Category Archives: Brazil

“Mandatory Square Dancing” at Fordlandia in Brazil

In response to the article on Quadrilha, a form of square dancing popular in Brazil, reader Nick says:

“…in order to reduce his dependency on British-controlled rubber from southeast Asian plantations, [Henry] Ford attempted to establish his own rubber plantations in Brazil’s Amazon River basin. The company town for the plantation, creatively named Fordlandia, featured a dance hall, and square dancing was required.”

Gizmodo has this to say:

Local [Brazilian] workers were expected to adopt a suburban Michigan lifestyle, too—along with a healthy dose of Ford’s own morals, which meant that both booze and ladies were outlawed within the town. According to a terrific podcast from How Things Work, the transplant town even hosted mandatory square dancing. Hamburgers and other American fare featured in the cafeteria.

Source: On Henry Ford’s 150th Birthday, a Look Inside His Failed Utopia

This is taking “mandatory square dancing in PE class” a step too far!

Quadrilha: Brazilian Square Dancing!

So, apparently Modern Western Square Dancing has a cousin called “Quadrilha” in Brazil.

The quadrilha (square dance) originated in Holland and was introduced in Brazil during the Regency period. It was very popular at the 19th century balls of the Brazilian elite, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where the royal court was located. Later, it descended the palace steps and gained popularity among the general public, who added new steps and changed the music.

Today, the quadrilha is a tradition at the June Festivals. As the name says, these lively celebrations occur in June, but often extend into the following months. The events are led by an announcer who calls out the dance steps.

The dancers, usually couples, dress in peasant outfits with straw hats and checkered shirts. The traditional quadrilha dance represents a wedding party; the “bride and groom” open the dance, followed by their “guests”, with a lively dance that includes many different steps and moves.

The quadrilha is accompanied by an accordion, triangle and drum, as well as a 4-string and 6-string guitar.

Source: Quadrilha (Square Dance)

It’s a bit different from Modern Western Square Dancing, but you can clearly see that they come from the same roots. Here is a video that shows one quadrilha dance being performed for an audience. (That is one major difference between the two. MWSD is rarely performed for an audience.)