To close out the City Hustlers series, our last interview is with Renata Prado. A pedagogy student, producer of the Batekoo party, dancer and director of the Frente Nacional De Mulheres No Funk (National front of weman in funk). Renata Prado told us how dancing became a big part of her life, and how this art form became a way to express her opinions and her passion.
“My name is Renata Prado and I’m 27 years old, I’m a pedagogy student from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo and researcher of the law 10.639 – that states the obligation of teaching about Afro-Brazilian History and Culture. I’m also the producer of the Batekoo party, dancer and director of the National Front of Women in Funk.”
Why do you dance?
renataDancing is the only form of art that has always spoken to me. It makes me express who I am, it shows my personality, dance saved me from depression. It was the only art form that connected with my soul and understood what my body needed. So I would say that I dance to show who I am and put myself into the world through the expression of my body. I chose dancing as an art and dance chose me.
I dance since I was a kid, since the time of É o Tchan (laughs). I had an Axé dance group and then funk reached the outskirts of the city – I did a lot of funk showcases when I was a teenager. Later on, I had to quit dancing because I needed to study and when I got into college it was a whole new universe, and I ended up leaving dance to the side. I went through a lot of problems, including depression, and it was dancing that got me out of rock bottom.
What is Batekoo?
renataBatekoo was supposed to be only a party, but it turned into a movement. It’s a movement that represents black and LGBT youth from the outskirts of the city and black women, it became a movement of identity, race, class, and gender. It’s a place where people can come together and just be themselves, and make it into a political being of this world. Batekoo is a very recent movement, but I guarantee that it’s very transforming.
The party began with two producers, Weslay and Maurício. Till one of them came to live in São Paulo and they decided to have the party here. They met me at a party during a hair whip competition, in which I won (laughs). They liked me and invited me to be a part of Batekoo, they thought I had everything to do with the party. They invited me to shoot some teasers but I noticed that Wesley was a little out of place, he was the producer but since he didn’t know the scene in São Paulo, he didn’t know where to start, and I already was a rap producer, so when I saw that he was a bit lost, I offered to work with him, it worked out and now we’re partners.
The parties go down mostly in the center region since the city is so big because if we only have the party on the east zone, people from the north or south zones won’t come and etc. So it’s strategic to throw the party in the center, to connect people from all around the outskirts of São Paulo.
How does Batekoo affect your life and the people around you?
renataIt really transformed my life because it came to me during at a really important moment, I was recovering from depression when this opportunity came up of working and showing my capabilities. It worked out because it was everything that I needed, Batekoo is body movement, dance, it’s a party for people to really dance, we are known for this. Despite not being exactly how I make money, dancing is fundamental to my life because it allows me to be who I am, and I am able to let that show in Batekoo, and so do many other people. There is that “if she can, then I can”, “if they are dressed like, I want to dress like that too”, “if the girl next to me is dancing like that, then I can do it too”, so it’s a place of reflection, if you feel like you belong, that transforms people’s lives, in a direct or indirect way.
What projects are you involved in as a pedagogy and social educator?
renataThe project that I’m focused on right now is the National Front of Women in Funk, it came up recently with the union of four friends that already work within Funk. Juliana works with public security in the field of youth, citizenship, and human rights she is a jurist that works with political matters; There’s Rubia who is a Funk advisor, and pioneer in the subject; There’s Leila Tupinambá who is an awesome producer from Rio de Janeiro, was part of the team Eu Amo Baile Funk for a long time, this is one of the most important parties of Rio; and there’s me, I’m a dancer since I was little and I have experienced Funk throughout my life.
I went to college and understood how the system is cruel and the only way to take back all that information that I have learned in college back to the community was to create a political front that represented me – that is the National Front of Women in Funk. These three crazy women believed in me (laughs) and now the project is going really well, our proposal is to provide training for all the outskirts cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Training in the form of lectures, sexuality, women, their body within the funk mass, dance workshops, lectures with the older women in Funk -we want to rescue their history. For now, this is what the project is about, but we know that it’s not going to be just that, but for the moment it’s what we’re going to be doing next year.
You mentioned that you were a Rap producer?
renataI had a partner that was a Rap MC and I was his producer where I did all the production work for CDs, sales, photography, shows, handle his calendar, all that stuff. And when I went to be a producer for Batekoo it was so much easier because I already had the experience from Rap and I already knew the LGBT universe because of all my experiences, of the fact that I lived in the outskirts and most of my friends were women and gay.
