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Recife Popular Ballet (Balé Popular do Recife)

Had as a proposal, since the beginning, had been to save the popular celebrations and entertainment of northeast Brazil, always in tune with dance, theatre and music.

Recife Popular Ballet (Balé Popular do Recife)

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 14/10/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

The history of the Recife Popular Ballet begins in 1976, when the then municipal secretary of Education and Culture in Recife, Ariano Suassuna, and the artist and director André Luiz Madureira, both participants of the theatrical group Gente Nossa (Our People), decided to put on an experimental show with popular dances and entertainment.

The result, after much observational work and research with bumba-meu-boi, caboclinhos, maracatu and pastoril groups, was the spectacle Brincadeiras de um circo em decadência (Jokes of a Circus in Decadence), in 1977, the first directed by the then-called Grupo Circense de Dança Popular (Popular Dance Circus Troop), made up of twelve members, among which were the five Madureira siblings: André Luiz, founder, choreographer and the main person responsible for the Troop, Ana Tereza, Anselmo, Anthero e Antúlio, as well as partners, in-laws, neighbours and close friends of the family.

The spectacle was a public and critical success, showing in a circus tent that had been set up on Rua da Aurora, called the Circo da Onça Malhada (Circus of the Brazilian Jaguar).

The Troop received the full support of Secretary Ariano Suassuna, who offered Santa Isabel Theatre to be used as their headquarters for the project, also securing a grant from the Recife City Council for them.

In May 1977, Ariano Suassuna renamed the Troop Balé Popular do Recife (Recife Popular Ballet), whose purpose, since the beginning, had been to save the popular celebrations and entertainment of northeast Brazil, always in tune with dance, theatre and music.

Working strongly through the observation and research of folkloric entertainment in Pernambuco, Paraíba and Alagoas, the Recife Popular Ballet, according to André Madureira, had a variety of collaborators in its beginning and early years: Capitan Antônio Pereira, from Boi Misterioso de Afogados (Mysterious Bull of Afogados); Mr Muniz, from Tribo Caetés (Caetés Tribe); Zezinho Alfaiate, from Caboclinhos Sete Flechas (Seven Arrows Caboclinhos); the singer Nozinho do Xaxado; Coruja, Frevo dancer and o Grupo Coruja e seus Tangarás (Owl and his Tangarás Group); Velho Faceta (Old Faceta), a character from the countryside; Dona Célia, from Maracatu Cruzeiro do Forte and Master Mariano, from Cavalo-Marinho de Cruz de Rebouças (The Seahorse of Cruz de Rebouças).

Also according to the group’s founder, this research consisted not only of observing these popular groups, but also in photographing them, cataloguing their dance routines, costumes and props, and even recording their music and examining their rustic instruments.

When Ariano Suassuna stood down as Municipal Secretary of Education and Culture in Recife, in 1978, the Ballet supported itself mainly through the financial resources it had gained through presentations in Recife and in other cities.

The group premiered its second spectacular, Prosopopéia: um auto de guerreiro (Prosopopéia: The Story of a Warrior), in 1979. Involving a large number of figures and props, duration of two hours and big budget, it was intended to showcase popular forms of entertainment and dancing from all over northeast Brazil. The production was a huge hit for the Ballet, totalling over a thousand presentations in theatres, symposiums, seminars, conferences, hotels and public squares in Brazil and abroad.

With Prosopopéia, the Recife Popular Ballet gave uncountable number of national and international presentations. The first national tour was in 1980, as part of the Ciclo de Dança do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Dance Circuit), which was followed by a participation in the Federal Government’s Mambembão project (in 1981 and 1984), where it was considered the Best Show of the Year; at the São Paulo International Theatre Festival (1981) and at art festivals in Campina Grande (PB), São Paulo, Salvador and Laranjeiras (SE), among others. In 1982, the Balé performed for the first time outside the country, in the cities of Tel-Aviv, Jafa, Haifa and Jerusalém, at the invitation of the Israeli Government. These were followed by other international performances, such as the Iberian Festival of Expression, in Porto, Portugal, representing Brazil, and a completing a season at the São Luiz Theatre in Lisbon, and in Galicia, Spain (1983); The International Festival of Arequipa, in Peru, and a two-month tour of Argentina (1984); The International Folklore Festival, in Miami, USA (1985).

