, as well as the combinations of these factors to conduct states, impulses and expressive phrasing. In the Space category, the relations of spatial harmony with Bartenieff's bodily foundations and the personal and collective cinesphere. With regard to the Shape category, we were interested in the body plasticity of the characters as an experience and observation. Caboclos, Dama-do-paço and Baianas do Maracatu and their relationships in fluid, linear directional, three-dimensional and other forms created by the bodies of the aforementioned characters. And also, the basic Effort actions and basic Body actions.

1Cascudo (1992) designates revelry as any folkloric, dramatic, collective and structured event, sometimes prioritizing the dramatic element, sometimes the toy. In revelry, the individual provisionally assumes one or more roles in the presentation. Dramatic, not only in the sense of being a theatrical representation, but also because it presents a specifically spectacular element, consisting of the procession, its organization, dancing and singing. Collective, as it is fully and spontaneously accepted by a certain community; and with structuring, because through the gathering of its participants, through periodic rehearsals, it acquires a certain stratification (CASCUDO, 1992). The term folguedo for Vieira (2012) refers to popular culture parties, with their performances, choreography, musicality and characters.

2Play is the way traditional popular dances are commonly treated in Brazil.

3Brincante is the performer, the Zona da Mata worker, the actor, the person who plays Maracatu.

Maracatu: historical reflections

The Maracatu4 goes through popular constructions in their mythical-religious, dancing, musical and ritualistic representations and has undergone numerous modifications since its origins to the present day. It is a traditional event, surrounded by symbols, characterized by drumming and an imposing dance, with turns and striking steps, in which the dancer's body is placed in a proud manner, enhancing and reaffirming itself in a historical process of resistance.

Maracatu is a typical dance from the Northeast region of Brazil. Andrade1 will say that they are real processions and that they seem to represent what the colonial Congos and Congadas were like before they acquired the meaning of dramatic dance. According to this author, the word Maracatu originally designated a percussion instrument, and then, by extension, the dance that was danced to its sound. Maracatu is properly speaking a royal procession, which parades with all the solemnity inherent to royalty.

It is also Andrade1 who will say that the Maracatus consist of several special characters, without any dramatic purpose. “[...] Some, with a merely technical function, in the procession are perfectly assimilable to the individualized figures of the cordons and carnival ranches throughout the country”.

It seems to be consensual among researchers such as Andrade1 and Medeiros2 the origin of Maracatu in the ancient coronations of African kings and queens, carried out by black people in Brazil, and which had the protection of the “white master” and the consent of the Catholic church. Even though black people originate from different tribes or regions of the African continent (Benguelas, Cabindas, Congos, Nagôs, Mozambiques), the coronations of the kings of the Congos were the most prominent and well-known in the associations of the Irmandades de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homem Pretos and of São Benedito, although the exact reason is not known.

Medeiros2 says that Maracatu Rural dates back to the beginning of the 20th century in the middle of the sugarcane fields of the Zona da Mata of Pernambuco, formed essentially by people cutting sugar cane. According to the author, it is “[...] a typical and above all spontaneous manifestation of sugarcane growers, who live in a region characterized by major social problems”;2 Maracatu Nação, which is older than the rural one, is considered an offshoot of the congadas and the result of the need of black people to preserve the historical, linguistic and cultural ties of their nations.

Gathering first in clans, brotherhoods, clubs and black associations to express their devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary and other saints, as Ramos3 explains, black Brazilians carried out processions with songs, festive carnival dances, characters and their own costumes, according to their regions, customs and religious survival. The royal procession was destined for the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, where it was mandatory to stop, singing verses in honor of the patron saint of the Rosary and Saint Benedict. One of the songs that is quite common among Maracatu groups mentions Our Lady of the Rosário.

Maracatu finds its essence in relations with Afro-Brazilian religions, with indigenous influence and descendants in the quilombos of Pernambuco. It is a symbol of the Pernambuco carnival with its color, strength and exuberance of its characters who go out in procession, especially in the Pernambuco carnival scene. Its configuration, according to Lara4 is composed of a court dressed “in royal fashion” (Figure 1) with king, queen, dukes, princes and princesses. Due to the positions, they occupy, they move majestically, with refinement. Elements of the court such as dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses, also move, even when dressed in refined clothes, following the body technique that identifies Maracatu, although not with as many turns as the Bahian women.

Figure 1 Maracatu Nação Pernambuco Parade.
Note: photograph without authorship of the royal procession of the Maracatu Nação Pernambuco group. The image refers to the group's 30th anniversary, reported by the newspaper Brasil de facto, Pernambuco on January 24, 2020. ( CC BY 3.0

In addition to the royal court, there are also characters such as baianas, Dama do Passo, flag bearer or standard bearer, slaves, caboclos de pena and the musical group (batuqueiros) that accompanies the procession. In addition to the aforementioned characters, people dressed in orixás' clothing perform in this event, dancing according to their characteristic Candomblé gestures.

