Coco (Dance)

Lúcia Gaspar
Joaquim Nabuco Foundation Librarian
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This dance, typical of coastal regions, is known throughout the North and Northeast of Brazil. Some researchers, however, claim that it was born in the sugarcane mills, later going to the coast. Most folklorists agree, however, that the ‘coco’ dancing originated in the singing of coconut pickers, and only later became a dance rhythm. There is also controversyabout in which north-eastern state it appeared, leaving Alagoas, Paraíba and Pernambuco as the likely owners of the merriment.

Coco generally has a basic choreography: the participants line up or form circles where they stomp their feet to the rhythm, sing and exchange umbigadas(a movement where two people try to touch their bellies together)among themselves and with peers and neighbours, and clap marking the rhythm. Also common is the presence of the ‘mestre cantadô’(mastersinger)leading songs that areeither known by the participants or improvised. It can be danced with or without shoes and has no specific attire. The dance has influences from the indigenous Tupi and also from African drumming.It is performed, like other typical Brazilian dances, in awide variety of ways, the best known being the ‘coco de amarração’, ‘coco de embolada’, ‘balamento’ and‘pagode’.

The most widely used instruments in coco dancing are percussions: rattles, drums, ‘zabumbas’, ‘caracaxás’, tambourines and ‘cuícas’. To have a coco dance, however, not all these instrumentsare necessary;sometimes only the clapping rhythmic of the participants is enough. Coco is typical of the June cycle (festivities to honour St John taking place in June), but it is also danced at other times of year. With the appearance of ‘baião’, coco dancing has undergone some changes. Today the dancers do not exchange ‘umbigadas’ and perform a tap dance as if they were stomping the ground or on a stamina bet. The contagious rhythm of coco has influenced many popular songwriters like Chico Science and Alceu Valença, and even rock bands from Pernambuco. The success of Dona Selma do Coco, accompanied by people of all ages, shows the importance of the old rhythm, which has been rescued in Northeast Brazil.

Recife, 22 jly 2003.

(Updated on 25 august 2009).

Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2012.



BRINCANTES. Recife: Prefeitura da Cidade, Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 2000. p. 104-107.

LIMA, Claudia. História junina. Recife: Prefeitura da Cidade, Secretaria de Turismo, 1997. p. 18. Edição especial.

PIMENTEL, Altimar de Alencar. O coco praieiro: uma dança de umbigada. 2. ed. João Pessoa: UFPB, Ed. Universitária, 1978.

RIBEIRO, José. Brasil no folclore. Rio de Janeiro: Gráfica e Editora Aurora, 1970. p. 403-404.

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Coco (dance). Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009



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