The type of dance displayed above is a traditional dance done by the Pataxó’Indians to welcome their guests. The welcome dance is very ritualized. To start the dance, the chief's wife lights very aromatic incense brought to her by a young Indian boy. After the incense is lit and she says a prayer, she signals for the rest of the tribe to join her. The dance begins with the chief taking the lead as everyone follows in sync behind him around the "alter" where the incense is burning. The entire tribe men, women, young and old even children as young as two participate, following the steps of their mothers. After the ceremony was completed, we were all free to join in as the Pataxó’ members taught us the steps. We danced in a circle alongside the Indians, and even when we messed up, their caring and easy-going nature was evident as they laughed and helped us throughout the dance.
I found this ritual to be very entertaining and interesting. I also loved how family-oriented the Indian tribe was. I remember one incident where a young child began to cry; I got worried, thinking that he was disturbing the ritual and was going to be punished. However, one of the older men simply picked him up and continued the dance. That impressed me. In America, we have the mindset that children who disturb something important should be punished. I admired the compassion and easy-going attitude the Pataxó’ Indians exhibited.
The type of dance illustrated above dates back as far as the 19th Century. The dance is very formal and was usually a dance of the slave and plantation owners. The dance is similar to a waltz. Originally, the dance, called the maxixe (pronounced mah shee shee), was a very sensual African dance that had a lot of hip movement. The Catholic Church considered the dance inappropriate and it was changed to be more formal and less sensual. It is very different from the Indian ritual as it is a more sedate and poised routine. You can watch the posture of the elite couple as they waltz effortlessly around the room. Their backs remain straight and their heads are always held high as they focus only on each other and ignore all distractions. This is different from the Indian ceremony, as the Indian dance is more laid- back and family-oriented. I thought the dance was very beautiful and a breath of fresh air. It was nothing like the type of dancing typically done in the States. It was also interesting to note the ritualistic dances between that culture, the Indian culture and our own culture. I should note that during the dance the actors who played the Baron and Baroness of Mabucamba stayed in character of that time period. However, after they finished the dance they livened up and invited us to join in and learn the dance.
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