From 1982 a 1999, the Ballet was based at the Pernambuco Convention Centre, and three more spectacles were put together during that period: Oh, Linda Olinda! (Oh, Beautiful Olinda!) in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of Olinda (1985); Nordeste: a dança do Brasil (Northeast: The Dance of Brazil) (1987), to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Ballet, in which new costumes and a special soundtrack were presented; and Brasílica: o romance da Nau Catarineta (Brasílica: The Love Story of Nau Catarineta) (1992), a super-production based on a popular novel, telling the story of the rise of the company in its fifteen years and paying honour to the Armorial Movement and to the Popular Theatre of Northeast Brazil.

With Nordeste: a dança do Brasil, the company spent three months in France, presenting in over eighty schools in Metropolitan Area of Paris. It was a super-production for the group, unprecedented in northeast Brazil, which reunited the whole cast comprised of fifty adults and ten children, the Coral São Pedro Mártir de Olinda (St Peter Martyr of Olinda Choir), with 43 voices and the Trio Romançal Brasileiro (Brazilian Romançal Trio).

The musical repertoire of the Ballet is, mostly, made up of compositions by brothers Antonio José, or ‘Zoca’, and Antúlio Madureira. Zoca was a member, in the 1970s, of Quinteto Armorial (Armorial Quintet), along with the artist Antonio Nóbrega and Antúlio, who began his career as an actor and ballet dancer, before becoming director of the Ballet, as well as being a member of Trio Romançal, which performed alongside the Group in Nordeste: a dança do Brasil. From Antúlio’s experimental music at that time came the instruments marimbal de lata, the garrafone, and the mocenho.

Since June 1982, the Ballet has begun to also take part in education, creating introductory courses in popular dance of northeast Brazil, with the purpose of not merely creating dancers for the Ballet, but more to meet the public interest in dance, music and theatre. In 1983, the Escola Brasílica de Expressão Artística (Brazilian School of Artistic Expression), was started, which initially operated in the Casa da Cultura de Pernambuco (Pernambuco Culture Place) and later transferred to a rental house on Rua do Sossego, in the Boa Vista neighbourhood.

Also at the Casa da Cultura, in January 1984, the company created the Feira do Frevo (Frevo Fair), a weekly outdoor presentation with a brass orchestra and Ballet props, looking to continually promote and enhance the culture of Pernambuco and northeast Brazil.

In September 1991, with the spectacle O baile do menino Deus (The Child of God Ball), an offshoot of the Recife Popular Ballet was created, Balé Brasílica (‘Brasílic’ Ballet). Made up of young students and researchers of national culture aged between 12 and 19, its main objective was to preserve, recreate and promote the autos (sacred plays) and entertainment of the people of Brazil, especially of the north and northeast regions.

To celebrate its thirty years of existence in 2007, the Recife Popular Ballet put together a spectacle called As andanças do Divino (The Wanderings of the Divine), with the script and soundtrack by Zoca Madureira, based on the story of the mamulengueiro (puppet) master Simão Madureira who left the semi-arid back lands for the coast, re-enacting the Passion of Christ with his dolls.

Despite a fire that destroyed its head office on 1 February 2009, particularly causing damage to the room which housed the props and costumes of the company, the Recife Popular Ballet, one of the oldest and most traditional in Brazil, continues its operations, research into popular culture, creating steps and movements and teaching the methodology of Brazilian dance, as explained by its creator André Madureira:

In ‘brasílica’ dance there is no need for a specific rhythm, nor typical folkloric costumes, nor dance steps. Brasílica dance has its own technique, not necessarily that of erudite dancing, these classical, contemporary contributions that come, through heritage, after all, we are an interbred people. Bringing together the information and richness of different popular dances and creating a national ballet, and not the national ballet, which helps to value the primordial characteristics of popular dance, but in a current, modern, contemporary, future language, has always been the objective of brasílica dance.

Recife, 1 December 2009.
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.


sources consulted

BALÉ Popular do Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 21 out. 2009.

GALDINO, Christianne. O Balé Popular do Recife e a família Madureira. Continente Multicultural, Recife, ano 7, n.83, p. 90-104, nov. 2007.

INCÊNDIO destrói sede do Balé Popular do Recife  Disponível em: <> Acesso em: 23 out. 2009.

MADUREIRA, André Luiz. Cultura Popular e o Balé popular do Recife. In: CULTURA popular em debate. Recife: Edições Centauro, 1988. p. 49-51. 

TEMPORADA festiva para comemorar os 30 anos do Balé Popular do Recife. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 21 out. 2009.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Recife Popular Ballet. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.