The body dressed in the clothes of the orixás mixes the technical gestures typical of Maracatu and the orixá that is dressed. There are hunting movements with bow and arrows, warlike situations with swords, jumps, turns, body movements and facial expressions such as lip protrusion, frowning, and seriousness. The masters of the jurema perform the body technique specific to Maracatu (already explained), adding the gestures present in the jurema, such as the effect of drunkenness, the seductive body, the closed facial expression, carrying bottles of cachaça, cigars and others.4

The sound of musical instruments such as alfaias, gonguês, mineiros and boxes identify the rhythm of Maracatu. All maracatus have a board and in the state of Pernambuco they can be named Maracatu Rural or Baque-solto and Maracatu Nação or Baque-virado.

Maracatu Nação is, according to Medeiros2 a warrior ritual, the result of protests by slaves and their descendants. The aforementioned author deduces, from historical documents, that this maracatu is an offshoot of the Congadas and also that its origin is of a political nature of contestation and opposition to black people allied with the dominant classes in imperial Brazil. Medeiros2 adds that Maracatu Nação or Baque-virado “[...] resulted from the presence of Africans in religious brotherhoods and in the liberation process of slaves and their descendants”. Regarding the term baque-virado, the author informs that it derives from the percussion instruments used by this maracatu as a doubled touch of gonguês, snare drums, boxes and drums. Musically, “[...] the measure is resumed at each quaternary cycle, the first being much stronger, giving the idea of ​​turning the measure around”.2

Maracatu Rural was born and grew with sugar cane workers. Its creation is linked to the history of discrimination and struggle of the sugarcane people and can be seen as religious, ethnic, playful and musical. According to Medeiros2 sugarcane growers express their struggles, revolts and conflicts in this cultural manifestation. It cannot be denied that this maracatu “[...] emerges within a very clear class society and is also [...] a political, ideological expression, a way of contesting the oppressive reality”.2 Scholars of this maracatu say that it probably arose from the cambinda groups, which was a game played by male groups dressed in women's clothing. The term baque-loose was given by maestro Guerra Peixe in the 1950s. Baque is synonymous with touch and baque-loose is the rhythm with the presence of wind and percussion instruments in its orchestra.

Given these historical considerations about Maracatu, we are interested, as already announced at the beginning of this text, in the characters of Caboclo de Lança, Baiana and Dama do paço with their movements, movements and body movements.

4The term maracatu would originate from Guarani phonemes, believes Mário de Andrade, as it came from maraca - an Amerindian percussion instrument - and catu - good and beautiful in Tupi. Thus, the two terms maraca-catu could have been merged and the word maracatu could have been created. Guerra Peixe disagrees with this argument, claiming that to admit this hypothesis the maraca should have participated with a certain relevance in the maracatu instrumental, which was not found. The rhythmic nature of the instruments in the procession does not indicate the participation of an Amerindian instrument. Therefore, he believes that the word is of African origin, designating a dance practiced by members of the Bondos tribe, near Luanda, at the time of Portuguese colonization. See Andrade, Mário de. Dramatic dances from Brazil. São Paulo: Itatiaia, 1982. See Peixe, Guerra. Maracatus do Recife. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro: Irmãos Vitali S/A, 1980.

Caboclo de Lance, Baiana and Dama do Paço

The emblematic figure of Maracatu are the caboclos, seen in Figure 2, who perform (or attempt) the gesture typical of caboclinhos, with the clicks of their preacas and simulations of hunting or war. The caboclos, with very shiny clothes, maintain the basic body technique of Maracatu, plus the clicking of the spear and the noise of the rattles and jumps typical of the caboclinhos' manifestation. Their dance is full of twirls, spins, squats, jumps and crossed steps.

Figure 2 Caboclo with feather.
Note: photograph by Ana Patrícia Almeida at the Encontro de Maracatus Rurais in 2018. The event took place in Zona da Mata in Pernambuco during the 2018 carnival period. ( CC BY 3.0

They are responsible for protecting the entire procession. As a spectacularization of the caboclo figure, he became a symbol of the people and culture of Pernambuco. An enigmatic character, in the period leading up to carnival, they go through a process of spiritual closure of the body and in this ritual, they drink a mixture called azougue to stay “[...] agitated and active for many hours and throughout carnival”.5

The Baianas (Figure 3) with their long flowing dresses perform synchronized choreographic sequences with turns, crossing each other, alternating movements of arms and legs. The gyre is one of the predominant characteristics of the scenic evolution of Bahia. This body technique of turning is learned by looking and repeating. The Bahian women's gestures resemble the movements of the orixás' dances: lots of turns, short steps, with shoulder movements, hip swaying, arm flexion and balancing.4 Such gestures are voluminous, expanded, evoking a different way of dancing in relation to all the other characters in Maracatu. His gestures are close to the way of dancing of the Xangô orixá.

