We kept walking and passed some shops selling clothes and funny sculptures.
We stopped at Cafe Alsace to have a bite to eat. My husband had a steak sandwich in a baguette with brie cheese. I had the salmon salad with fresh peaches and pecans in a balsamic vinaigrette. Both were delicious. We ended the meal, him with some cinnamon chocolate ice cream and me with some lavender honey ice cream. The cafe is decorated with many nostalgic French signs and pictures. In the background Jacques Brel was signing, then Edith Piaf.
We slowly walked toward our car and could hear some music behind a crowd. We stopped and watched a group dancing in an acrobatic style. I found out it is called "Capoeira" (pronounced Kah-poe-air-ah) a Brazilian blend of martial art, dance and game originating in Brazil.
Since then I have read about this capoeira, which I had never heard about. My husband said that he had seen some of it in TV, but I don't watch much TV. The story is fascinating. I have been reading quite a lot about it. I know that there are some blogging friends reading my blog from Brazil and Portugal so I hope my short account is accurate. In 1500 the Portuguese came to Brazil under the leadership of Pedro Alvarez Cabral. After many of the local Brazilian Indians died of infectious diseases or escaped in the jungle the Portuguese brought slaves from their colonies in Africa, i.e. Angola, Mozambique, Guinea, etc., to work in their tobacco and sugar plantations. Two millions slaves were brought from these different areas with a multitude of languages, cultures and traditions. Many slaves escaped the horrible conditions in the plantations and established settlements in remote areas called quilombos. One of the largest quilombos was the quilombo of Palmares. There they perfected the capoeira combat dance.
"Negros lutando com passasos de capoeira, 1824" painted by Augustus Earle, English 1793-1838
There is still a debate about where this style of martial art started. Some say it came from the N'golo or zebra dance of Angola. Others say it came from the combat dance called Danyme or Ladja from the Caribbean and mostly Martinique where it is danced inside a circle of people and accompanied with tom tom drums. Below is the Bele dance from Martinique and Guadeloupe. (Alan Lomax photo.)
But in Brazil in the plantations where martial art was forbidden, the slaves disguised their fighting training as an innocent dance. They added music, dancing and other rituals to capoeira to conceal their fighting techniques; actually, it is more the art of evasion rather than striking or blocking. One theory is that, in Brazil, it originated in the "Senzalas" or living quarters of the slaves. Another is that it was practiced on the quilombo colony of escaped slaves to fend off attacks from the Portuguese slavers.
Jogar Capoeira - Danse de la Guerre, 1838, painted by Johann Moritz Rudengas, German 1802-1858
After slavery was abolished many men, unemployed, turned to crime using moves from capoeira. In 1890 the practice of capoeira was prohibited in Brazil by President Da Fonseca. If caught practicing capoeira the punishment was the cutting of tendons from the back of the ankle. However, in 1937, after demonstrating in front of President Getulio Varga, a young man, Manuel dos Reis Machado, called Master Bimba, was authorized to open the first capoeira school. Master Bimba created a new style of capoeira and called it "Capoeira Regional" with new martial techniques. He had convinced the authorities that the martial art was of great historical and cultural value for Brazil. Capoeira Regional is a unique blend of acrobatics, with fluid fakes, leg sweeps, kicks, feints and other maneuvers. I found many videos on it as it is now practiced worldwide. Below is a demonstration from a club in Boston.
When we were watching capoeira in Decatur I did not know all this history but enjoyed the moves and the music. A young boy with a Canadian cap came into the circle and danced with one of the group members.
Actually I would not call it a dance as it looks physically exhausting. You have to be fit with good balance and flexibility if you wish to become a "capoeirista." It is beautiful to watch. The participants form a roda or circle of people chanting folk songs with a few musical instruments such as the berimbau (a single-string percussion instrument, a musical bow) where two capoeiristas ritually start their fight/dance. Here is another demonstration, from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
Each capoeira move is responded by a combination of defensive and offensive moves that look like a dance. Modern day capoeira is up-tempo, fast paced and known as Contemporanea (contemporary.) It is an active exporter of Brazilian culture as many capoeira masters have been teaching the art in many countries.
In Brazil capoeira is practiced as a national sport at schools, universities, clubs and military academies and a source of pride for Brazilians. I watched videos of demonstrations and matches from New York, Paris, London and all the way to Kazakhstan. It was fun to watch the group from Atlanta but I am not nimble enough to ever participate...
We finally walked back to our car after passing a field of brilliant red roses - a good end to our day at the festival - music and flowers.