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About Maculelê

Maculelê was a common dance in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, at festivals commemorating the saint of the city, Nossa Senhora da Purificação.

Much is discussed and argued about the origens of Maculelê. Some affirm that it was brought by the Africans and upon arrival in Brazil was mixed with the indigenous culture of Brazil. In the slave quarters, to protect themselves from the whippings from their masters, the slaves defended themselves with pieces of wood and knives, escaping with the body in movements resembling dance.

Others, like Manoel Querino (1851-1923) studied the origens of Maculelê and believe its origins lie in Cucumbi, a dance where Blacks hit round pieces of wood to sung music.

Yet another version says that Muculelê is a popular manifestation of African. Like capoeira, it was a fight disguised as dance, and instead of weapons, the Blacks used sugar cane sticks.

With the passing of time and the death of those who practiced Maculelê, it was forgotten for many years at the festivals commemorating Nossa Senhora da Purifacação. In 1943, Paulínio Aluísio de Andrade, got together family and friends to teach them how to dance Maculelê. He formed a group, which was known as the "Conjunto de Maculelê de Santo Amaro."

In the 1960s, many students of Mestre Bimba learned Maculelê and helped spread it throughout Brazil.

Today, Maculelê is incorporated with capoeira. At almost every batizado people have demonstrations of Maculelê. Women and men with painted bodies, wearing skirts, beating their sticks (or knives, or sticks with fire) to the rhythm of the atabaque and songs. The dancers move in a circle, continuous and evolving.