Figure 3 Baianas.
Note: photography by Lenne Ferreira ( CC BY 3.0

These gestures in the Bahian dance can be defined, in general, by the waddling in different directions, the turns and alternating balancing of arms flexed along the body. The rhythm of the drumming itself seems to lead to this movement.

The Lady of the Palace (Figure 4) is a character who carries in one of her hands a doll called Calunga5“[...] almost always made of wood and black, dressed in royal fashion (a silk dress), it is certainly one of the fetishes, one of the very curious representations of Maracatu and which reinforces its mythical-religious function”.4 The function of the Lady of the Palace and Calunga in the Maracatu procession is mythical-religious.

Figure 4 Lady of the Palace.
Note: Lady of the Palace with Calunga in praise of Our Lady of Conceição. Photograph of Maracatu Nação Almirante do Forte, 2011. ( CC BY 3.0

The palace ladies bring the joy and mysticism of the doll. They rotate a lot, always keeping their arm high to support the calunga and give it movement. The flowy dresses make the gestures enriched, with the turns facilitating the visualization of the swaying walk. It is the drumming that stimulates the frenetic movement of the body, the ecstasy of parading and dancing.4

Calunga has powerful totemic functions relating to the spiritual protection of the group and, in some maracatus groups, only the Lady of the Palace has access to the doll which is a mix of totem and protector of the fun.

It is clear from the three Maracatu characters that the gesture is an individual/collective construction, always being (re)elaborated. Although mythical, repeated with each new presentation, with each new time-space, it is permeated with different meanings.

Even though there are different body techniques, [...] when talking about Maracatu and the dancing body, the characteristic gesture is marked by the swinging of the arms, turns and waddling walks. It is this gestural peculiarity of Maracatu that is similar to the movement of the children of saints in the Candomblé terreiros. Such similarity is not strange, given the black origin of these cultural and religious manifestations.4

It is through dancing gesture, through music, through drumming, through speech, that the players present their dance, their fun. One can see in Maracatu the gesture as the commentator of the word. Its variety is given, namely, by the Labanian Effort category with its qualities of weight, space, time and fluency, as can be seen in its spatial harmony, in its shapes and in the player's own body.

Having presented the Maracatu characters as a result of our reflection, we now analyze them as emblematic characters of this fun. This analysis is based on the categories Body,6 Effort, Space and Shape of the Laban/Bartenieff System. For this analysis, we start with the following questions: Which factors of Labanian movements are most used? What are the most used body actions? The Table 1 below summarizes the analysis of the aforementioned characters:


Spear caboclo

Lady of the palace



upper body and lower body;

breathing, central irradiation, head-coccyx connection, homologous connection;

bony connections, weight transfer for locomotion, gradual rotation, spatial intention

mobility in the upper part of the body and stability in the lower part; gradual rotation at the top, spatial intention;


dynamic alignment, movement initiation and sequencing, spatial intention; contralaterality


direct space,

fast time,

strong weight and contained fluency

indirect space,

fast time,

light weight and

free fluency

indirect space,

fast time,

strong weight and

free fluency


linear and arcade directional shape

basic shapes: needles and flat

three-dimensional shape

basic shapes: spiral and rounded

ascending (vertical emphasis), spreading (horizontal emphasis), advancing (sagittal emphasis)

three-dimensional shape

basic shapes: spiral and rounded

ascending (vertical emphasis), spreading (horizontal emphasis), advancing (sagittal emphasis)


general kinesphere

vertical and sagittal planes

front-to-back and top-to-bottom dimensions

personal and general kinesphere

vertical plane, including the top vertical and side-to-side horizontal dimensions

personal and general kinesphere

vertical plane, including the top vertical and side-to-side horizontal dimensions

Basic Actions of Effort




to punch,


to score,

to twist


to twist,


Basic Actions

of Body

to spin,



to bend,

to spread,

support change, jump

to spin,



weight transfer

Table 1 Movement/step analysis
Note: explanatory table that analyzes the movement/step of the Maracatu characters based on the categories Body, Effort, Shape and Space of the Laban/Bartenieff System. Created by the author, 2015.

