Recently, Forró has really started to gain attention in New York, a city known for its Broadway musicals, legendary jazz clubs and big concert halls. New York is place for the unimaginable, and here, forró has gained a space of its own. It began on small stages and in tiny venues, gaining followers from all nationalities. People who wanted to get together to intertwine their bodies and minds, smile and share happy moments.
It's hard to imagine that a city with such a small scene would host a big forró festival, but the reality is New York City is one of the most multicultural cities on the planet where anything is possible. But how did this all get started? How is it possible that a city that up until last year had no regular forró classes, and had musicians that would question its viability, can suddenly transform and host such a grand event with a wide audience?
In 2017 and 2018, the New York scene grew and reinvigorated itself creating the perfect scenario for such a production. In a little over a year, a city that had only two venues playing forró and only a few active dancers, now has parties and classes happening almost daily, and to everybody's surprise - our first international forró festival! Inspired by this thriving scene, Eliano Braz (Brazilian musician) and Marla Guttman (American lawyer) came together and created the "New York Forró Fest 2018", the first produced by New Yorkers. Different than a previous attempt to put together a festival here, Eliano and Marla had an enormous amount of support by the local forró community. It was a beautiful event made possible because of the participation of our group of forrozeiros.
Dancers from Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Montreal and even from Europe came to take part in classes, watch shows and dance non-stop. The festival consisted of a total of 28 dance classes packed into 3 days for all levels and tastes, along with 4 nights of parties with live musical performances. Each musician, instructor and dancer came here and brought a little bit of their history, experiences and swing; all shared in a friendly environment. I did everything I could to collaborate with the organization of the event because I myself am such a forró enthusiast! So many people came together and contributed in various ways and made the festival a great success. It was all worth it!
I believe this is the first time New York has seen so many great forró dancers come together like this. Besides the well attended and super fun parties, the classes were something very dear to me. It was a great opportunity to take classes with instructors who are building their own forró scenes here in North America, and also to welcome many talented people coming from Europe and Brazil.
Since I am very familiar with the people in our New York scene, I knew that this cultural exchange would be very well received by our community. Forró is a genre with great freedom, it allows space for the existence of various styles; multifarious in its regionalism. In this context, it was a goal of ours to present this diversity to our students, exemplified by the diversity of our instructors. As an instructor myself, I felt very happy to see some of my own students, who have been with me for some time, become models and references for newcomers.
Another very special part of the festival for me was teaching a class that put together two of my great passions, music and dance. During the festival a small dream of mine came true, to teach the forró music elements to a live trio along with introduction to music theory and analysis. We were able to give a dance class using a beautiful original composition by accordionist Felipe Hostins, an active musician in the city. Based off of his music, I was able to talk about the music and demonstrate the dance with Camila Alves (a talented instructor from Lisbon, Portugal), my partner during the festival (see video below). Along with these gifted artists, I was able to incite in our students the experimentation with sound and movement.
The NY Forró Fest 2018 was a historic event that put New York on the map for more forró festivals. This event will serve as impulse for more dancing, more classes, more shows and more parties. There were a lot of new friendships formed with active forrozeiros that are giving forro a great name in cities throughout the U.S. We have prepared the soil here in New York for our scene to continue to flourish, and are already looking forward to the next festival!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Rafael Piccolotto de Lima is passionate about arts, a doctor of musical arts and a Latin Grammy nominee as a composer. For him all forms of expressions are somehow related. Based on that premise, his interest and work has a wide spectrum: from a tail tux at a concert hall, to the sandals at a worn-out dance floor. Born in Campinas, São Paulo - Brazil, now he lives at the Hudson waterfront, looking at the south of Manhattan.
Edited by: Nikki Baffa