Banned Cape Verdean Dance Makes UMB Students Drool

Shira Kaminsky

The dance instructor shook her hips to the rhythm of the drumming crowd, but it was the way her buttocks bounced back and forth that kept the spectators transfixed. No one could blame the men for nearly drooling when even the women couldn’t look away.

The Batuko dance is so sensual, it was once forbidden in the very place it originated, the islands of Cape Verde off of West Africa, and it sure was the most sensational part of a dance lesson held last Thursday by the Cape Verdean Student Association of UMB.

Instructed by Kathleen DeVasconcelos, Students tried to master both the slow and fast versions of the Cape Verdean one-two step. Dancing ensued at various levels of expertise. Most couples were moving across the room in perfect harmony, and although some couples appeared to have a chronic case of the stumbles, everyone was having a good time.

Cape Verdeans began migrating to the US in the eighteenth century, mostly as crew-members on whaling ships. Due to its flourishing whaling industry at the time, Massachusetts became a hub for the Cape Verdean community. Roughly 200,000 people of Cape Verdean descent live in New England today, and the number grows every year. The Cape Verdean Student Association meets twice a week and plans to hold more special events this semester. Kayla DeVasconcelos, a member of the club and the dance instructor’s sister, grew up on the island, and she said the Cape Verdean Students Association has a lot to offer.

“It’s not just about the dancing. If you join the club you will get the whole history of Cape Verde,” she said.

Once everyone in the room worked up a sweat, the students gathered in a circle on the floor to conclude the lesson. The Batuko dance was saved for last, demonstrated by the instructor with a scarf around her hips to accentuate what was already hard to ignore. The president of the club, Amilton Baptista, explained the history behind the “forbidden dance,” which used to be banned in Cape Verde when it was a Portuguese colony for its overt eroticism. Today Batuko is commonly practiced by Cape Verdeans as a beloved part of their culture.