Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eu sou uma Capoerista.

Among the many activities we have participated in here in Brazil, we have had the privilege to take Capoeria class from Mestre Gladson (pictured above). He is one of the leaders of Project Liberdade which teaches Capoeria to Sao Paolo's youth, not only occupying their time, but also a program that provides them with opportunites such as higher education.

During the first of our two classes we had the opportunity to learn some of the basic movements such as the ginga (left), some movements moving in and out of the floor which help you to establish your hands as a base in addition to your feet, and what some might call some technical drills...?

The first of these was jumping rope: good old fashion 2 people turn a jump rope and everyone takes turns jumping in and out. This I could do.

Then Mestre Gladson held one end of the rope, while someone else held the other end so it was taught and we had to cartwheel back and forth (read: left and right) over the rope. Okay, doable.

Then he asked us to do the samething again, this time, with only one hand... ummm.... one handed cartwheels? and on my left? doesn't he know I'm right-sided???

After a few semi-tricky movements requiring the lifting of the legs over the rope, and turning back and forth with the rope between your legs, the real challenge came: a limbo, of sorts. Mission: Cartweel over the rope (one handed if you can) and then pass back underneath the rope on your hands and feet (no knees) without touching the rope or your body to the floor. Needless to say, we had some serious tests of strength and agility going on and afterwards we were feeling the burn...

While challenging, I enjoyed the physicality of the martial art/dance/game. It appealed to my sense of movement in its groundedness, and in its improvisation and creativity. Mestre Gladson never wanted to dictate how we should move. He simply gave an assignment and it was up to us to discover how to accomplish it.

Yet the physical part of it was just a peice of the pie. There was playing musical instruments with the drum, shaker and barimbou; there was singing, call and response style; there was dancing samba into the roda; there was hitting sticks with a partner on beat; and finally there was playing Capoeria itself.

Although we had only a minimal idea of what to do, each of us were invited into the roda with a companion and with a You move, I move strategy we engaged in the game, moving up, down, around, under and over our partners.

I was struck by the positive energy in the room, the sharing (literal sharing of tasks and general openness), and the willingness to teach/learn from one another. Project Liberdade draws its name from the idea of freedom and liberty that is inherent in the roots of Capoeira. Formed amongst Brazilian slaves in quilombos who were practicing to defend themselves and their freedom - a complex art and form of community was born that has thrived until the present. Again, awesome! I felt blessed to be able to take part in that legacy and Capoeira is just another reason why I'm going to live in Brazil at some point in the future.

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