The rhythmic beat of the drums rings in my ears as I enter the room, comprised of three walls of brick and mortar and a cement floor. The wall opposite to the entrance is lined with dozens of drums, each unique in size and shape. The instructor commences and the participants gather into a circle. Each individual begins the movement, stepping back with one foot and swinging the opposite arm into a defensive position, and then altering to the other sides. All of the rigidity in my body releases as the fluidity of the motion envelops me. The drum continues to beat, accompanied by the chant, “Capoeira Angola”.
Capoeira began as a form of musical and artistic expression practiced by African slaves imported to port cities, largely Salvador, and remains today a pillar of Afro-Brazilian culture that is particularly vibrant in the state of Bahia. Thus far, I’ve only taken two classes of Capoeira. Yet, even as a newcomer, I can experience the resounding energy of the movement and the music.
Each movement of the body is so intentional and so careful, while at the same time being free and soft. Every swing of the leg, crouch to the floor, and handstand is so completely controlled that the movement appears to be in slow motion. The tension and chemistry between two people engaging with one another is exuberant. The two people act in tandem, almost as if they were one single entity, reading one another’s body language and anticipating their next action in order to respond.
From its rich history to its energy, unpredictability, and controlled fluidity, the combination of dance and martial arts embodies the heart of the Brazil that I have encountered thus far in my journey. The village of Capão, itself, feels like a burst of energy contained within the bounds of the mountains. Capão offers an incredible connection with nature from the mountainous peaks comprising the valley to the tall waterfalls and flowing rivers. Like the master of Capoeira anticipates the actions of his or her counterpart as the motion presently evolves, the people of Capão truly know how to live life one day at a time and respond to challenges as they occur—an attitude very telling of the Brazilian way compared with the future-frantic tendencies that Americans employ.
As my Capoeira skills will hopefully evolve, I also hope to heighten my self-awareness regarding how my actions influence others and how to respond to the various challenges that will arise this year. While acknowledging my role and responsibilities as a foreigner to this vivid culture, as the year progresses and I move into my permanent host family and begin my apprenticeship, I can’t wait to further fall into the beating rhythm of Brazilian life.