Wh e n Lisele Lindsay invited me to a Capoeira Demonstration Fundraiser in January, I thought she was inviting me to a jewelry party! I felt rather “unworldly” as she had to explain that Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that some local folks have been practising weekly for the past three months.
I arrived at the appointed hour and situated myself in the front row. After a brief introduction by instructors Aron and Erin Ramalho of Shoal Lake, Man. the event began and I was wowed.
Capoeira is an energetic, flowing martial art, which combines music, dance and athleticism into a sort of co-operative game. Several different instruments make the music, the most transfi xing of which is the “berimbau” – a large bow, about five feet long, with one steel string. A dried and hollowed gourd acts as a resonator, played as a percussive instrument, and there was also a tall, wooden hand drum called an “atabaque” and a small frame drum called the “pandeiro,” which is much like a tambourine.
The Capoeira students, or players, form a circle, called the “roda” and the action ramped up when Ramalho began to sing and the players answered in a “call-and- response” format. As everyone claps along, two participants enter the centre of the circle and honour each other in a crouched position, before leaping to action. Capoeira involves dodging movements, kicks, handstands, cartwheels and lots of jumping. Just like the person who calls a square dance, the rhythm and speed of the game was led by the singing of Ramalho.
As the “dance” goes on, a new player or challenger comes into the centre of the roda and one leaves. The new pairings can go on for a few seconds or a few minutes and the performers ranged in age from six-year-old children to adults in their ’50s.
Capoeira provides an exceptional physical workout, promoting strength, flexibility, agility, respect and just plain fun! It was begun over 400 years ago by African slaves working on sugar plantations in Brazil. In their struggle for survival and ultimately, freedom, the martial arts practices were disguised with music, singing and dance, so that the plantation masters wouldn’t realize the slaves were training to fight.
Once prohibited, “Capoeira is now one of the most popular sports in Brazil, second only to football,” said Ramalho.
There will be a Brazilian Pavilion at the Brandon Winter Festival which takes place February 3 to 5 at which there will be Brazilian food and drink, and of course, Capoeira. Check out the website at www.city. brandon. mb.ca/winterfestival.
If you have energy to burn, want to get fit and have fun, contact Lisele Lindsay at (204) 848- 0342 or [email protected]
– Candy Irwin writes from Lake Audy, Manitoba