Ciranda nordestina, woodcut by Amaro Francisco, Pernambuco.

One of the most enjoyable evenings I've ever spent in the city of Recife in northeastern Brazil was when we learned to dance the ciranda in front of the little white church in Boa Viagem beach. It was Sunday after the evening mass, and the weather couldn't have been better. There was a small band made up of brass and drums, and a male singer. People of all ages held hands and formed a large circle. The steps were very simple, and the rhythm was slow and sort of hypnotic, going round and round (the steps mimic the movement of the waves). The rhythm also changed periodically (that's the cue for the circle to change direction).

In a ciranda you can come in or leave as you please, and the dancing can go on all night long. So people eat and drink potent batidas made with cachaça and tropical fruit juices, and children fall asleep on their parents' or grandparents' laps. I bought a ciranda record that year, and recently found a CD by Ney Matogrosso - the fabulous pop artist - with a great recording of Pernambuco cirandas he did with the group Aquarela Carioca (As Aparências Enganam, Polygram CD 514 688-2). Lia de Itamaracá, the most famous "cirandeira" from Pernambuco, recently recorded her own CD too.

Music & Folklore