Combat Dancing

February 20, 2015

Off the East Coast of Brazil

Capoeria dancing is a combination of dance and martial art with ritual fighting.  It is also a sport.   Slaves invented it in Bahia state during from ritual African dances.  It was banned by slave owners so practiced in the woods.  It was a symbol of defiance.  After the end of slavery it became popular as a dance and sport.  The military junta tried banning it and it went underground.  The main practitioners took code names.  There is a Capoeria artist on board the ship as part of the “location team” who does demonstrations and lectures on the art and gives lessons.  His name is Mosquito.  (You can see pics of him in an earlier post, click here.)  But he is by himself.  You really can’t get the impact until you see men interacting with each other in the dance.  There are kicks, dodges, flips and twirls all to the beat of the drum and the bowing of the berimbau, a one stringed instrument.  (One of our lecturers said that the berimbau was originally thought to have originated in Africa but after more research it now seems to have been born in Brazil.)

We saw street performances of Capoeria in both Ilheus and Salvador.  After each dance a man passed either a tambourine or gourd to take collections.  In one case the collector was in your face, demanding and somewhat intimidating.  But this same person was also very patient in teaching the moves to others.  In Salvador there are a number of Capoeria schools where the instructors hold the classes in public.  In the main square an instructor, in green workout pants was clearly giving pointers to the younger students.  According to one of the guide books they do it in public in order to raise money for the school, with an understanding that if you take pictures you put some money into the gourd.  In some cases the dancers will pose with tourists and in some cases the dancers will try to engage the visitor, teaching some basic moves.

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