Show Macaya: Celebrating Brazilian Culture and Syncretism
Macaya means ‘celebration, party’ in Iorubá. Relying exclusively on voluntary work, the troupe was entirely cast of capoeiras, mostly of beginners without any previous experience in theatre or dance. Profa. Josi Rocha, besides directing and choreographing the troupe, was one of the main people behind this really-low-cost production. The clip above and the interviews below will be of great help and inspiration for those keen to jump into cultural productions/performances with their Capoeira schools. Continue reading Show Macaya: Celebrating Brazilian Culture and Syncretism

Come Along to Brazil: Visiting Mestres Fernando ‘Urso’ and Cláudio Danadinho

(Written on November 11, 2011) Doc Pascowitz, the surf legend and health guru, says that not every fit person is healthy, but that every super-healthy person is extremely fit. Game-wise speaking, the visit I paid Mestre Urso, resonates a lot with Doc’s believes. Both Mestre Urso’s and Mestre Danadinho’s young students are a living proof that those who primarily focus on the game as the core foundation of their training become extremely good capoeiras, whereas being trained in drills and mannerism-like techniques doesn’t necessarily brings flow and interactiveness to one’s game. Most of the young capoeiras attending this Roda had at top 2 years of training, but their understanding of the contextual character of the game and of the game itself as a core element guiding one’s practice is sound.

As soon as we arrived Mestre Cláudio Danadinho began leading a class based on variations of Mestre Bimba’s sequence. He didn’t talk much. Instead he started with Mestre Bimba’s 6th sequence knowing that we all would be familiar with it. Soon most pairs, specially the more experienced ones, were executing it quite automatically. By then, again without much talking, he gave us a couple of variations in which both players could end up executing the final strike. At this stage, he warned us that these variations were to be carried on without us pre-establishing who was suppose to strike at any given time.

Sometimes, giving the level of game-reality these variations were bringing to the class, improvisation had to kick in. Some of us in some sequences, for instance, had to use rasteiras instead of negativas to scape each others unexpected attacks otherwise we would be hit. Often someone would complain that his/her partner strike was ‘towards the wrong side of the sequence'; to what Mestre Danadinho would come and say: – ‘First manage to do your esquiva and finish your sequence, than you rationalise what happened!’

Mestre Danadinho also stressed that Mestre Bimba didn’t use to correct every detail of each student or of their sequences, saying that this would ruin their personal style and creativity. A lesson many have forgotten since the ‘Golden Days’ in Bahia. Mestre Danadinho began teaching again over an year ago after decades away from regular classes. But he came back with the sight, experience and opinion of those who had lived Capoeira with Mestres Bimba, Pastinha, Waldemar, etc. and then saw Capoeira’s boom in other Brazilian states already taking the forms we know today. He knows the many pros and cons of today’s approach to Capoeira, and is proving with his students that training can be much more game-oriented than most teachers think today.

Distance and Proximity

… I learnt that distance, as much as proximity, is essential to understand our relationship with both our counterparts and craft. … The message that follows was written to my Brazilian friends (even though some are living abroad) on my way back to Australia. But since I wrote it I realised it’s actually a message to all my friends and counterparts from all over the world, so I translated it to share with you all. I hope you enjoy it. Abraços e Feliz Ano Novo!!

This year, after 4 years without visiting Brazil I could come back and see many friends. While I was there matando as saudades*, (re)learning and refilling to keep up with the mission of working with my culture, I remembered many friends who live abroad and became ambassadors of the Brazilian culture working with music, Capoeira, dance… Some working with all these at once. I have learnt as much in Brazil as abroad, that everyone in love with Brazilian culture becomes an artist; that because we all put forward the message of Brazilian-ness, because we bring in our chest the scent of our land, the blood mark of our ancestors and the fight certainty of our living ones; as put by François Silvestre, o cantador. (Though this was said of Brazilians adrift around the world, I belive it goes with all those orbiting around Capoeira and Brazilian culture too, as we all share most of the same signs, symbols and meanings around these manifestations)

My relation with my friends and with Capoeiragem has changed a lot in these years. I learnt that distance, as much as proximity, is essential for us to understand our relationship with both our counterparts and craftsmanship**. These years of distance taught me that despite life’s turns, group flags or Capoeira orientation (the so called ‘styles’), the distance that make us apart or our own minor differences I learn a lot from you all. I’m, indeed, disciple of a few and maverick in relation to the work of others, but I’m always a discúpulo que aprende e mestre que dá lição.

Time was too short to make up for four years of distance and because of that I couldn’t see everyone or spend as much time as I would like with some. I really would like to bring you all with me everywhere always, but as I can’t, I keep the lessons and our friendship alive through my work, through the Capoeira I practice and teach, and, now, through the friendships extended to other lands. I would like to let all my friends know that you already have other friends in the places I have been travelling to, even though you haven’t had yet the opportunity of (re)meeting them.

Thank you all for our friendship, for the care and support you always show up with, even if from a distance.

I don’t intend to take this long to come back to Brazil again, but I would like to see everyone here in Australia too. My place is open and our new friends are waiting as well.

I hope that in this new year we’ll have more time to be together!

Grande abraço com muito axé para todos!!

* – ‘killing the longing’ or catching up with missed ones, though such translation does not really meet the standards for ‘saudade’.

** – Actually the first time I heard about such concept, it was in Bauman’s book Identity (which I’ll reference here soon). Curiously this time in Brazil while talking to Mestre Danadinho, he also mentioned something similar, in the context that most people in Capoeira are very much into it, but miss the chance of taking a step back to look at it from a different perspective… To some extent I own this lesson to both Bauman (in my readings) and Mestre Danadinho (in my time learning from him) as well.