Dance connects us to our bodies and hearts, and drumming creates a primal link to the pulse of all life. Esalen faculty Cida Vieira has made it her life’s work to share Brazilian traditions of dance and percussion through performance, choreography, and experiential teaching.
For Vieira, Esalen is the ideal place to discover yourself through dance. Its vibrant community, natural setting, and spirit of adventure will be sure to infuse her September 8 workshop The Brazilian Soul: Dance and Drumming co-led with Mestre Beiçola. We recently spoke with Vieria to find out more about her passion for Brazilian dance at Esalen.
eNews: You say you were “…born at the heart of the dance circles of Brazil.” Can you tell us more about your background?
Vieira: I was born in Morrinhos, a small town in the state of Goiás, in central Brazil. There, the population is comprised of many races and ethnic groups including indigenous people and those of European and African descent.
Also due to its geographical location, Goiás historically has had a large influx of people from all different regions of Brazil. My mother's parents were native Indians, my father's European descendants, and most of my neighbors were African-Brazilians.
So, it was in this diverse environment that I grew up: in a modest village with different religious rituals, dance, roda de capoeira (Brazilian martial arts), and a rich cultural heritage. My greatest memories from childhood are of the dancing gatherings; mostly in small houses jammed with neighbors, kids, and grandparents all in total joy dancing samba, forro, and lambada until the sun rose. For me, those gatherings were true prayers in which I would feel one with the life force and with my entire community.
eNews: When did you realize dance and drumming would become your own life’s work?
Vieira: Actually I don't remember ever being apart from dance because it’s in my DNA passed down by my ancestors. To this day I am often surprised when I hear someone saying he/she can't dance. I thought dance was part of our development, like walking and talking. I started facilitating dance classes because I wanted to inspire everyone to be able to claim or reclaim his/her dancing soul. I wanted to provide sacred spaces where participants would feel safe and supported to let their inner dancers out...to be playful, sensual, joyful, and relaxed without having to worry about technique or choreography.
eNews: What brought you to Esalen, and what was your initial impression?
Vieira: Coming to Esalen was love at first sight. I came to spend 15 minutes there and, well, 20 years went by. I first came to visit a dear friend who was living at Esalen. I had no idea of what Esalen was, where it was, nothing. All I knew was that it was a community somewhere south of Santa Cruz. One morning I suggested to my roommate that perhaps we should try to do a quick stop by at this place called Esalen to see my friend. She agreed and off we went without an address or map (GPS was not a option at that time!). After almost two hours past Santa Cruz, tired of the winding road but mesmerized with the stunning ride, we arrived at Esalen…and I arrived at a place of incredible beauty and freedom. I never felt my heart so alive and so open as that moment! It was as if my soul was returning home.
eNews: What makes Esalen a great place for Brazilian dance and drumming?
Vieira: To be honest, I don't think it is possible to have a better place to teach the Brazilian Soul than at Esalen. The land is so powerful and the nurturing and beauty of Iemanjá, the Goddess of the ocean, is present everywhere, inviting us to dive in to our vast array of emotions and creativity. The community is openhearted and supports our unfolding, and in this spirit we can tap into our creative genius and exchange healing energy with one another. We Brazilians are passionate and we love to be spontaneous and to share.
The Brazilian Soul is all about connection through joy, connection with self, with other participants, with the community, and with the force that holds us all together.
eNews: How does dance and drumming connect people to their bodies?
Vieira: Drumming grounds us and, like the beat of our hearts, the drumbeat touches the very core of our being and awakens our internal life force. Samba dance uses the entire body, full presence, and sensuality.
Since our focus is not so much on structure or choreography, I encourage participants to get out of their heads and straight into their feet and hips, which allows the entire body wisdom to be ignited. When we free our spirit, healing, transformation, and unity naturally takes place.
Samba drumming and dancing is one of the best ways to bring people together because it is about feeling, freedom, passion, and joy. And since joy is contagious, when we are having fun we relax and automatically we enter a state of acceptance, love, harmony, and receptivity. Naturally we start to feel that we belong, that we matter to ourselves and to one another, and these are key factors needed for community building.
Why is this important? Because experiences like this awaken our souls and we need more people awake and happy in the world. Whether you do or don't have dance experience, this workshop is for you. Just come to it as I came to Esalen 20 years ago: with an open heart, expecting nothing, but ready for everything. Just be ready to stay longer than 15 minutes!
Learn more about The Brazilian Soul: Dance and Drumming.