Daily Picture Show

Rio's New Dance Craze: The Passinho

  • Wellington Costa, 19, performs at the semifinals of a passinho competition in Rio de Janeiro on April 23. Passinho is a liberated dance form born in Rio's favelas, or shantytowns.
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    Wellington Costa, 19, performs at the semifinals of a passinho competition in Rio de Janeiro on April 23. Passinho is a liberated dance form born in Rio's favelas, or shantytowns.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Costa practices passinho with Tais Castro, 14, in the Cidade de Deus neighborhood.  Passinho incorporates more feminine and free movements, which were repressed by Rio's baile funk dance style.
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    Costa practices passinho with Tais Castro, 14, in the Cidade de Deus neighborhood. Passinho incorporates more feminine and free movements, which were repressed by Rio's baile funk dance style.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Costa helps Castro with her dance moves. The dance has become more mainstream due to media attention and the growing popularity of passinho music.
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    Costa helps Castro with her dance moves. The dance has become more mainstream due to media attention and the growing popularity of passinho music.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Yuri Severo, 20, nicknamed "batata," belongs to a group of passinho dancers called "Mr. Passista."
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    Yuri Severo, 20, nicknamed "batata," belongs to a group of passinho dancers called "Mr. Passista."
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • A group of young Cariocas, residents of Rio de Janeiro, listen to passinho music in a neighborhood square.
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    A group of young Cariocas, residents of Rio de Janeiro, listen to passinho music in a neighborhood square.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Members of Mr. Passista practice in the square. One dancer, Jefferson Oliveira, who goes by  the nickname "Cebolinha," performed in the closing ceremony at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
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    Members of Mr. Passista practice in the square. One dancer, Jefferson Oliveira, who goes by the nickname "Cebolinha," performed in the closing ceremony at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • A crowd watches Batalha do Passinho, a dance competition. While some batalhas are large sponsored events, others break out at informal dance parties.
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    A crowd watches Batalha do Passinho, a dance competition. While some batalhas are large sponsored events, others break out at informal dance parties.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Costa watches other contestants at the Batalha do Passinho. The finals of the dance competition is being televised.
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    Costa watches other contestants at the Batalha do Passinho. The finals of the dance competition is being televised.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • A contestant is comforted after losing a dance-off. Each dancer faces off against one other performer during the rounds.
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    A contestant is comforted after losing a dance-off. Each dancer faces off against one other performer during the rounds.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • Fans watch a baile funk performance during the Batalha do Passinho.
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    Fans watch a baile funk performance during the Batalha do Passinho.
    Lianne Milton for NPR
  • As the music and performances spread over social media, so does the dance style's popularity.
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    As the music and performances spread over social media, so does the dance style's popularity.
    Lianne Milton for NPR

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When photographer Lianne Milton was invited by friends to attend a passinho dance-off competition, she was not expecting the large, corporate-sponsored event at which she arrived.

"It was incredible to see a lot of young people, a lot of kids, a lot of girls, cheering on their favorite dancers," says Milton. "It was a calm, fun, spirited event."

Arriving in Rio in early 2013, Milton has been photographing stories ranging from redevelopment and forced evictions to daily life. She came across a dance style rapidly growing in popularity.

The passinho is born out of baile funk, or Rio funk. While baile funk involves masculine movements and hypersexualized lyrics in its music, the passinho is a more free-form and individualized dance that combines styles including hip-hop and break-dancing with traditional Brazilian dance such as samba.

The semi-final competition at the Batalha do Passinho.

During the dance-off, Milton met Wellington Costa, a 19-year-old performer whom she photographed again as he practiced passinho with friends. Costa learned the basics back in 2008, then added and improvised, and is now performing in commercials for mobile phones.

Though the dance form has been around for more than eight years, passinho has just recently gone mainstream. According to Milton, it is now in commercials and televised competitions, and passinho songs receive millions of hits online.

While the dance movement was not a direct result of Rio's pacification program, — in which police units are installed in favelas, or shantytowns, to drive out violence — the baile funk parties previously held by drug traffickers have been banned. With the end of those parties, there's been a new place for passinho.

It is just one of the stories Milton has found in Rio de Janeiro.

"Rio is enormous," she says. "There's a lot of stories happening that no one is covering, so I'm trying to cover them."

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