If you’re thinking ‘I never thought Tico Tico was a rhumba’, then don’t read on. But in the rather strange world I work in, it’s very common for dance teachers to say ‘rumba’ and then sing a bit of Zerquinha Abreu’s Tico-Tico (made famous by Carmen Miranda). The cruellest thing I ever witnessed in a class was some poor trainee teacher trying, as she had been advised to do, to set a battement frappé exercise verbally using a combination of French ballet terminology, counts, rhythmic noises and half the tune of Tico-Tico. It was like hearing an opera singer being forced to sing snatches of an aria, its translation and the orchestral accompaniment, using all available gaps in the music.
So no, it’s not a rumba: and to make matters worse, that term is a pretty muddy one, too. Tico-Tico or Tico-Tico no fubá to give it the full title, is an example of a Brazilian musical genre called choro, and indeed, the subtitle of the piece is ‘chorô sapéca’. You can read all about it in Choro: a social history of a Brazilian popular music by Tamara Livingston-Isenhour & Thomas Garcia, or by Googling ‘choro’.