Friday, September 13, 2013

Leaving the Book Festival and watching Capoeira

This is a continuation of my last post on our visit to Decatur, Georgia, to visit the Book Festival taking place during the Labor Day weekend.  After spending many hours there we walked by the garden pavilion then the DeKalb County Courthouse.  There is a statue of Thomas Jefferson sitting on a bench in front of the courthouse - to sit sounded good and we decided to find a place to have a late lunch-early dinner.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

We stopped at a couple of booths then walked by City Hall.  A large crowd was waiting to have their book signed by the authors - the book was "Where Did Our Love Go."

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.


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an interesting lesson in the life of slaves in Brazil. I've never heard of capoeira. They were clever to disguise it into a dance.

Nice clicks. I felt as if I were with you.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, you continued to introduce me to many new and wonderful facets of being human in a global society. I'd never before heard of capoeira. Thank you for the two videos which showed the "dance" of one person and then the "dance" of a group. I could both the offensive and the defensive moves. It is all so graceful, one move flowing into another. Peace.

Kay said...

This brings to mind a martial arts demonstration that our son, Jon saw in Mali, West Africa where he was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I wonder if it's already tied to a cultural tradition.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I see many interesting things here!

DJan said...

It definitely looks like a martial art form, and it's very beautiful to watch, now that I know about it, thanks to you! You do find the most amazing things to raise my cultural awareness. Thank you so much, VB! :-)

Elephant's Child said...

Oh my. How right you were. Blogger has been having hissy fits, with you as a victim. This post didn't appear in my reading list and I only found it by following you home from a comment. And am so glad I did - I would have missed out on a lot. Thank you.

Elephant's Child said...

It has finally (Sunday morning our time) appeared in my reading list.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, this post has taken me into a nostalgic journey to "the last century." How it amuses me to think of how that expression sounds. This allows me to defy the fact that I am aging!

Anyhow, a few decades ago, there used to be a group of Brazilian musicians and dancers who would gather together each Saturday or Sunday in Central Park and give marvelous capoeira performances. They'd quickly attract an admiring crowd who would toss coins or paper currency in a supplied hat, and sometimes even sign up to enroll in classes to learn this dance.

These were such happy afternoons!

A particular star musician of the group, who was the expert drummer, also played with performances given in the Park by David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame.)

What fun it's been on this evening to let my memory drift back to a time of fun. Pre-computer. Pre-rollerblades. Pre-lots of stuff that I am sure are even now creating treasured memories for much younger folks.


David said...

Vagabonde... Thanks for the tip and photos re: Café Alsace! Your lunches looked great! As for the capoeira, it's fun to watch but since I'm not even coordinated enough to do the basic 3-step well, I'll just stick to my role as an observer. Thanks for the interesting blog! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Magic Love Crow said...

Loved the videos! What amazing movement! That is so sweet, the young boy joining in! Your food made my mouth water! What a great day! ;o)

Ann said...

a fascinating post!!!
i have never heard of this.
looks like you had a marvelous time!!!
thanks for sharing!!!!
enjoy your weekend!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

So very very interesting....It certainly looks more like a Martial Arts competitive thing than any kind of a dance---but, obviously that is what it has evolved into or from....I wonder if Sonia is familiar with the history of all this?
You and your dear Hubby do the most interesting things, my dear Vagabonde....!

Tamara said...

I'm not usually interested in martial arts, but you've outlined an interesting history. Thanks. What did interest me was Cafe Alsace - Jaques Brel and Edith Piaf, the nostalgic decor and a baguette! Now that's a delightful way to spend a weekend. said...

Good morning Vagabonde.
Your post came up late last night here on my computer. Wow, you brought such memories back to me .. I was fascinated watching the boys in Bahia,Brazil dancing their Capoeira .
The masters of the art, are incredible.
You have written so well about the origins of it. Knowing Brazil and the Brazilians. Most say it was invented in the Sanzalas... When i was there.. no women took part. But I see now that there are lots of women that have taken it up. One blow from their flip kick and you are gone.
loved the painting of them practicing ..
Portugal and Brazil have a rich history.
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post. I so enjoyed it. I can hear the drums and the Berimbau playing as I read it.
val x x x x

SG said...

Absolutely lovely account.. It makes me want to resume my traveling.

Jeanne said...

A very fascinating account of this event, and love your shots!

The Silver Bunny said...

That sounds like a super outing and those roses look divine. As for your husband's sandwich, he obviously likes to live dangerously ! I would have loved your salad though !xx

CQUEK said...

what a beautiful event, i would love to join in too.

Linda said...

Fascinating post and lovely collage of photos.

Thérèse said...

Yes I did hear about this capoeira sport by our Brazilian friends but never saw them practicing it... Here in Toulouse they have teaching clubs.

P.S. Vagabonde
Not long after the opening of the first McDonald's they had to close because they could not get the necessary meat ... but they soon re-opened and nowadays there are a few McDonald's in town.

Jocelyn said...

It's a rare thing when a post that starts out about a book festival becomes even more interesting for its explanation of dance! I love taking these meandering "walks" with you through your days--and I'm so glad to know about capoeira now!

sonia a. mascaro said...

Wow! What a great post!
The Book Festival looks just wonderful.
Love so much the informations about capoeira and about Brazil too. There is no mistakes, all is perfect. Well done!
I have a lovely blogfriend from Sydney that loves Brazil and South America and have been having for 9 years capoeira lesson on Sydney.
If you have the time, please, click to see: Capoeira.

I am glad for your visits on my blog and for very nice comments on my posts. Thank you!

Pondside said...

You write about so many interesting events! The food, the books, the colour - all fascinating to me, from my very small, very slow city. In Toronto, my two young nieces, who also study ballet, take classes in capoeira. I had the pleasure of watching a class once, and it was as exciting as you have described.

Hilary said...

You sure had a lot to see and enjoy. Your photos are lovely and depict your travels well.

Ginnie said...

After all that dancing, I would have been happy with just cinnamon chocolate and/or lavender honey ice cream, Vagabonde! HA!

EG CameraGirl said...

Fascinating! This is the first I've heard of Capoeira.

claude said...

Coucou Vagabonde !.
Me voilà enfin.
Toujours très riches en explications, photos et illustrations tes posts.
La capoiera semble être à l'origine du hip hop.
Intéressant le festival du livre avec les personnes Lewis et Blanco.
J'ai vu aussi avec grand plaisir l'art à Marietta, j'aime beaucoup.

Pat said...

That's what I call a great day out.
Lots to see and hear and discuss and you always seem to be blessed with good weather which makes such a difference.
Thank you.

Nadezda said...

Hi, vagabonde!
This dance is more acrobatic I think and someone need special training to dance it. 'capoeira' is interesting to watch only.
I love this roses, I suppose they poliante roses.

Vicki Lane said...

FAscinating information on capoeira!

Jeanie said...

I must be hungry -- I am captivated by all the cafes and dining in your posts! But another fascinating journey, again introducing me to new things. How I appreciate and admire your curious mind!

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