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This Is An Essay Illustrating The Enculturation Of A Brazillian Sport/Martial Art, Capoeira, Into A Commercial Society

2228 words - 9 pages

Capoeira is a word that my spell-checker doesn't recognize. To say it is a martial art from Brazil would be a loose translation, for it is far more than that. Even the masters of Capoeira who know it best would be hard pressed to choose between martial art, sport, game, dance, musical performance, ritual, or way of life. Just as there is debate over what it is, everyone has his own story of where it came from. Perhaps that is fitting for an activity that holds deception and trickery as its fundamental guiding philosophy. Part of the reason it is so little known is because it might have literally emerged from the depths of the Amazon jungle. It faded almost right out of existence before ...view middle of the document...

Supplementing the capoerista are the other members of the roda, who join in with singing. This singing is also very rhythmic, though not quite as much as the voice of the berimbau. I couldn't really understand the words, and I think they were in Portuguese. However, the relationship between singers, berimbau and players is quite clear. The dancers reacted as one with the music, moving more violently when the rhythm became turbulent, and more gracefully when the music called for it. The performance I saw was mostly dance-oriented, and not meant for sport or play. It seemed choreographed, and the moves were more acrobatic than combative. Each dancer engaged in mock combat with moves that resembled break dancing to a very high degree. Still, there was an element of contest present, and the roda seemed to react to the dancers as they performed, though to a less extent than they were reacted to. When "combatants" would perform a feat of notable agility, the music would seem to feed off of it, as if in different sort of call and response than commonly seen. Since it was staged, though, I have no way of telling either way whether that was pre-ordained or not. All I can say with authority is that the cart-wheeling hand-plant spins, flailing kicks and dodging leaps thoroughly amazed me. More impressive than the breath-taking feats, though, was the way they seemed to move inside the music as if part of it while leaving little doubt they could hurt someone like that.It is this amalgamated nature that gives capoeira its distinct flavor, but also leaves it hard to classify. There is clearly a strong musical element involved so that you could feasibly go see a performance with an interest in music as your motivator. Yet the moves are very clearly derived from combat, and without the music, it would look like a choreographed fight between two skilled martial-artists. The ring of spectators influencing the course of the battle through their singing adds even a mystical element when you consider that the players are traditionally supposed to be improvising, yet moving in direct symbiosis with the music as if in trance. Like most martial arts, capoeira also involves a philosophy and prescribed approach to life that further obscures its true nature.Looking at the history of art doesn't help at all, and in fact, it will only add more facets to the complex dance. First, there are about a dozen different theories, and each stresses the fact that it is based on very shaky foundations. One common origin story is that African slaves on plantations first developed capoeira as a form of self-defense upon escaping from their masters. In 1624 Dutch invaders disrupted order amongst the slave-owning populace in attacks that lasted until 1630. During this time, many slaves escaped in the disorder, melting into the jungle where they set up tribal communities much like they knew from Africa. Eventually, the Portuguese repelled the attacks and set to the task of recovering their...

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