The reunion with the colors, sounds and memories of my childhood in Pará, a state in love with June parties.
Text and photos by Melvin Quaresma
My memories of the celebrations of São João in Pará, where I was born and lived most of my childhood, are loaded with vibrant colors and music that I rarely saw or heard at the June parties in the south of Brazil, where I have lived for almost two decades. My memories also include the clothes and dances, which we watched on the streets, in blocks, in squares and everywhere else. More specifically in the streets around my grandmother's house, in Belém, we followed not only the presentations, but also the preparations of the Queen of Youth of the square dancing, whose headquarters are next door to my family's house. I miss the whole atmosphere of São João's past, and when June comes, I feel distant from something that is part of me and my family. After 16 years living in the south, I returned to Belém for the first time in June, in 2016. And I returned for the second time in 2019, to find my memories again, photograph and cheer for the Queen in square dance competitions.
In several cities of Pará there are competitions of square dancing from all over the state, which are presented to the jury and public. I followed two of these competitions: that at Centur, in the capital of Pará, and the presentations in Tracuateua, considered a "June festival city" because of the great importance of these days for the city. At Centur, there are 100 square dance groups that participate in the contest, which lasts 15 days. In Tracuateua, dances of 50 square dance groups take place for two days, at parties that begin in the late afternoon and end at dawn of the following day. According to data provided by FEMUQ
(City Federation of the square dances of June festival), there are about 40 square dance groups in Belém and 120 in Pará.
The presentations last at least 15 minutes and at most 20. During this time, the jokers - as the dancers are called - dance, sing and smile, always smiling. Smiling is worth a point, but it also is an escape from the extreme tiredness of the square dance members. The long-sleeved clothes, in addition to the warmth of the nights in Pará and the ceaseless movements during the entire performance, make the dance an even bigger challenge. At the end of the performances it is not uncommon to find jokers passing out or fainted. I ask my cousin Carol, a joker of the Queen of Youth, what happens in her head after the performance, when her body suffers.
"It's a tiredness mixed with emotion, with my heart pouding ... Then gives a sense of mission accomplished and desire to dance again, because we dance with much love there."
Carol Drago, one of the jokers of the Queen of Youth square dance group.
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