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Brazilian dance craze gains national recognition

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – It all started with nifty leg movements, strong steps backwards and forwards, paced to Brazilian funk music. Then it adopted moves from break dancing, samba, capoeira, frevo – whatever was around.

The passinho, a dance style created in the 2000s by kids in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, was declared in March to be an “intangible cultural heritage” by legislators in the state of Rio, bringing recognition to a cultural expression born in the sprawling working-class neighbourhoods.

The creators of passinho were young kids with plenty of flexibility – and no joint problems.

They started trying out new moves at home and then showing them off at funk parties in their communities and, crucially, sharing them on the Internet.

In the early days of social media, youngsters uploaded videos of their latest feats to Orkut and YouTube, and the style started spreading to other favelas. A competitive scene was born, and youth copied and learned from the best dancers, leading them to innovate further and strive to stay on top.

“Passinho in my life is the basis of everything I have,” dancer and choreographer Walcir de Oliveira, 23, said in an interview. “It’s where I manage to earn my livelihood, and I can show people my joy and blow off steam, you understand? It’s where I feel happy, good.”

Brazilian producer Julio Ludemir helped capture this spirit and discover talents by organising “passinho battles” in the early 2010s. At these events, youth took turns showing off their steps before a jury that selected the winners.

The Out of Doors festival at New York’s Lincoln Center staged one such duel in 2014, giving a US audience a taste of the vigorous steps. Passinho breached the borders of favelas and disconnected from funk parties that are often associated with crime.

Youth perform a street dance style known as passinho for their social media accounts, in the Rocinha favela of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO: AP