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Nightlife: Brazilian Dance Night at FiRE +iCE

Sensual dancing at Harvard Square eatery every Thursday

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In northeastern Brazil, forró dancing is so popular that the phrase “going to the forró” has become shorthand for “going to party.” Forró encompasses a variety of musical styles and dance rhythms and has won fans across the globe. Visit FiRE + iCE  in Harvard Square on a Thursday night and you’ll see why. The grill and bar’s weekly Brazilian night offers free forró lessons for beginners, followed by dancing to live music geared to dancers of all levels. We stopped by recently to find out what the phenomenon is all about.

The “improvisational grill and bar” is best known for its 35-foot round grill, with more than 18 meats and fish, 40 vegetables and pastas, and 15 sauces. Diners create a customized meal prepared right in front of them. The all-you-can-eat Mongolian grill–style restaurant opened in 1997 and now has locations in the Back Bay, Rhode Island, and California.

It’s especially popular on Mondays, when the Harvard Square restaurant offers College Night: students pay $10.99 for the all-you-can-eat meal. On Wednesday’s West Coast Swing Night and Saturday’s Meltdown Night, you can get down to an eclectic mix of hip-hop, afrohouse, dancehall reggae, Caribbean music, and more.

Thursday nights are devoted to Brazilian dance, with an emphasis on forró, danced in pairs, so it’s best to have a partner, as most of the people we saw were couples. The Cambridge dance studio Moves and Vibes leads the forró half of the evening, with live music from three local bands. There is also DJ-fueled zouk, kizomba, and bachata—other forms of Brazilian dance—in a different section.

Diners can choose from a wide variety of meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, and more cooked on what the place claims is the world's largest Mongolian grill.

Diners can choose from a wide variety of meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, and more cooked on what the place claims is the world’s largest Mongolian grill.

For the nervous beginner, the free lesson is a great primer. The night we stopped in, four instructors were guiding four novices in the rudiments of forró, demonstrating moves, giving students time to practice to music, and offerings encouragement and praise.

Forró pros can try a design-your-own meal before the music begins. We started with the BBQ quesadilla appetizer ($5.99)—sautéed chicken, caramelized onions, jack cheese, and BBQ sauce, with sour cream and salsa on the side. The flavorful BBQ sauce didn’t really work with the salsa and sour cream, and the dish lacked the gooey cheesiness essential to a good quesadilla.

Although somewhat overwhelming, the all-you-can-eat meal ($17) was more successful. First diners choose one of four cuisines: Asian, American, Latin, or Italian. The several buffet stations include veggies and pasta, meat and seafood, sandwiches, salads, and sauces. After a moment of panic over where to start, we filled a bowl with broccoli, sweet potatoes, bell pepper, shrimp, and squid, and deciding on Asian cuisine, we opted for the hoisin ginger sauce and added cilantro and togarashi, a Japanese chili powder spice.

The chef cooked the food on the huge donut-shaped grill, and it was ready in about 10 minutes. Diners looking for authentic ethnic cuisine will likely be disappointed. We found the hoisin ginger and yakitori sauces too salty and the ginger indistinguishable. The togarashi added a zesty taste, but lacked the heat expected from chili powder.

Milena Morais and Valmir Coelho, both Brazilian natives, are two of the instructors on hand to teach beginners. 

Milena Morais and Valmir Coelho, both Brazilian natives, are two of the instructors on hand to teach beginners.

After eating, we checked out the Tropical Lounge, where couples were showing off their zouk, kizomba, and bachata moves. Like forró, each style has corresponding music genres, and DJs kept the crowd moving with a mix of songs. Couples switched effortlessly between sensual and smoothly flowing zouk (marked by dramatic dips and head whips by the women), high-energy bachata, and simple but smoldering kizomba, full of slow body rolls and closely partnered back-and-forth movements.

By 11:30 p.m., the Club Room was packed as the forró dancing began. The pairs (most in their late 20s and 30s) spun, shuffled, and swiveled their hips to upbeat songs performed by the night’s first band, Raizes (“roots” in Portuguese). Traditional forró music uses just three instruments: an accordion, a triangle, and a zabumba, a Brazilian bass drum. But Raizes included a guitar and a Western drum set too. Local bands Trio Tome Xote and Johnny Copa also performed authentic forró-style songs.

Go to Brazilian Night at FiRE + iCE for the dancing, not the food. It’s an exhilarating way to spend a Thursday night, though you may find yourself dragging the next day. Whether a newcomer to Brazilian dance or an experienced dancer, you’re more than likely to have a good time.

FiRE + iCE Restaurant is at 50 Church St, Cambridge; phone: 617-547-9007. Brazilian Night is Thursdays, from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Dancing is 18+. Free dance lessons are offered from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m., but a cover charge is required for the forró dancing with live music, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., and the kizomba, zouk, and bachata dancing with DJs, from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. General admission is $12, $8 for Moves and Vibes students with a member punch card. Take a MBTA Red Line train to Harvard Square.

This is part of a series featuring Boston nightlife venues of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Kylie Obermeier can be reached at kylieko@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Nightlife: Brazilian Dance Night at FiRE +iCE

  • Mat on 09.15.2016 at 2:08 pm

    Bachata is from the dominican republic, Kizomba is from Angola and Zouk originates in Africa as well. The have nothing to do with Brazil.

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