Reflections on the categories body, effort, shape and space (Laban/Bartenieff System)

To analyze the movement/step of the characters Caboclo de lance, Dama do paço and Baiana, it is necessary to locate where we started in light of the Laban/Bartenieff System. By observing the complexity of human movement in its daily actions, Laban was able to realize how multiple, complex and full of meanings and actions it is capable of producing. Therefore, Body and movement are producers of human existence, producers of Efforts that are constituted by the varieties of gestures; made up of Forms that refer to the plasticity of the body in the processes of configuring movement in relation to itself or other bodies and in exploring the expressive possibilities of human movement and its possible spatial organizations.

The Body category refers to the principles of movement and bodily foundations of Bartenieff (2002), the concepts and symbols of the body, the gesture/posture immersion that are intertwined with the other categories of Laban Movement Analysis, which can be exemplified: the principles of bone connections deal preferentially with stability/mobility, or the use of a certain principle of recovery from the effort undertaken by another; deals with action/recovery, the internal/external issues that can be evidenced in the current of movement and the principle of breathing.

In the wake of this thought of the Body enabling the creation and development of bodily connections and the possibility of manipulating movement, giving it a form of expressive gesture of an artistic nature, are the Bartenieff Fundamentals with specific purposes and their own characteristics.

It is worth highlighting that the symbols and concepts of the body are of fundamental importance in understanding this dancing body. They concern a representation, made from graphic symbols that show the possibilities of body organization as seen in Figure 5.6

Figure 5 Symbology of the Laban System of Movement.
Note: figure taken from the Thesis “The poetics in which the verb becomes flesh: a study of physical theater from the choreographic perspective of the Laban System of Movement" inJúlio Cesar de Souza Mota defended in 2006 atPostgraduate Program in Performing Arts atFederal university of Bahia. ( CC BY 3.0

One cannot refer to movement without reflecting on the movement factors studied and researched by Laban7 namely: weight, time, space and flow. They are present in all human movements and acts, as they happen at a certain time, have a way of being continuous or not, and happen in a space with a certain force. These factors refer to the Effort category developed by Laban in which dynamic qualities express the individual's internal attitude in relation to the aforementioned factors.Effort is the element that generates movement, its internal source; it is the result of four movement factors that make up the Effort category (Laban;Lawrence1974; Loureiro, 2013).8

Miranda9 will say that in the study of Efforts, we deal with the sensation, with the intention of the movement, how it is expressed, what attitude gives it life. Effort in Laban's nomenclature is not exerting force. He used the term to emphasize that movement is not just mechanical or physical, it also happens “inside” the body. There is an effort, that is, a movement that is already happening inside, which has emotions, sensations, thoughts, reasoning, directions, etc. that when they are imprinted in visible movement, showing themselves to the naked eye.10

Therefore, Laban observed that the four factors (space, weight, time and flow) are always present in the movement of human beings, with one quality being able to stand out more than the other, giving each individual their own personal characteristics. The weight factor considers the force of gravity, the kinetic force in which “[...] the body or parts of the body can be moved lightly or firmly, with all possible gradations between both extremes”,10 the static force that keeps the body in a state of active muscular tension and as for external resistance, this is offered by objects or people and external resistance “[...] So that the body remains in the position vertical, it is necessary to exert a force in an upward and downward direction” (idem).

Assuming that when you dance, you move, the body creates a game of actions, creating a dynamic of space, flow, weight and time, and that popular dances have a wealth of movements understood here in caboclo de casts, in the dama-do-paço and the baianas of Maracatu as a dynamic totality that is constantly restructured, because whoever dances transforms this body by multiplying it, diversifying it, making it several bodies that follow each other, considering the movement factor time.

This movement factor constitutes a structure for perception and, therefore, for language, communication and expression. When performing the Maracatu dance, the lance caboclo, the dama-do-paço and the baianas present a range of expressive gestures that are inscribed in time and space with a certain fluency and effort. It is in space and time that such a dance takes place.

The time factor is addressed in Maracatu as a bodily experience that allows the artist to perform the dynamic scene of fast and slow movement experienced in their body and in the body of others. Laban7 points out that in dance the time movement factor can present the aspects of speed (fast, normal, slow), rhythm (accelerated, delayed, moderate, slow), pause (retention of movement), accent (connotation of emphasis, given the execution of the movement) and unity (division of movement sequences by dividing it by binary, ternary, quaternary measures). Regarding this movement factor, Rengel10 clarifies that the qualities of time in dance are fast and/or slow and that the task of this factor is operability, its attitude is related to the decision and affects the intuition and execution of the movement.

The Form category concerns relationships or who we move with. The body in this category transforms when relating to itself, others and the environment. Form is understood not as a static place, but as a volume that is constantly changing and interacting. These volume changes can be differentiated into three distinct modes, namely: fluid shape, directional shape (linear and arcade) and three-dimensional shape.

