Candomblé and the Dance of the Orixás
The African diaspora has contributed preponderantly to Brazil's
cultural profile. The religious beliefs brought from Africa helped
the black population keep alive the roots which gave meaning to the
world around them.
Their divinities, the Orixás, representing different forces of
nature, manifest themselves during the ceremony of Candomblé.
Particular drum-rhythms and dances invite the Orixás to come down
and "ride" the devotee. Each Orixá, male or female, has its own
toque (drum-beat) and dance whose quality of energy and pattern of
movements are fixed according to the different "nations" (Ketu,
Angola, Jêjê). When the devotee falls into a trance becoming the
"horse" of the Orixá, s/he is dressed with the costume and
attributes of the divinity and continues to dance in an altered
state of consciousness.
The rhythm of the drums of the Candomblé, when brought out of
the terreiro (the ceremonial space), acquired a new character which
became extremely popular and, in the eyes of foreigners, the
quintessence of Brazil - the samba.
In the fifties, the dance of the Orixás also began to be used
outside the context of the Candomblé, first by folkloric ensembles,
later as the basis for a specific Afro-Brazilian style which has
been elaborated by many choreographers and dancers.