Dance helps keep kids away from crime in Brazil’s slums

BEIJING, Sept. 16 — The renaissance of a dance is all the rage in Brazil. Fuelled by social media, teenagers living in Rio de Janeiro’s shanty towns are embracing the Passinho. This new dance helps keep young people away from crime.
Teenagers glide and pop, shake and dip to the rhythm of music that’s heavy on funk hooks laid over snare beats.
Passinho, or “little step”, is a mix of Samba-like footwork, breakdance, free spins and acrobatics. The dance has been around for years, but recently became more popular through social media. Dancers posted videos of their moves on YouTube and Facebook, sometimes drawing thousands of followers.
Passinho’s new superstars include Hilton Santos da Cruz Jr., who says he started dancing Passinho after seeing it on YouTube. “I became interested and started training, trying to do it like them, and now I’m here, doing Passinho,” Cruz said.
Earlier this year, one of Brazil’s most popular television variety shows crowned Cruz Passinho champion. Another fan of the dance, Jonathan Batista, says the dance keeps him and other youth away from a dangerous path.
“I think that if Passinho hadn’t reached the communities here, many young people would have got involved with crime,” Batista said.
In shantytowns that have undergone police pacification, with officers pushing out gangs and setting up permanent posts, Passinho has sprung up to replace “baile funk” dance parties. The “baile funk” parties were notorious for drug use, occasional violence and incidents of young girls being exploited.
Passinho provides an alternative to drug dealing for many of the youth in the shanty towns.
“In the past, so many kids were involved in trafficking, or not leaving their house. Today, Passinho is changing everything, helping those on a dangerous path,” said Andrez Luiz da Cruz, Jonathan Batista’s father.
For many of these dancers, Passinho is enabling them to foresee a more positive future for themselves and their families.