The fluid form is self-centered, it emphasizes the relationship of the body with itself, the directional form (linear and arched) arises from the projection of the body volume in the direction of another being or object, the three-dimensional form arises as a result of the increase in motor skill arising from the body neurophysiological maturation process.11

Fernandes11 points out that in the fluid form the body has no spatial intention, no external attention to itself, but it can grow or shrink depending on the volume of the body. The directional shape (linear and arcade) can be understood as a source of connection with the world. Bodily actions such as flexion, extension, abduction and adduction are considered characteristics of this form. It also refers to the design of the path that the moving body takes in space.

The three-dimensional form deals with the creative interrelationship of the person with the environment. It happens in the three dimensional axes (vertical, horizontal, sagittal). “[...] It enables the creation of spirals that allow the body to wrap around beings and objects, at the same time as it sculpts the surrounding space, filling it and shaping it”.6 Rotation is the main body action.

In the Space category, it is necessary to think about the relationship of the body in space, as well as the relationship of the individual with space. It is also necessary to think about the body moving in space in its three-dimensional architecture (vertical, horizontal and sagittal axes), in the conception of the kinesphere, personal space, general space and movement in space.

Space would possibly be the legitimizing material that Laban would first find for his dance. Such Space as conceived by the aforementioned artist and dance theorist moves from an initial static formulation to a specialized dynamic. It is worth highlighting that when dealing with Space, Laban was also referring to personal space, or kinesphere, and general space. Personal space is defined by the movements of arms and legs at maximum extension, and according to Laban, it is the space circumscribed by a spherical surface. The general space is beyond and around this sphere, and can be modified by it when the body advances and occupies other positions.7,9

The Labanian Space is, in the words of Miranda9 and Almeida12 a space that cracks the logic of abstract geometry, because it creates, in addition to a static space, a spatiality full of dynamic, temporal, cultural and poetic forces.

The Maracatu player may not be aware of these categories, however, they, in a certain way, perform movements that, if observed correctly, present the characteristics mentioned above.

Come, my brave caboclo, come dance! Analysis of the Caboclo de lance dance

The dance of the lance caboclo is frenetic, with aggressive movements with the spears going up and down, jumping a lot, causing the caboclos to vibrate in a wild and deafening rhythm, as if they were in great danger or in an action of war. They run from side to side, shaking their spears as if they were a cornered animal, wanting to make a quick lunge and performing maneuvers called “falls”.

To execute these maneuvers, the caboclo body is its means of action and expression, it is the place of all “know-how”; He is the one who perceives, remembers, imagines and dances. This body of the Maracatu caboclo is understood as singular and multiple, inside/outside, like a band of moebius; there are no oppositions in this body, but the change in the strength of the movement.

In the gestures danced by these players, parts of the body are activated to give greater representation to the qualities of effort used in the Maracatu “game”. You can see in the dance of lance caboclos, movements with the lance up and down, twirling, spinning jumps, squatting and lifting movements, running forwards and backwards movements. It is possible to see in the lance caboclo, for example, which parts of his body are most activated: the upper part of the body and the lower part of the body, establishing independence between the parts Figure 6.

Figure 6 Body representation of the lance caboclo.
Note: drawing created by the researcher to represent the homologous connections of the lance caboclo. The design was created in 2015.

In this movement, some stages of development of body organization are recognized, such as breathing, central radiation, the head-to-coccyx connection and the homologous connection. It is still possible in the dance of these caboclos to recognize traces of the Bartenieff Fundamentals (2002), which proposes biomechanical integration, coordination, skill and efficiency in all development patterns: bone connections, weight transfer for locomotion, gradual rotation and spatial intention.

The danced movement of the caboclo player's body is, generally, punching, whipping, punctuating and twisting whether the upper part or the lower part. In addition to the basic actions of effort, this playful caboclo body flexes, bends, spreads, changes support from one leg to another, back and forth, and jumps to the frenetic rhythm of the batuqueiros' playing.

Such actions are complemented by displacement in direct space, controlled flow, strong weight, fast time, alertness, stable state, visual impulse in impulsive phrasing. This is because, as guardian of Maracatu, the caboclo has the function of protecting the royal court and the other characters of the festivities. In their spatial movements of the personal and general kinesphere, they use movements that start from the center to the periphery and from the periphery to the center, using the vertical and sagittal planes, the front-to-back dimensions; top and bottom and high, medium and low levels. The shapes observed in the movement of the caboclo generally present a linear and arched shape (Directional shape) and basic needle and flat shapes. When dancing, your body engages the upper and lower body, with central radiation and connections between the head and coccyx, homologous connection, weight transfer and spatial intention.

