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Corporeality - thoughts about partner dance

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Photo credit: Thais Aquino -
Rafael Piccolotto de Lima e Camila Alves - Forró New York
"of the nature of the physical body; bodily."

Today I share with you a recent experience of mine, a process in which I'm still very immersed. I am living a phase of new discoveries and explorations regarding my dance, part of a journey that started some time ago and is being intensified during this social distancing time that we live in now.

Last year I had the joy to host at my apartment and travel with two of my very favorite forró dancers and instructors: Camila Alves e Milena Morais. We were on a United States and Canada tour for a little more than two months. A time of great impact in my dance and life. And this was not by chance; I wanted to help the local forró dance scene to evolve and found myself in this privileged position to also fulfill a personal wish. The wish to be working with this two woman that I admire and to challenge the limits of my own dance.

Camila was here between August and September, Milena arrived in October. I said a very similar thing for both of them: "I want to enter in your dance universe, learn a little bit of your way of dancing, in a way, be able to see thru your eyes for a second". I also said that one of the main reasons for me to put all the effort to make this tour happen - and I tell you here, it was a lot - was to be able to challenge myself dancing and teaching with them.

Since my late teen years I understood the importance of surrounding myself and working with people that I admire. I believe that this is the way to have better chances to evolve in a desired direction and produce things that we are proud of. I have been doing this all my life, and this story is another example of it.

I asked both of them many times: what and how can I improve? What could I do differently in my dance? Both would not say much, they would ask time to think and then, intentionally or not, dodge the question. But at each dance, at each end of class or workshop that we were teaching together, I would feel very challenged. Every time we would do a short demonstration for the students or perform in a event I was challenged by the way they danced. And it was in a good way! I was challenged by my wish to be able to contribute more to that partnership.

I admit to you that it was sometimes frustrating to not know exactly how to improve, what exactly to do. My personal thoughts would follow the same route as their answers to my questions: undefined. Each dance I would experiment something different, take different approaches. There was no clear path in front of me.

In counterpoint to this frustration, this challenge was also very satisfying. I could feel the transformative power of these moments. I understand that, in a way, this was the beauty of it. The beauty of a creative process of adaptation.

Partner dance has this magic, it allows us to create unique experiences as a result of two individuals finding a middle ground between their corporeality, musicality and repertoire of moves. Dancing with them I could feel - more than ever - all this creative latency. Camila's and Milena's bodies would suggest the things that her words would not tell me. It was - and continue being - a process of rediscovery of my own body and movement possibilities in this dance form.

One particular night here at home, Milena and I decided to dance at the ioga room that the building where I live has. It is usually empty during late night hours. That night she finally made some more substantial comments about my dance, she said something that was somehow abstract for me at that occasion, but is making more sense to me now: "explore more your body in the dance". I didn't quite understood at the moment, even less envisioned a possibility of change.

We dance many songs and little by little she started to suggest a few possibilities for me to try. We explored this possibilities together and it was wonderful!

I knew it would be a much longer journey.

Now, months later, I believe that it all makes more sense. I continue to process and assimilate what I believe she wanted to tell me that night. My body continues to experiment what her bodies - Milena's and Camila's - showed me during this intense dancing months of 2019.

This journey has also very much to do with what I am living now. Since we entered in quarantine and I stoped teaching my regular 'in person' classes, I started to teach online. I have been very focused on exercises to explore the individual possibilities in the dance. Most of what I practice and teach my students is related to ways of expressing the music in their bodies, using the entire body. Corporeality and musicality.

During more than 15 years of dancing forró socially and 3 years teaching it on weekly basis, my focus was mostly on making the dance flow with my partners, to develop a comfortable embrace and execute moves in a musical way. Now, since these recent episodes, I feel like the exploration of my whole body in the dance is becoming another big focus of my practices. I see more possibilities for my movements.

Almost 3 months of isolation have past and I have been dancing a lot by myself. It has been a challenging and satisfying experience, in its own way. But let me confess to you here, now I wait anxiously for the opportunity to re-discover the interactions my body with someone else.

Corporeality. Mine, yours, and, possibly, our together.



Once I finished writing this blog I sent it to Camila e Milena, since they are protagonists of this story. Result? I received a list of critiques and commentaries. Haha.

Jokes apart, both made comments and suggestions during our tours. This particular night of explorations with Milena expanded my horizons regarding forró dance and made me rethink my dance a whole. Camila, in other hand, would constantly call me out on my back posture and we had heated conversations about how to step in relationship to the zabumba beats. The themes chosen for the classes and workshops that we prepared together also had a big impact on my way to think and teach dance. Their comments for students during the events we produced were also ways for me to think about my own movements.

I believe that there is not only one right way of doing things. Each dance is unique and each partner brings different elements to the dance. I have heard diversified comments, including contradictory ones. And I am glad that it is this way! Let's continue our bodily explorations.

Milena Morais e Rafael Piccolotto de Lima a caminho do San Francisco International Forró Weekend 2019

Luckly I was able to record some videos from this trips, classes and events. If you are curious, there are playlists on my YouTube channel with all videos organized:

Video playlist with Milena Morais:

Video playlist with Camila Alves:

If you want to join me in the journey, learning about individual forró dance corporeality and musicality, I prepared a few courses here at Forró New York. Click here to know more.


About the author

Rafael Piccolotto de Lima is an experience teacher. He 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 dance shoes 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.


Rafael recommends...

If you are interested in knowing more about Milena Morais and Camila Alves, I'm putting links to their social media channels below. I highly recommend both of them as forró instructors!

Camila Alves

By the way, we are already thinking about the possibility of other projects together back here in NYC in a not so distant future. Stay tuned!

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