Art as a space of resistance during the dictatorial regime in Brazil
Article presented in the Gender and Politics class at the University of Brasília, in September of 2018
The dictatorship was a period of military government that took place during the years 1964-1985, in this period, Brazil lived a big repression on some aspects like the freedom of speech, the arts and the political rights. One of the biggest questions was the censorship that the government imposed on some songs, plays, performances, books and others.
In this context of social, political and psychological of repression, the group Dzi Croquettes was born in the city of São Paulo. In the year of 1972, the apex of the violence, fear and censorship towards artists and social activists (Lobert, 2010), a group of fourteen actors, choreographers, painters and scenographers decided to create a play, Gente Computada Igual a Você, that would bring the femininity, the glitter, the sex and the subversion of male bodies and masculine subjectivities.
The play aimed to use the arts as a place of subversion, in terms of politics, more than a place of entertainment and cultural production, they brought a contestation of the social categories that were set by using a lot of dance, sequin, makeup, body exposion and music. The group was mainly formed by gay guys, but, in a moment of social repression, they brought more than just the gay aspect to their shows, they used a lot of representations of androgyny, trans subjectivities and bodies.
The group was first formed to do some experiences and performances, but, when the choreographer Lennie Dale joined the group they achieved a bigger status and got to run a show. Tring to create a new aesthetical style, they need to have a show that could not just be a symbolical resonance, they needed to bring to the public something that would, at the same time, shock and enchant.
They used to define themselves as a group before anything, this way they could realize theirs studies and rehearsals without being taken by other aspects that weren’t the ones related to their artistical duty. After some years of construction, in 1974, they finally were able to debut their first, and most important, show – where all of them were wearing feminine clothes and were representing some transvestites bodies and subjectivities.
After the opening of the show the dictatorial government decided that the play was immoral and violated some of the decrees that were instituted by the Ato Institucional Número Cinco (AI-5). This way, the group was unable to perform and to disseminate their artistical and political thoughts in Brazil, otherwise, they would all be arrested and suffer the tortures that the military dictatorship was imposing on people.
They needed to fly away from the country to be able to continue their work, this way, they went to Europe and lived there for the next two years – having Paris as their home with the support of Liza Minelli and the Chez Regine (Lobert, 2010). In this period, they got a lot of attention and were able to finally realize their show and the performances as it was meant to be.
In Paris they created their next play, Troupe Brésilienne, this would be their biggest moment in Europe before returning to Brazil in 1975. After the failure of their two last shows, Romance and Dzi Croquettes, the group torn apart and the cast went in some different ways.
But why this group is the symbol of a LGBTI resistance in the theatre during the Brazilian dictatorship?
The first and most important point is the suggestion of a style of art that aims to break with the social categories of gender and sexuality, specially breaking with a status quo of masculinity. By using their bodies as a space of divergent constructions and performances the Dzi could provoke the military fundamentals of the government. The glitter becomes a weapon. The sequin becomes a statement.
They were proposing not just a cultural or artistic way of getting way of the dictatorship, they used a small space – due to the bad conditions that social minorities had to grow in that time – to create a new social identity and to give a tiny step towards the disruption of the social values that were dominant. The Dzi Croquettes used their art to create a space that were far beyond frames and classifications. It was the aim to be always changing and discovering your body, gender and sexuality. We can see that their work became a big influence to a several of artists and to other generations that came after them.
In 2009, one of the actors' daughter made a documentary about the group. This documentary, called Dzi Croquettes, became the Brazilian most awarded audiovisual product ever. In this way, we can see that their history was a mark in the social and artistic construction in Brazil.
Lobert, Rosemary. (2010). A palavra mágica: a vida cotidiana do Dzi Croquettes. Campinas: Editora UNICAMP.