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Brazilian folk dance


Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 08/06/2022

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Scientific Documentation

Luiz Gonzaga


Xaxado is a dance of men
Of the cabras of Lampião
Xaxado, xaxado, xaxado
It comes from the sertão

Xaxado, my dear, xaxado
Xaxado comes from the sertão
It’s the dance of cangaceiros
Of the cabras of Lampião

When I join the xaxado
Oh my God
I don’t stop, no
Xaxado is a dance of men
Cousin of the baião


According to folklorist Roberto Benjamin, xaxado is a sertanejo rhythm and dance from the regions of Pajeú and Moxotó (Pernambuco) which has evident characteristics of indigenous cultures.


The origin of the xaxado, however, causes controversies. Some researchers, such as Benjamin and Luís da Câmara Cascudo, claim that it is a dance from the upper Sertão (hinterlands) of Pernambuco, whereas others say that it comes from Portugal and some say that it is indigenous.


Research indicates that the dance has been known in the Agreste and Sertão regions of Pernambuco since 1922.


The word xaxado is an onomatopoeia of the xa-xa-xa noise, which the dancers make when dragging the alpercatas (leather sandals) on the floor during the dance.


The dance can be performed in a circle or in line, with dancers standing behind each other, without spinning. Each participant makes three or four lateral movements with his right foot in front, dragging the left foot, in a kind of fast tap dance.


Xaxado used to be exclusive to men. It was disseminated by Lampião and his gang across Northeast Brazil, thus becoming associated with the Cangaço Cycle. The cangaceiros used the dance as a war cry or to celebrate victories. The rifles replaced women. Singer-songwriter Luiz Gonzaga, one of the great disseminators of the xaxado, used to say that “the rifle is the lady”.


Originally the xaxado was not accompanied by instruments; only singing, with quatrains and the chorus, and the dragging of the alpercatas. The compass was marked by hitting the buttstock on the ground. Since the lyrics of the songs were always aggressive and satirical, Câmara Cascudo considered the xaxado as a variant of Parraxaxá, a diss song of the cangaceiros performed in the intervals of their shootings against the police:


I don't respect the police
Soldiers were never people
I hope to die of old age
Kicking out lieutenants

Hey there kid Higino
The only thing I have to give you:
The bullet from my rifle,
The tip of my dagger!


Today, the dance is no longer exclusive to men, but danced in pairs. The dancers dress as cangaceiros and cangaceiras, showing the dance’s origins. Most of the time, however, only men carry the rifle. They are also accompanied by fifes, zabumbas, triangles, and accordions.


The dance was also widely disseminated by regional groups from Paraíba, inappropriately creating the expression “xaxado of Paraíba”.


Currently, the xaxado is only seen in stylized choreographies of artistic groups, who perform mainly in June festivals (Festa Junina) in two rows, one male and one female. The dancers make evolutions, dance together or apart, always dragging the alpercatas on the floor.



Recife, April 30, 2010.


sources consulted

BENJAMIN, Roberto. Xaxado. In: ______. Folguedos e danças de Pernambuco. Recife: Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 1989. p. 100-103.


CASCUDO, Luís da Câmara. Xaxado. In: FOLCLORE. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1975. p. 43.


FERRAZ, Marilourdes. O canto do acauã. Belém: [s.n.], 1978.


O QUE é xaxado? In: Fazendo a Diferença, 16 out. 2007. Disponível em: Acesso em: 29 abr. 2010.


SOUTO MAIOR, Mário; LÓSSIO, Rúbia. Dicionário de folclore para estudantes. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 2004.


XAXADO. Disponível em: Acesso em: 28 abr. 2010.


XAXADO. Disponível em: Acesso em: 27 abr. 2010.

how to quote this text

GASPAR, Lúcia. Xaxado. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2010. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2009.)