Forró in Zurich

Forró came to Zurich around 2006, it has since steadily grown into one of the stable social dances the Zurich scene enjoys. Currently there are 4 active groups & dance schools growing Forró, and 1-2 dancing events every week! 

DanceZouk.ch is a school founded by Eric Fehr in 2014. Some of the things that set DanceZouk apart are a great location since 2018, 1 minute walk from Central, and a teaching methodology focused on solid technique and knowledge of both sides of the dance, following and leading. Our students learn in small groups, providing a more individual learning experience.

All over Europe the popularity of Forró increased immensely over the last 10 years. Since 2008, when "Forró de Domingo", the first Forró festival outside of Brazil, was held in Stuttgart, the international community grew to more than 70 international festivals outside of Brazil.

Forró's origins

The term Forró refers not only to a dance but also to a musical genre, a rhythm and the event itself where Forró music is played and danced. Forró is an important part of the Northeastern Region of Brazil. It encompasses various dance styles as well as a number of different musical genres. The music genres and dances have gained widespread popularity in all regions of Brazil, especially during the Brazilian June Festivals. Forró also becomes increasingly more popular all over the world, with a well-established Forró community in Europe.

A theory on the origin of forró music is that it originated on the farms and plantations in Ceará and all over northeast Brazil, where farmers and workers used to sing to the cows and together with each other as they gathered coffee and other crops like sugarcane, corn, and vegetables. They had a different song for each crop, and for each phase of the collection. As the farmers and field hands corralled cows and carried crops from the fields into the houses and cafes, the songs came with them, and everybody joined in singing together. From there, talented local singers began performing the songs at parties and gatherings, and sometimes they did informal competitions with competing viola (guitar) players in freestyle rap-like improvisations. Originally the large metal triangle, zabumba (Afro-Brazilian drum) and guitar (called the viola) were the main instruments. Later on, with the French immigration between 1850 and 1950, the accordion was added to typical forró bands. The rabec, known as the Brazilian fiddle, joined the forró sound as well. The rebec has sephardic origins, and is possibly descended from the Arabic "rabeba" which may have arrived in Brazil by way of the Portuguese, who use the Rabeca Chuleira (Portugual having absorbed Arab influence dating back to the Moor's occupation from 711–1300 AD), or with the great Arab migrations to northeast Brazil in the late 1800s to 1930s from Syria and Lebanon.

Why the name Forró?

 

Here the theories diverge. Some claim that the name Forróis an abbreviation of the word forrobodówhich means a great partyor commotion. Others swear by the theory that the word forróis a derivative of the English expression for all. In case of the latter, Forró would definitely live up to the origin of its name as Forró and the people who dance it are very welcoming to all.

Forró - The dance

There are various rhythms of forró: xote (a slower-paced rhythm), baião (the original forró) and arrasta-pé (the fastest), and forró itself. Amongst these there are many styles of dancing, which varies from region to region, and may be known by different names according to the location. Forró is danced in pairs. There are two dance roles, one of the leader and one of the follower. Especially in European forró communities, there is a trend to break and discuss the traditional gender roles of leading men and following women. Unlike many other social dances it becomes more and more common to see same-ex couples on the dance floor or leading women and following men. 

Forró is danced usually very close together, with the leader's left hand holding the follower's right hand, the leader's right arm around the follower's back and the follower's left arm around the leader's neck. Other styles may require to stay partially away, or in a considerable distance, only holding their hands up the shoulders.

Influences from Cuban Salsa, Samba de Gafieira and Zouk has given mobility to forró, with the follower— and occasionally the leader— being spun, although it's not essential to spin at all. The more complex movements may prove impossible to be executed in the usually crowded dancing area of forrós. Below is a list of the most popular styles of forró in Brazil:

XOTE

  • xote: a basic style, danced close together in a left-left-right-right movement and has no spinning or variations;

  • forró-love: similar to xote but with a strong influence from zouk-love;

  • universitário: the most popular style outside the Northeast, much like the xote, but with the partners moving forward and backward, much like traditional bolero. It contains many variations of movements;

  • miudinho: the leader dances with their left side slightly tilted, their left hand on the follower's waist and both the follower's hands around the leader's neck. It is danced in the same place (mobility can be gained through spinning) and has a lot of hip movements;

  • puladinho/manquinho: is danced with the leader's right leg still and their left leg marking the beats on the ground, while the follower with their left leg still and their right leg moving (the partners can exchange the leg positions, although it's not common);

  • merenguinho: the partners move along the sides, with movements similar to merengue dance;

  • cavalguinho: much like the puladinho, but with the leader and follower marking both their legs on the ground in alternate tempos, as if riding a horse.

​BAIAO

  • baião/pé-de-serra: basically a style of xote, but with the partners tilting to the sides and moving their legs less to follow the faster rhythm;

  • cacau: comes from Paraíba, in which the partners dance slightly away from each other in very fast leg movements;

  • amassa-cacau: a variation of cacau from Ceará, it's danced less close and demands a lot of hip movements, with the legs mimicking a person squeezing cacao;

  • valsado: danced close together, consists of moving along the sides, crossing the legs in front of each other;

  • valsadão: same as valsado, but danced slightly away from each other. It is, together with universitário, the richest style in terms of movements and variations;

  • forrófieira: a newer style, mixes the traditional forró with steps and influence from samba de gafieira, and it has become quite popular in Rio de Janeiro and some parts of Northeast.

  • baião/pé-de-serra: basically a style of xote, but with the partners tilting to the sides and moving their legs less to follow the faster rhythm;

  • cacau: comes from Paraíba, in which the partners dance slightly away from each other in very fast leg movements;

  • amassa-cacau: a variation of cacau from Ceará, it's danced less close and demands a lot of hip movements, with the legs mimicking a person squeezing cacao;

  • valsado: danced close together, consists of moving along the sides, crossing the legs in front of each other;

  • valsadão: same as valsado, but danced slightly away from each other. It is, together with universitário, the richest style in terms of movements and variations;

  • forrófieira: a newer style, mixes the traditional forró with steps and influence from samba de gafieira, and it has become quite popular in Rio de Janeiro and some parts of Northeast.

ARRASTA-PE

arrasta-pé can only be danced to its own style, much like a very fast xote, but alternately marking the beats on the ground with both legs.

Miudinho and puladinho can be danced to baião music and even to arrasta-pé, but in the latter the leg work is so intense that it's impracticable. Some people like to include brega/calypso in the forró category, because this dance has suffered much influence of forró throughout the decades, but it's danced to its own rhythm (not to be confused with calypso music).

The Music

Forró is traditionally played with three instruments: the triangle and the zabumba(Afro-Brazilian drum) serving as basic rhythmic instruments with the sanfona(accordion) playing the main melody. Occasionally this trio is accompanied by other instruments such as the viola(guitar), cavaquinho(Brazilian ukulele), flute or Brazilian fiddle. Forró has several rhythms of which the most important ones are xote(a slower-paced rhythm), baião(the original Forró), and arrasta-pé(the fastest of the three).

Here is a Spotify playlist of Forró dance music.