RIO DE JANEIRO – “Funk carioca,” a stigmatized dance form associated with the lowest socioeconomic strata in Brazil, has become a weapon of empowerment for women in their efforts to combat discrimination and violence.
Taisa Machado, an actress, dancer and instructor of funk carioca, which originated in Rio de Janeiro and has spread to several regions of Brazil and even Argentina, has chosen “pleasure and freedom” as slogans for the classes she teaches in the bohemian Rio neighborhood of Lapa.
“Women come here and are able to tap into their sensuality. Funk is not easy, but dancing and feeling powerful become inevitable. Within that universe, I see that my white students experience that aspect of their bodies with more freedom than the women from the district I come from,” she told EFE.
The social stigma attached to funk carioca is “the criminalization of poverty and a reflection of racism,” the 30-year-old Machado said.
She says the repulsion for this dance form grows stronger still – and is interwoven with machismo – when it’s “a black woman from the favelas (shantytowns) who is dancing to the music.”
Funk carioca, which is derived from hip hop and is based around the synthesizer and drum machine, is an explosion of eroticism, the dancer says.
“Sexuality is one of the biggest prisons for women. It’s a great taboo to assume that (a woman) has pleasure or even that she wants to have it, (and that) shows men’s control over women’s bodies, which is clearly seen in femicides,” she said.
Machado said her classes also serve as a “very balanced gathering point,” with women of all different ages and from a range of socioeconomic strata and areas of Rio de Janeiro participating.
The message of empowerment is a particularly important one for the Afro-Brazilian community, who represent 54 percent of Brazil’s population and continue to struggle with the scourges of racism and machismo.
In a country with notoriously high rates of violent crime, blacks or multi-racial people account for roughly 75 percent of the victims.
Thursday marked the latest observance of International Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women’s Day, an occasion that has acquired special significance in Brazil since the Jan. 1. 2019, inauguration of rightist President Jair Bolsonaro, a divisive figure who has a history of making racist, homophobic and misogynistic remarks.