Vancouver: a beautiful, clean, organized, multi-cultural city. There are plenty of places to go to, things to do, landscapes to appreciate, and plenty of typical foods from around the world to try. One of my favorites is a tiny restaurant somewhere on Broadway where the Brazilian community – an expanding one in Vancouver- tends to gather for long sessions of eating, but most especially while dancing, sweating and singing out loud.
Hours of live samba music, for some Brazilians, can feel like a bite of your favorite dish when you are extremely hungry, except it nurtures the soul and conveniently makes you loose calories. Having this place in Vancouver, where there is Brazilian food, live samba, and Brazilian people, is like being presented to a small portion of home served in a beautifully decorated plate.
I used to go there quite often. They serve Brazilian food by day, and by night they serve Brazilian rhythm. As the drums start to sound louder, the tables get pushed against the walls to make room for the improvised dance floor, in which the laws of physics are broken by the ability of the dancers to always make room for one more person. In between beers and caipirinhas passing above heads and in between loose hips, dancers -Brazilians and international friends- don’t even notice that their ‘personal spaces’ are tiptoeing out the windows. Finding each other’s rhythms becomes mandatory in order to make it physically possible for all to fit in the tiny room.
Today I went to that same space expecting to squeeze within all that rhythmic pushing and sweating, only to find out that apparently the owners of the place need to have a license for the restaurant to become a ‘dance floor’. Because the space is technically a restaurant, they are not considered ‘capable’ or ‘licensed’ to host ‘dancing parties’ for security reasons… Excuse me? My reaction might have been a culture shock, considering I come from a place where dancing is simply a natural human thing to do, like walking. I still cannot believe that dancing could ever possibly be against the law in some way. Let alone dangerous. What can I think of a reality in which we need an official paper permit to dance? My confused face would have been the same as if they had told me ‘so from now on we have to walk backwards at this side of the street’. It just didn’t make sense to me.
Tonight it was all about seating on tables, clapping hands, eating and leaving with a full stomach instead of the usual tired feet. No sweaty moves, no loud laughs, all personal space and a whole lot of order. It didn’t feel like home, it definitely didn’t feel like samba nor did it feel very typical Brazilian.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a case in which the need for rules to facilitate the coexistence within cultural diversity is actually cutting down on our socialization culture. Which means, to me, cutting down on a lot of spontaneity and, well, FUN. Is this one of the reasons why Brazilians don’t seem to care much about following the rules after all? But then again, we are not the safest place on the planet and definitely not the most organized either.
What are the implications of needing a formal approval to dance? In a situation such as tonight, in which in order to be allowed to be at that social space I had to conform with not being allowed to dance, I must question: Has our search for the ‘politically correct’ social dynamic become a paradox in which we have to give up social activities in order to be at social spaces?
Within the yin yang of order and mess, when do social norms become a facilitator for us to live in community, and when do they become a forbidding factor to our ‘living’ in itself?
Ruled organization: quality of living or quantity of surviving?