It can be inferred that in the lance caboclo's performance he uses movements that fill the space that go from the center to the periphery and from the periphery to the center. It is noticeable that there is a dynamosphere in this center-periphery filling that Loureiro8 defines as the space in which our dynamic actions take place. Laban will refer to dynamospheric currents that are Effort dialoguing with Space, placing this dancing individual in contact with the flow of changes and at the heart of the plasticity of the body understood as Form (Idem).

The weight in the evolution of the lance caboclo is always strong. Regarding the weight movement factor, Rengel10 says it is the quality of this factor in light and/or strong human movement. For the aforementioned author, “[...] the 'task' of the weight factor is assertiveness. It gives the person stability, security. The 'attitude' related to weight is intention, and it affects the sensation and perception of movement”.10

In the performance of the lance caboclo, the space is occupied by the evolutions of running, turns, jumps, stops. Rengel10 emphasizes that the “task” of the space factor is communication, which comes from this notion of self and others. According to Laban7 personal space can be occupied by the scene performer at three distinct levels: high, medium and low.

In this character's dance, movements related to a space that is opened by the lance caboclo, who imposes himself commanding violently, with his jumps and juggling, as if to protect and take care of the group's evolution, can also be identified. They form in two rows, pulled by the cabocaria master or caboclo boca de trencheira. Each row obeys the command of a caboclo in front, who conducts the maneuvers ordered by the master. The dance of the lance caboclos has a frenetic, wild ritual.4 The preponderant space is the direct one.

In Maracatu, the majority of the lance caboclo's movement has a directional shape, either linear or arched. When this player “attacks” or makes jumps, the linear directional shape with its flexions and extensions is perceived; When he performs the maneuvers called “falls” the presence of the arched directional shape is noticeable. The vertical planes are observed, mainly in jumps, and sagittal planes, mainly in attack movements. On this plane of operations, action, decision, memory, the front-back and top-bottom dimensions are presented in the caboclos' dance. It is still possible to perceive basic shapes such as needles and flats in the movements of spear caboclos.

The doll is made of wax and wood! Roda Bahiana, Roda meu gingado no Maracatu: analysis of the dance of dama do Paço and Baiana

In the Dama-do-paço dance, mobility is seen in the upper part of the body and stability in the lower part; there is gradual rotation at the top and also a spatial intention. Homolaterality predominates as a body organization, as shown in the Figure 7 below.

Figure 7 Representation of the Palace Lady's Body.
Note: drawing created by the researcher to represent the body in the Dama do Paço dance. The drawing was created in 2015. CC BY 3.0

In her dance, the Dama do paço holds the Calunga above her head and uses movements/steps that predominate mobility in the upper part of the body and stability in the lower part, there is a spatial intention and ipsilateral movements. The effort used in dance is generally in an indirect space, free flow, light weight, fast tempo. The dream states (weight and flow) that have the intention and progression of the development of the dance and remote states (flow and space) that intend on progression and attention predominate. It is still possible to observe in the dance the impulse of passion and the magical impulse and the swinging and emphatic phrasing.

In the Bahian dance, the dynamic alignment, the initiation and sequencing of movement, the spatial intention as a reference to the Bartenieff Fundamentals are noticeable; contralaterality predominates as a body organization Figure 8.

Figure 8 Representation of Baiana's Body.
Note: drawing created by the researcher to represent the body in the Baiana dance. Source: researcher's drawing, 2015. CC BY 3.0

Generally, space as a quality of Effort is indirect, time is fast, the weight is strong and the flow is free. They assume spiral and rounded shapes ascending (vertical emphasis) that spread (horizontal emphasis) and advance (sagittal emphasis) in space. In the spatiality of their dance, they occupy a personal and general kinesphere, with the vertical plane prevailing, which includes the vertical dimension above and the horizontal side-side.

As the two characters occupy the same space in the development of the Maracatu procession, some actions are common to both: Spins and swings of arms characterize the performance of the Dama-do-paço and the Bahians. The space factor refers to the individual's attention to their environment when moving. In the evolution of these players, the predominant space is always indirect; they are acting under one or numerous points of attention simultaneously. An indulging pole is observed in which this player presents an indirect space, a free flow, a light weight, but in a fast tempo.

They predominated in the movement/step of the Dama-do-paço and the baianas in the three-dimensional form. In their turns, hip swaying, shoulder movements and balancing, one can see an ascending (vertical emphasis) with a predominance of the light weight factor, a spreading (horizontal emphasis) predominating the indirect space factor and an advancing (sagittal emphasis) that preponderates the time factor that can have fast or slow movements. It is still possible to perceive basic shapes such as spirals and rounded shapes in the movement of these players.

In the Dama-do-paço dance, dream states (weight and flow) and remote states (flow and space) are preponderant. The first has intention and progression and the second states progression and attention. The preponderance in Bahia is the rhythmic (weight and time) and mobile (time and flow) states. States are configured by combinations of the elements that constitute the factors of weight and time - State, rhythmic -, weight and space - Stable state -, weight and flow - Dream state -, time and space - Alert state -, flow and time - Mobile state - and flow and space - Remote state – (Laban, 2011).

