Forró – Causing Commotion on the Dance Floor

Forró is a kind of Northeastern Brazilian dance, as well as a word used to denote the different genres of music which accompanies the dance. Both are much in evidence during the annual Festa Junina (June Festival), a part of Brazilian traditional culture which celebrates some of the saints of the Catholic religion. The most celebrated day of the festival is known as the Saint John’s (São João) day.

Origin of the Term

The most accepted theory puts forró as a derivative of forrobodó, meaning “disorder” or “commotion”. This is the view held by Brazilian folklorist Câmara Cascudo, who studied the Brazilian Northeast through most of his life. Forrobodó is believed to come from the word forbodó (itself a corruption of fauxbourdon), which was used in the Portuguese court to define a dull party.

Another theory often heard popularly in Brazil is that the word forró is a derivative of the English expression “for all” and that it originated in the early 1900s. English engineers on the Great Western Railroad would throw balls on weekends and classify them as either only for railroad personnel or for the general populace (“for all”). This belief was somewhat reinforced by a similar practice by USAF personnel stationed at the Natal Air Force Base during World War II, but it is not possible because before the USAF went to Natal, the name “Forró” was already in use.

Differing Styles

There are three rhythms of forró, xote (a slower-paced rhythm), baião (the original forró) and arrasta-pé (the fastest of the three), and amongst these, many styles of dancing, which varies from region to region, and may be known by different names according to the location. Forró is danced in pairs, usually very close together, with the man’s left hand holding the woman’s right hand as in the Waltz, his right arm around her back and her left arm around his neck; in this style, the man’s right leg stays in between the woman’s legs (called Rala Coxa or Rubbing Thighs), following the African tradition of a close pelvis. Other styles may require to stay partially away, or in a considerable distance, only holding their hands up the shoulders. Influences from salsa and other Caribbean dances has given mobility to forró, with the woman – and occasionally the man – being spun in various ways, although it’s not mandatory to spin at all, and more complex movements may prove impossible to be executed in the usually crowded dancing area of forrós. One of the newer “styles”, if you wish to call it that, is Electronic Forró which is usually considered to be brega (cheesy or trashy). Below a list of a few of the most popular styles of forró in Brazil:


xote: a basic style, danced close together in a left-left-right-right movement, and has no spinning or variations;

universitário: the most popular style outside Nordeste, much like the xote, but with the partners moving forward and backward, much like traditional Bolero. It contains many variations of movements;


baião/pé-de-serra: basically a style of xote, but with the partners tilting to the sides and moving less their legs to follow the faster rhythm;


arrasta-pé: can only be danced to its own style, much like a very fast xote, but alternatly marking the beats on the ground with both legs.


“Let’s repeat the entire sequence of the Chave de braço dupla.”

Translation Between 00:40 – 01:30

“The Basic step (Part 1). The Opening. Leave the Basic Step by spinning the lady then spin the gentleman. Chave Dupla (Double Key) move. Now the gentleman spins the lady, while placing his hand and hers behind his head. And soon after, go left then return to the Basic step. Now, with music.”

Part 3 & Part 4 follows.


3 thoughts on “Forró – Causing Commotion on the Dance Floor

    • Not sure what you are not agreeing with me about but I can respond to the second part! Its part of the choices they give for users. The actual name of the template is slipping my mind at the moment, sorry…but if you sign up with WordPress, you will see a way to select your own template and find this one. Cheers

  1. Pingback: Mamulengo - Puppetry Brazilian style « Eyes On Brazil

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