How do the areas that you work with, both dance and pedagogy, relate with one another?
renataWe live in a society where our bodies are repressed and children at school are educated to do so. That’s why I’m doing this counterpart. Dancing is a part of children’s culture, if you’re on the outskirts of São Paulo, you’ll see a lot of kids dancing the Passinho do Romano, if you go to the outskirts of Rio you’ll see the kids dancing the Passinho Foda. This is part of their culture and the schools exclude this cultural tool that is present in the daily life of those children. As a pedagogue, I do the opposite, I take the dance into the schools.
There’s a guy called Hugo Oliveira who is a researcher from Rio de Janeiro, dancer, that has the thesis from his masters on exactly this subject, about dancing within kids culture inside the classrooms. It’s a project that I really reflect my work from, and it’s what I intend to do as well, and in some way, it’s what I do already, in my way. I strongly believe that dance is a tool for social-political education.
What’s your relationship with the city?
renataI explore São Paulo ever since I was young and I still don’t know everything, that’s my relationship with the city. I always go to places where I don’t know where I am. There are places that I go frequently because they’re places I identify with, for example, I was born and raised in the far end of the east side, in Itaim Paulista and today I live in Santa Cecilia, so I make a huge connection within the city. And my job allows me to explore the city in different ways. I really like the south zone, there are places I feel very at home like Sarau da Cooperifa, it’s a place that feels like I’m in the east zone, there are places in the north zone that I feel good, that reminds me of my youth; in the west zone I worked in a few libraries. I live in the center because it makes my life easier and I were the parties go down, and the east zone because it’s my spot.
I have this crazy connection with São Paulo, I know that I will die without getting to know the whole city (laughs).
What places would you take someone who’s never been in the city? Is there a spot that you identify yourself more?
renataThere’s a lot of places I would take someone…my hood, for example, would be the first place, which is the place where I know more people, where I know there is the coolest stuff. Here in the center as well, there’re some nice bars that I enjoy, like Aparelha Luiza, There’s also Praça Roosevelt and the Minhoção. I learned how to adapt to places, to be real, to all places in São Paulo.
I really enjoy observing São Paulo and looking at all the pixo that it has. When I used to live in the center, I had this thing where I would always go back home at night in the center, really high, on the radial leste bus, so I could just look at all the pixo in the city, looking at tags, I’ve always done this, and it’s the form of art that I most love. I don’t understand it, but that’s what it’s made for – it’s not made to be understood and if you did understand it, it would just lose its purpose. To me pixo is the face of São Paulo, it symbolizes São Paulo, and it’s a form of art that’s ours.
Describe to us what a day in Renata’s life is like?
renataOh, it’s so crazy, I can’t even explain it (laughs). There are days that I work a lot, there are days I don’t do everything. Take today, for example, I’m here with you guys shooting, then I’m going way over to Cidade Tiradentes to do a shooting with my friend for a reality show of entrepreneurs. Then I got back to the center, and head over to Aclimação for a course I’m doing that came from Rio called “Universidade da correria” that has the goal to promote entrepreneurs from the outskirts. And then I’m going to Rio de Janeiro for a meeting. Everything today.
I really like to travel, but I also don’t have a lot of time. This thing where you do your own hustle independently, you don’t get to go on vacation. You don’t get a vacation. When you are a registered worker you can organize yourself because you know that a month per your you’ll get to go on vacation. But we don’t, sometimes you have a lot of money but you don’t have the time, or sometimes you have a lot of time but you don’t have the money. See now I want to organize myself to go on a trip, to do something cool or go on a trip with my mom which is something I’ve been trying to do for a while now, but I can’t.
What role do your sneakers play in your daily hustle?
renataFor all this daily hustle, I have to have something comfortable on my feet. Besides I’m a dancer and I also have spine problems and etc. So for all this hustle, to take all that beating, it’s essential to be wearing sneakers. It’s like my war clothes: I live with my backpack, water bottle, packed lunch, bus pass, with a credit card and sneakers.
Do you have a favorite model?
renataLook, Nike Air Max is what makes me feel the most comfortable, especially with spine posture issue. It’s one of the sneakers that have best adapted to my body and my dancing. They’re as strong as me (laughs).