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Getting into our Brazilian rhythm

Attila (26/10/02)

Our first two weeks of teaching has just come to an end and our bodies are slowly but surely adapting to the infamous Brazilian rhythm. Our mornings start early with some of us going for walks or jogging along the beach while others fight the 5 am sunrise with weary eyelids. After a quick breakfast and a shower we jump into our rusty red Pro-Criança VW for the half hour commute to the Pro-Criança cultural center. As our car rumbles along the seaside boulevard we take in the sea breeze, our only real chance at fresh air here. Vendours arrive early along the beach to stake out their piece of the sand with their stack of folding chairs and umbrellas, ready to host tourists and locals with their portable bars ingeniously constructed on simple wood carts. Fresh crab, shrimp, coconut juice, beer, and of course caipirinha are all on the menu. The traffic in Recife is chaotic, with most rules only loosely obeyed but we carefully make our way to the neighbourhood where the Pro-Criança cultural center is.

Upon arriving we are often greeted by a small group of early birds waiting on the steps of the center. The youngsters, whose ages range anywhere from 13 to 25, live all around the Recife area and some have traveled quite far for their day at school. While some are as reluctant as any teenager is to be at school, the general feeling is that they are thankful for the school and the rhythm it gives their lives. Class starts at 8:00 and to date we have yet to start with everyone . . . nothing unusual.

The Andarilho Dance company is the pride and joy of Pro-Criança, being one of the most public and most admired aspects of the program. Over the many years that Pro-Criança has been around this company of dancers and drummers has worked to bring themselves up to a very professional level with some of the dancers even working freelance in other companies. But of course Pro-Criança has done much more, offering classes in construction, painting, photography, electronics, and of course the essentials of reading, writing and mathematics. We work almost exclusively with the 25 members of the Andarilho company as we introduce them to the world of theatre and prepare them for a production of Brecht's "The Good Woman of Szechwan".

Our class takes up the whole morning demanding plenty of concentrated energy. While we, the teachers, often leave quite exhausted, the kids often have a quick stab at another dance they might be rehearsing or play a little capoeira (a traditional, very physical fighting-dance). Their stamina is actually quite impressive. At around noon the whole center closes down for a while as lunch is served on the top floor in a little eating area. Like any high school lunchroom, there is plenty of chatter and banter, the tv blasts Brazilian pop music videos, and the kids enjoy some down time. The difference here is that many of these kids have been working, studying, performing and eating together for years so there is this underlying sense of family when everyone is together at lunch time.

The sun in Recife is incredible and we are given little relief from the heat. Each class, no matter how much movement we do, seems to end with a sweat soaked T-shirt and our skin caked in a sticky layer of the city air. Our treats for the day are often an agua de cóco (coconut juice), sucked through a straw directly from the freshly cut coconut, or some fresh abacaxi (pineapple) or mangaba or even a suco do fruta (fruit juice) from one of the many tropical fruits grown here. Every day we discover of new flavours; every day a new favourite treat.

Our afternoon schedule varies with workshops, and some time to prepare our other classes. We also have meetings with the organisers and prepare ourselves for the production. In the end, the whole Métissage group is usually home by about 10:00 and after a little dinner it's time for us to end the day.