Pantanal Escapes

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This YouTube video shows one of the local schools in Poconé practicing the Dança dos Mascarados (Dance of the Masked Ones) in preparation for the annual São Benedito festivities. The origins of the dance are a little uncertain but it dates from colonial times - mixing Spanish or Portuguese, African and Indigenous traditions and musical rhythms.

Traditionally, the dance was only allowed to be performed only by men as women were said to get too dizzy when spinning around - with local stories saying the mask was introduced as a way to hide which men were dressed as women and save them embarrassment.

Typically there are 27 dancers, split into 12 pairs - with another three carrying the standards and flags. Visitors to Poconé can sometimes see the dance being practiced by local groups in the main square on Thursdays - although biggest performances are reserved for the São Benedito celebrations in June, and the Our Lady Rosary (Nossa Senhora do Rosário) in October.

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