In this dissertation, I trace the presence of "ginga" across three different movement practices cultivated in Brazil. Here, ginga should be understood as a particular kind of bodily syncopation central to Afro-Brazilian heritage and its aesthetic evokes a range of principles circulating across the Black Atlantic world. In my doctoral research, I focus on this aesthetic knowledge by conducting a comparative study of ginga in samba, a social dance; capoeira, a martial art; and Grupo Corpo, a contemporary concert dance company based in Belo Horizonte (MG). In all three instances, I analyze how ginga disciplines bodies to produce and transmit a particular way of apprehending and interacting with the world, with one another, and with themselves. I also trace a genealogy of ginga within each of these practices, considering the historical connection between bodily syncopation and performances of blackness.
One of the primary concerns of this investigation is to excavate knowledges transmitted through movement practices, which have been shaped by the presence of Africa in Brazil. In addition, I historicize the active role that Africans and their descendents have had in the collective construction of Brazil as an imagined community. Employing choreography as a theoretical lens, ginga is taken here as an entry point for a set of socio-historical and transcultural reflections regarding embodiment, knowledge production, and the preservation of collective memory. In each chapter, I provide a detailed movement analysis of how ginga is articulated in each location, arguing that ginga has helped to decolonize as well as to re-colonize individuals and communities living in Brazil. I further propose that the aesthetic and philosophical knowledges enacted in these body-centered practices have recuperated-cum-invented an epistemology beyond colonial languages, whose scope exceeds or differs from Eurocentric thought.
It is important to note that, within the colonial framework implemented in Brazil, ginga has been associated with choreographed otherness, especially gender, and lack of (sexual) morality. Within colonial archives, for example, ginga is often recorded as a symptom of a social disease, hence, a shameful act. This logic has contributed to situate individuals engaged in activities such as samba and capoeira within scenes of subjection. At the same time, non-hegemonic communities have employed ginga to reclaim their inter-subjectivity, often through hyperbolic imagination, playful redressing, and constant borrowing. In this case, the recuperation-cum-invention of Afro-centric embodied knowledges has contributed to restore a sense of self-esteem and honor within these communities, empowering marginalized individuals—especially local Blacks and Mestiços— with cultural agency. In Brazil, the co-existence of these antagonist definitions has generated a set of complex (and unresolved) ideas that I recognize throughout my dissertation as a pride-and-shame conundrum.