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Dancing to carnival’s tunes

Traditional carnival dance events like Red & Black at Clube Nacional and Festa de Leques Sinquetim Dance that began in the 1970s still continue to hold sway among today’s revellers

By Michael Fisher | B&C

Two Goan signature dances, Red & Black and ‘Festa de Leques’ known as the Sinquetim Dance, were born out of different reasons and are now the talk of all dances during the carnival festivities held in India, Middle East, UK, Canada and Lisbon. In spite of the Madhya Pradesh noise restriction ban, which has taken a bit of the cream of the Red & Black dance, Down The Road at Panaji is waiting for party animals to continue till crimson morning.

Who would believe then that these two dances would pep up the suppliers’ market of labourers, sound systems, thousands of chairs and tables, artistic decorators and much more?  Unlike the senseless noise pollution of DJ music, the Red & Black and Festa de Leques Sinquetim Dance are two graceful dances attended by the elite.

Reminiscing on the past, Dr Hugo Menezes, a former Panaji municipal officer, says it was in the early 1970s when the then Panaji Chief Officer late Robert Alvares was running through the pages of a Brazilian carnival magazine and stopped at the page that read ‘Verfmelho (Red) ePreto (Black) Feasta’.   And voila! ‘Red & Black’ dance was born.

The first Red & Black dance was organised at Clube Nacional in Panaji which was a knockout hit beyond compare. It was held on the last day of carnival.  And hence as the years went by, the name Red & Black marketed itself. Many Panjimities credit its success to Francisco Martins and Tony Dias.

The entrance price for the ticket in the 1970s was Rs 25 and a table with four chairs would cost Rs 15. Today, it varies from Rs 500 – 1,000 and a table with chairs costs around Rs 100. For every hard drink is priced above Rs 50 a peg, for a snack Rs 150, etc. And getting the hip wiggling and jiggling was the ‘Johnson and His Jolly Boys’ band and Augus Braganza whose rates were Rs 1,000 per show.

Today, the bands cost Rs 35,000 – 50,000 a show. What would cost a few thousands of rupees as organising charges for a dance in the 1970s now runs into lakhs of rupees, with some assistance coming from the government.

The event, as usual, was an evening of elegance that was staged on the floor of Garcia de Orta garden in Panaji. The belles hoping for future spouse were draped in stunning red and black velvet and silky dresses with a red neck scarf, while the amigos were decked in red shirts, tuxedos and black shirts with a red band around the waist.

The dress code was so strict that even Vijay Mallya, despite being one of the sponsors, was politely told by Francisco Martins to come in red and black for which he did and enjoyed every bit of the dance with his friends including Shilpa Shetty.

Some have tried copying the dance by naming it Red, Black and Gold but have not succeeded. “Clube Nacional is considering extending the dance with another name and taking to Mapusa, Vasco and Margao,” informs Tony Dais, president of Clube Nacional.  “Next year we are planning to include Intruz as a part of the Samba Square which is an evening function designed for families and their children.”

What started as a fundraising project in 1950s in a form of a dance for which the proceeds were to go into the repairs of Our Lady of Infermos chapel, turned out to be a signature dance for years to come.

Domnick Furtado, a fourth generation of the Furtado family recalls that a decree was announced by the Pope in 1955 that all privately-owned chapels will be taken over by the Church diocese. Jose Francisco Furtado, the rightful owner, handed over the chapel along with Rs 60,000 for its future upkeep.

Later, his descendant, Jose Bento Furtado, realized more funds were needed for the repairs and upkeep of the chapel. In 1953, five like-minded villagers of Sinquetim namely  Antonio Mergulhao Carvalho, Cleto Soares, Jose Bento Furtado, Fermino Coutinho and Chuiqo Furtado decided to organise a dance called ‘ Festa de Leques’ Sinquetim Dance, and a trust was established in 1955.

The first dance was organised in the late 50s. The villagers got together and helped to make the mat for the floor. Ladies from Bicholim and Mapusa did the weaving. This was stopped in 1996 as these artistic workers were lessening in numbers, and the art was dying. Today, it employs over 60 workers and a team of security staff.  The overall cost works out to be a couple of lakhs of rupees.

“Our government should talk to the Madhya Pradesh government to relax the ban especially for these three days of carnival as thousands of foreign tourists come to Goa only for this festival.  People come especially for this dance from Canada, Kuwait, Dubai, London and from all over India,” opines Domnick.

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