In the dama-do-paço and the baianas you can see a movement that fills the space, always starting from the periphery of their body. In this filling of Space in terms of Effort, there is action and recovery of movement. Laban7 himself will say that “[...] bodily attitudes, during movement, are determined by two main forms of action. One of these forms flows from the center of the body outwards, while the other comes from the periphery of the space that surrounds the body, towards the center of the body” (idem, p. 133).

In the dance of these players, we can see a space that is constantly changing, it is an integral part of the discourse of this artistic manifestation of tradition and there is no stable support structure in it. These players mark their Space with poetry, with joy, with courage and tradition.

5Calunga is commonly seen as a mythical symbol in the figure of egun (ancestor – king or queen) or orixás of Candomblé, subject to purification rituals for departures during carnival. It certainly represents one of the intriguing aspects of being, at the same time, a sacred object and a living presence (ancestor or orixá) to which everyone owes respect.

6The Body category (what moves) refers to the principles and bodily practices developed by Laban's disciple, Irmgard Bartenieff (Germany – 1900, United States – 1982) and her student Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. This category includes Bartenieff Movement Principles, Bartenieff Body Fundamentals – FCB (Bartenieff Fundamentals™, BF), Gesture/Posture Immersion, Body Parts and Body Actions. The FCB consist of six exercises, called The Basic Six, performed after nine Preparatory Exercises and their variations (Fernandes, 2002).

Other considerations

Laban (1990), when referring to movement, states that when human beings move, they perform bodily actions, such as floating, punching, sliding, whipping, scoring, twisting, dusting and pressing. In caboclo de lance, for example, basic actions of punching, whipping, scoring and twisting are ratified; in the dama-do-paço actions of sliding, dusting and pressing and in the baianas basic Effort actions of sliding, twisting and dusting, configuring themselves as Action Impulses.

In the execution of the movements of the Caboclo de lance, the Dama-do-paço and the baianas do Maracatu, the time movement factor predominates over the fast quality, as the steps follow fast music requiring fast movements. In these steps the speed, duration, accentuation and periodicity of each movement can be perceived.

In the flow or fluency factor of the movement, there is an emotional intention, feelings, emotion, sensation and combination in this dancing body for those who dance. This movement factor presents the qualities of free and/or contained flow. Laban (1990) will argue that in an action “[...] that can be stopped or contained without difficulty, at any time during the movement, the flow is conducted. In an action where the flow is difficult to stop the movement suddenly, the flow is free or fluid” (idem, p. 59). Following Laban, Rengel10 says that the task of the flow element is to assist in the integration of the artists in the scene, in a way that brings the sensation of bodily unity. It is necessary to emphasize that flow exists in the connection of movements to orient them in relation to them and other movements. Soon a controlled fluency is noticeable in the Caboclo de lance and free in the Dama-do-paço and the baianas.

It is possible to observe in the performance of these players the combination of two or three movement factors. The combination of two factors is called State, the combination of three factors is called Drive.

It is still possible to identify in these players Drives, which are combinations of three Effort elements: Action Drives, which Laban (2011) called basic Effort Actions that combine space, weight and time; Passion drive, characterized by the intentional use of weight, the sense of time and flow combined; Visual Impulse (Visual drive) in which attention to space is clear as well as the sense of time and the progression of the flow of movement and Magic Impulse (Spell drive) which combines flow, weight and space.8

Each of these forms of combination is related to very specific aspects of the manifestation of movements. The basic actions (or Action Impulses) have a markedly functional character and therefore the flow factor – whose variation can cause a lack of acuity in the action – remains latent and does not participate in an affective way in the action. In the Passionate Impulse it is the space factor that remains latent which can incur physical risk for the mover. However, if on the one hand the Passionate Impulse lacks spatial acuity, on the other hand, when activating the flow factor, it becomes more expressive, as it reintroduces the feeling. The Magical Impulse leaves the time factor in latency, which gives the movement a feeling of timelessness. The Visual Impulse, by leaving the weight factor in latency, attributes to the movement the quality of almost physical nullity and lack of intention, which is the mental aspect related to the weight factor.6

Therefore, Laban (2011) will point out that the flow in the Action Impulse remains latent while weight, space and time operate; when it replaces the qualities of weight the impulse becomes visual; when it replaces time, the impulse becomes magical and when it replaces space, bodily actions become particularly expressive of emotion and feelings, therefore the impulse of passion.

The impulse of passion and magic are noted in the movements of the Dama-do-paço and the visual impulse in the Caboclos de lance and there is a preponderance of the impulse of passion in the movements of the Bahianas.

