Saturday, November 5, 2011

Capoeira: The Story of My Introduction

photo from

Back in 2005, my husband and I, along with our three-year old little girl, were exploring Blue Star in San Antonio. Blue Star is an artist community that opens its doors to the town on the first Friday of every month. We went from space to space exploring all the Indie Art, introducing our princess to paintings, sculptures, photography, and many other beautiful expressions of the heart and brain.

When we stepped out of one of the buildings, our ears perked up to a combination of drums and another very strange yet beautiful musical instrument. Brian had heard it before, but my ears were virgin to the pulsing twang and hypnotic beats. We gravitated immediately to a circle of souls, clapping along to the music. There were lyrics, but they were unfamiliar to me. Not English, not Spanish. 

As we stepped closer, I saw the circle's center. The crowd watched as two flexible bodies moved together in harmony. It resembled a fight, but nearly looked choreographed to prevent injury to each other. A dance?

"What is this?" I asked the person beside me.

"Capoeira," he replied.

I nodded, the syllables lost on me.

I watched in amazement. The circle continued to shift. The bodies dressed in all white took turns in the center--dancing, performing acrobatics, and moving instinctively with each other. This circle, a cultural melting pot, was stirred by all shades and tones of skin color. Men, women, teenagers, and even a few small children took their turns.  They each brought their own spice, flavoring the flow of energy pulsing through the crowd.  My mouth remained in the largest grin. My eyes could not open any wider.

The person next to me tapped my shoulder and exaggerated his hand gestures. He wanted me to clap. He didn't say a word. He only moved his hands in front of me, and I knew what he wanted. I was no longer just a spectator; I was part of the musical circle -- if only by providing more percussion with my hands.

We stood and continued to watch. There was a spirit here. I could feel it. It was climbing in through my skin and beating along with my heart.

I shifted to gain a better view. Soon, I stood behind a girl playing one of the odd instruments with the peculiar sound. It was a long wooden bow with a single string. Attached was a gourd, similar to what my grandmother had hollowed into a birdhouse on her farm. The girl held the gourd against her belly, tapping the metal string with a skinny rod. I would later learn the name for this magical instrument -- berimbau. 

I had never in my life witnessed something so beautiful, so raw, and so primitive. I wish I would have been exposed to this earlier, I thought. My, I would love my body to move in such a way. 

Little did I know what was in store.

Share any thoughts, perspectives, etc. I'd love to hear from you. 

Some background on this piece. I am embarking on a journey of studying the culture, social movement, and communication of Capoeira. In order to move forward, I felt it was important to look back. I hope to role out additional pieces based on my past with this beautiful art form that has grabbed a hold of me and changed my life.