Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The emergence and development of choro in the late 19th century was affected by three forms of Brasilian popular music: the modinha, the lundu, and the maxixe. The lundu, an early song and dance genre, and the maxixe, an instrumental dance form that arose concurrently with choro, exhibit African influences. The wildly popular maxixe made an especially strong impression with its close couples dance style and sinuous movements. From its emergence in the late 1870s to its decline in the 1920s, few genres of popular music were as wildly popular, and controversial, as the maxixe. The music accompanies a fast paced couples dance in which the dancers' bodies are pressed together and the legs are often intertwined. - Here's a contemporary performance of the maxixe dancing

The habanera rhythm is a characteristic feature in the music accompanying the maxixe dancing, the music accompaniment in the video above is Chiquinha Gonzaga's "Corta jaca" - the original recording of the piece by Grupo Chiquinha Gonzaga from 1908 is available at Instituto Moreira Sales and may be accessed by clicking here. - The other important precursor to the maxixe was the polka, which arrived in Rio de Jaineiro in the 1840s. Structurally, the maxixe is similar to the polka, however, the maxixe is distinguinshed from the polka by its rhythm and fast tempo, a strong bass line on the beat and syncopation is common.

Few popular dances caused as much moral outrage as the maxixe. Shortly after it took the dance clubs of Rio de Janeiro with storm, it was publicly condemned as a lower-class, vulgar, and lascivious dance that took place in halls frequented by loose women and unscrupulous men. Periodically, members of cultured society became so morally outraged by the maxixe that they insisted the police close down the dance halls where it was practiced. The minister of war even banned music labeled as maxixe from performance by military bands. Despite the attitudes of the elite, the dance was quickly adopted by instrumental ensembles of the day. Listen to an example by the famous Banda do Corpo de Bombeiros playing Ernesto Nazareth's maxixe "Brejeiro" by clicking here. - In 1895, the maxixe attained a degree of social respectabillity with the opening of an operetta called "Zinzinha maxixe" that included popular maxixes with added lyrics. The operetta featured twentythree pieces by Chiquinha Gonzaga including "Corta jaca", a piece that quickly became part of the choro standard repertoire. Ernesto Nazareth also composed maxixes, but he preferred to label the pieces 'tango brasileiro', allthough his "tangos" exhibit all the characteristics of maxixe in rhythm, melody, and tempo markings. Listen to Nazareth's maxixe "Dengoso" as played by Banda da Casa Edison, click here

The maxixe was taken to Paris, where it became one of the first forms of Brasilian popular music to be legitimized abroad. It was introduced in Paris in 1905 by a dance couple named Derminy and Morly, and was modified when it was successfully re-introduced in 1912 by Monsieur Duque (- the stage name of Brazilian dancer and composer Antonio Lopes Amorim Diniz, who moved to Paris in 1909).After the success, Duque traveled back to Brazil ten years later to see what the latest version of the dance looked like and he found that it was now bouncier, had some new variations, and was sometimes called samba. During the season of 1922-23, he introduced the Brazilian samba, next evolutionary stage of the maxixe, at his Montmartre dance hall Shéhérazade. The famed Afro-Brazilian orchestra Les Batutas (Os Oito Batutas) led by none other than Pixinguinha provided music for the premier.

Also Pixinguinha composed maxixes, an early example of a very beautiful maxixe by Pixinguinha titled "Morro do pinto" as performed by Grupo do Pixinguinha in 1908 is accessible by clicking here

The maxixe also reached the U.s. and had a short-lived success during the 1910s. It was introduced by the highly popular dance couple Irene and Vernon Castle, you can watch a short film fragment of the couple dancing the American version of maxixe here

There was even composed a maxixe as a tribute to the Castles' success, "The Castlewalk", here performed by contemporary couples

By 1930, the maxixe dance began to decline in popularity in Brazil, it was supplanted by the urban samba and new imports such as foxtrot and the Charleston. The maxixe, however, remained in the choro repertory as an instrumental genre.
The above info is excerpted and quoted from the book "Choro, A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music" (2005) by T.E. Livingston-Isenhour & Th.G.C. Garcia, pp. 17-37.
Additional info on the Parisian maxixe success quoted from article by Richard Powers, "The Maxixe" (1983;2005) to be launched



Blogger Carlos Dantas said...

In the "Irene and Vernon Castle" video, we can see clearly that the music was edited over the images. There's a violinist playing on the video and the people claps.
Your blog is beautiful.

25 November, 2010  

Post a Comment

<< Home