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Menezes Family
Dances and Rhythms from Maranhão

oficina de caixa divino som família menezes Família Menezes Danças e Ritmos do Maranhão

image: CEU AUM file ( Encounter )

Dance is present in our lives on several occasions: in places and styles, in communities, on the television, in books, in courses, in workshops, at parties and in celebrations.  The dances emanate from various sources, they are present in the sacred feasts, in the ''terreiros '' of umbanda, churches, temples and social parties like weddings, clubs and anniversaries, animating  manifestations both sacred and profane. Dance is the word of the body, the movement of sound and the unlimited expression of the universe of art.

To celebrate this moment of identification with the Brazilian popular dance, the aim is to rescue the culture in a playful and educational manner through dances, music and rhythms, in such manner, contributing to the formation of the human being.


The dances, especially the popular ones, denote in a strong way the theme of complicity, reciprocity and dialogue with one another. It is when body and soul, creator and creation, visible and invisible meet and disappear at the moment of creation.

Target Audience

The workshop is aimed at children, adolescents and the elderly, that is, people who seek, through body movement, moments of knowledge combined with pleasure. The groups can be composed of 20 to 24 participants.


The workshop is presented by the ''caixeiras'' of the Menezes Family. The workshop offers  musicalization through the practice of singing and percussion. The songs are always related to elements of nature and daily life. 


It is danced in pairs with a shifting of the feet accompanying the beat of the ''Caixas do Divino'' (instrument which is essential to achieve this rhythm). Transmitted orally, they are easily assimilated rescuing the collective memory, while the simple and vigorous percussion leads this practice, resulting in beautiful and engaging music. 

The box dance, bambaê.

oficina de caixa divino som família menezes Família Menezes Danças e Ritmos do Maranhão

image: CEU AUM file ( Encounter )



Over the years, the Menezes Family has preserved and disseminated many religious and profane manifestations of Maranhão's culture. Represented by the sisters Anunciação  (Dindinha), Maria José (Zezé), Maria das Graças (Gracinha) and their children: Henrique, Bartira, Ney, Téo and Rômulo Menezes, they are still responsible for the development of many popular games in São Luís, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, such as: ''Ladainha''(Litany), ''Reis do Oriente'' (Kings of the orient), ''Quadrilha do Oeste''( Quadrille from the West), ''Presépio vivo''(living crib), ''Baile de Natal'' (Christmas Ball), ''Tambor de Crioula''(Crioula's Drum), ''Cacuriá'', ''Caroço'' (seed), ''Bumba-meu-boi'', ''Queima de palhinha''(burning straw), Comedies, ''Bois de cofo de Farinha d’agua'', ''Festa do Divino Espirito Santo''(The divine holy spirit celebration), ''Bloco de sujo'', ''Lelê'','' Baile de Caixa''(box dance), ''Bambaê'' or ''Carimbó de caixa'' among others. 

Searching through the roots of the Menezes Family, we found José Maria de Menezes, the patriarch of the family who played the guitar, sang and composed sambas and poetry. Francisca Reis de Menezes, curator, lithographer, composer and dancer from Terreiro do Engenho and Turkey (Family Matriarch).


Born in Vila Passos, at the age of 10, Dindinha had her Divine Holy Spirit celebration with other children that also lived in the region. Zezé, at age 11, was already praying a litany. Graça had her first Divine Holy Spirit celebration  at age 9, with other children from Vila Chaves.


Today, living in the neighborhood of Fátima, the Menezes have held celebrations for the Divine Holy Spirit since 1943, in São Luís do Maranhão.


From 2000, after the ''Caixa do Divino'' workshop which took place in the Cachuêra Cultural Association, came about the idea of holding a demo of the celebration in the city of São Paulo. Ever since,  along with all the clothing and preparations, São Paulo has annually received an edition of the Divine Holy Spirit celebration.


Still in 2000, reuniting with the group ''A Barca'' from São Paulo, a lovely partnership was formed. Taking part in group rehearsals where some religious healing doctrines and Francisca Reis de Menezes's ''Baião de Princesas'' (Flor Jurema, Tapuia Jacarandá, Carro Tombador, Maria da Graça) were passed down. The group A Barca, together with the Menezes Family and the Fanti-Ashanti house, recorded a CD called BAIÃO DE PRINCESAS. The Family is part of this well-known worship house in São Luís, since 1960, house directed by Talabyan Euclides Menezes.


The children, already from their mother's wombs,  heard all these chants and took part in the cultural movements. From a young age they sang and played rhythms from Maranhão and until this day they continue to do so respectfully with love and dedication to preserve the culture of Maranhão.


In addition to musical and theatrical shows held in various parts of the country and outside Brazil, the family has a very close connection with the art-education area, giving workshops on all the cultural manifestations already mentioned. 


Performances and music concerts in places such as: Itaú cultural (SP), Espaço Jericó (SP), Casa do Mestiço (RJ), Centro de Cultura Vieira Filho (MA), Fórum Sustentável (MA),  Tambor de crioula na casa da cantora Alcione de Nazaré (RJ).  CD recordings featuring: Caixeiras sing and play to the divine ( Menezes Family), Baião de princesas (A Barca e a Casa Fanti-Ashanti), Cacuriá pé no Terreiro (Grupo Pé no Terreiro), Grupo Cupuaçu (Toadas de Bumba-meu-boi), Grupo cupuaçu (Todo Canto Dança) and Quando dorme Alcântara (Tião Carvalho). 


Who are they: 

  • Anunciação de Maria Reis Menezes (Dindinha) - ''Ebame'' of the  Fanti-Ashanti House, Caixeira of the Divine and Singer;

  • Maria José Reis de Menezes (Zezé) - ''Ekédi'' of the Fanti-Ashanti House, Caixeira of the Divine, Singer, Composer and Community Leader.

  • Maria das Graças Reis de Menezes (Graça) - Singer, Composer, Caixeira of the Divine and Art educator.

  • Henrique Menezes - ''Ogã Alabanti'' of the Fanti-Ashanti House, Singer, Musician, Composer and Art Educator

  • Bartira Menezes - Singer, Dancer, choreographer, Caixeira of the Divine and Art Educator;

  • Ney Menezes - Percussionis

  • Téo Menezes - Percussionist and Art Educator

  • Rômolu Menezes - ''Ogã'' from the Fanti-Ashanti House, percussionist and videographer

Today, living in São Paulo, Graça, Henrique, Bartira and Téo Menezes, live singing, playing and livening up parties, in various spaces and cities. Two or three times a year, the whole family gathers  in São Paulo, from April to May, and in São Luís, between June and July and also in September.

Família Menezes
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