Intriguing Capoeria From Dance Brazil

(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.

4 Comments

  1. Tonya, I thought you weren’t even bother writing about this! hahaha
    You are very kind to them. I personally also liked that particular jump of the two men you were describing, but honestly I didn’t see how his tricks said something else about anything…
    As I described on my blog, I felt like the whole thing was merely a display of the capoeira moves (which is fantastic in itself, don’t get me wrong), tossed in with some modern technique and it didn’t really evolve into an artistic “vision”. The problem with this is that I don’t believe it can go much further.
    I was reading a review in exploredance from 2005 and it just confirmed my theory, since
    the description of the piece could be just as easily applied to this new work, to my suprise.

    Your research of the capoeira is very precise, only one thing tho, that video labeled breakdancers x capoeira doesn’t really have any capoeira there whatsoever, as noted by other comments on youtube.
    I had asked the company for a picture to put along with my review but they didn’t reply me so I guess im just going to steal this one you used here ok? heheh

  2. Hi Tonya,

    DanceBrazil is doing another show at Skirball NYU March 19-22.
    http://dancebrazil.org

    We'd love for you to come.
    Let me know if you're interested in doing a write-up about the show…

  3. Thanks for letting me know Jaki!

  4. Thanks for letting me know Jaki!

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