(photo by Jelon Vieira)
I’m very behind on my blogging, but I just wanted to post a bit about an intriguing group I saw last week at Symphony Space, Dance Brazil. The dance troupe, based in the Bahian region of Brazil and directed by Jelon Vieira, performed a medley of modern dance with Brazilian-based movement, Samba (which made me happy), and a dance form that I, shamefully, haven’t seen much of before: Capoeria.
Capoeria is an Afro-Brazilian dance that grew out of slavery; the movement was originally a means of self-defense for slaves against their oppressors, and involved athletic, martial arts-type feats. Over time, it became more stylized and evolved into an art form.
It actually looked to me to be a balletic form of martial arts. Dancers would pretend-kick, lash out at, and jump over each other, but in a very stylized way. And because the athleticism was so functional, so meaningful, it didn’t take over or negate the artistic. For example, there were a lot of barrel turns (but with bent knees and flexed feet), but unlike in ballet, where such wondrous mid-air-turning leaps would be considered tricks whose main purpose is to wow audiences, here it was more like an arty means of trickery: one man would come at the other as if to “capture” him, and the first would make him think he was going to succeed, then, at the last minute, do a flying leap over the guy. It was just brilliant. Definitely made me want to see more.
Unfortunately, it appears that they are no longer at Symphony Space, but if you ever have the chance to see this group, I highly recommend them. And read more about capoeria here, here, and here; also here’s a video of another Brazilian group performing the dance, and here’s a fun video of breakdancers competing with capoeria artists.