Marching group’s Brazilian-style dances–with an aquatic twist

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NEW ORLEANS — The marching group Bloco Sereia is bringing a Brazilian carnival tradition to New Orleans with its own aquatic twist.

“‘Sereia’ means mermaid,” says Bloco Sereia organizer Sarah Dearie. “We thought of the Yoruba goddesses Oxum and Iemanja, that they kind of honor in Brazil. One’s a river goddess and the other, now, is an ocean goddess. It was kind of a tribute to them.”

She adds, “But also, a lot of my artwork has mermaids.”

Dearie says Bloco Sereia formed in 2014 and first marched with Muses the next year.

“The ‘blocos’ are the walking groups, carnival groups, in Brazil,” she explains. “And, we just got inspired and said, ‘Let’s just do it.’ And we decided to start our own.”

While many New Orleanians are familiar with the samba “schools” of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the “blocos” are the street parades of Brazil, which are also a big part of “Carnaval” festitivities there. They include music, dancing, and costumes–just like marching groups in New Orleans carnival.

“We have about, I think, 30-ish dancers, 30-ish drummers,” says Dearie. The dancers perform choreographed moves to the drummer’s beats influenced by Afro-Brazilian styles.

“Some of our dances are more traditional Brazilian,” she says. “But, some we’ve sort of created a hybrid based on our own inspiration, inspired by some kind of dances from Africa. The ones that are Brazilian, they were influenced by Africa, also.”

Bloco Sereia will have its first carnival ball Saturday (Feb. 22) at Southport Hall (200 Monticello Ave.) from 8 p.m.-midnight. It will have DJs, food vendors, music by C’Est Funk and Amigos do Samba, and a performance by Bloco Sereia.

Ticket information is on the Bloco Sereia website and the Bloco Sereia Facebook page.

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