It is necessary to understand which phrasings of Effort are present in the performance of these Maracatu players. In Caboclo de lance we see a crescent from top to bottom and an impulsive phrasing; In the movement of the Dama-do-paço and the Baiana, swinging and emphatic phrasing can be observed with strong accents in the turns of the Baianas (Figure 9).

Figure 9 Graphic representation of the Esforço phrasing of the caboclo de lance and the Baiana.
Note: drawing created by the researcher to represent the phrasing of Esforço by the caboclo de lance and the baiana. Source: researcher's drawing, 2015. CC BY 3.0

It is worth highlighting that the players analyzed use their kinesphere, as well as the general kinesphere, to present their dance. The kinesphere is understood as the space created and occupied by each person, composed of a center where spatial directions radiate, a periphery that emanates from this radiation and can be reached by the extremities of the limbs, and a space between the periphery and the center, where gestures multiply.8

In the danced movement of the Caboclo de lance, the Dama do paço and the baiana the cinesphere is sometimes personal, sometimes collective. Their bodies mobilize and are mobilized through space, revealing states of delicacy, but also of strength and precision of the danced movement/step. They show the trajectory of kinetic action in space defined by a direct and indirect spatial effort with defined spatial trajectories and with states of adaptability, openness, filling and interaction with the environment.

Such danced movements/steps can encounter kinetic states of total release, but also states of obstruction, caution and limit; as well as slid, dusted, punctuated, twisted actions, whose efforts are diametrically opposed, but which interrelate and inform each other and continuously.


For this study, we started from the principle that we are a body and that in its gestures, although singular, it carries traces of collectivity, it is possible to think of a plural body that can, in dance, be crossed by the teachings postulated by Laban and re-signified in contemporary times in the most various artistic manifestations of dance and in this text in particular, in Maracatu.13

In view of these notes, and seeking to synthesize what has been discussed so far, the body is still remembered as a sociocultural construction, whose gestures follow collective norms, established from the experience of a given manifestation, as well as historically constructed morality and aesthetics, transmitted to the players, but also rethought and (re)signified.

A Maracatu body is also pointed out that can be crossed by the Laban/Bartenieff System and that appears in the characters analyzed. Having investigated the Maracatu crossings through the Laban/Bartenieff System, three points are highlighted that are considered [...]significant to understand the dance of this Brazilian artistic manifestation in these Labanian crossings: A body as a work of art that communicates and expresses desires, requests and messages, which transgresses the linearity of dance as possibilities for annulling difference. These bodies presented by Maracatu produce in us spectators with an uneducated and Apollonian look, perceiving a dance that transgresses, breaks, but, above all, resizes linear practices in dance, allowing the foundation of hybrid processes of languages, between dance, theater, rite making a combination of these languages ​​in a complex process resulting in a Dionysian scenic construction. An understanding of the dancing body in new dimensions based on Festive Culture as an element of Coreosophy,7 giving rise to new sensibilities, new visibilities of this playing/dancing body, as well as new poetics and aesthetics for the dance I’m “own body” in the sensitive experience of “being-in-the-world”, in the order of what is experienced, in the field of the esthesiological, the chiasm, the betweencrossed by Labanian concepts and their approximations with the Brazilian Maracatu.

That Maracatu body, in our reflection is crossed by Space, Form and Effort as punctuated in the text. Such categories imply a festive culture that is ritualized in the daily routine of Brazilian traditional dances, such as Maracatu. Based on the categories listed, the feeling of work, religion and leisure that awaken in the population of Maracatu, the sense of "party" that expands with games and, above all, with musicality and dance, clear and strong expressions in the way of being of individuals playing maracatus.

As a sensitive example, the maracatus bodies dance, tap, get drunk and are intoxicated by the party in its playful and festive porosity. This results in a dance form that transgresses, breaks, and reshapes linear practices, creating a hybrid of dance, theater, and ritual. Bodies considered artistic expressions that communicate desires, breaking away from the linear nature of traditional dance. Bodies that, in their singularities, present themselves as in the sensitive experience of "being-in-the-world," exploring esthesiological aspects, chiasm, and intersections between Labanian concepts and the Brazilian Maracatu.14–17

7Coreosophy encompassesthe World of Silence, theFestive Culture and Action and Recovery. Coreosophy is understood as a multidisciplinary field that dialogues with anthropology, sociology, music, anatomy, ergonomics, education, among other fields of human knowledge.This author has a great conceptual system for thinking about human existence constituted by his daily gestures. When thinking about Coreosophy, Laban established a thought/action of a philosophy, an ontology for the body and movement.



Conflicts of interest

The author declares there is no conflict of interest.


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