Capoeira ta me chamando!

Okay, so I haven’t been training really at all since I graduated from Oberlin (OC Angola!) because it was too expensive for me in NYC while on an americorps budget and I just haven’t found the time/energy to go in New Orleans. Plus, it’s always kind of difficult to start with a new teacher once you’ve trained with one for so long–having to adjust to their nuances and what not.

I looked up capoeira before I got to SA, and unsurprisingly, none of the groups were capoeira Angola. So I just put it out of my head. But one of the people I met here in SA, who’s from the states and wanted to do some type of movement for lack of west african dance options, caught up with a mutual friend who plays capoeira. So since she was interested, I decided to go with her. The group is an extension of Cordão de Ouro and they were having their first class in their new studio. So there were a lot of people in attendance and people from the other capoeira group in town as well. Everyone was really nice, and the roda had a lot of energy, but having trained as an Angoleira, something wasn’t quite sitting right with me.

A lot of people will say, what’s the big deal?– ‘capoeira é capoeira,’ (well they’re mostly regionalistas that say that). But really though, what is the big deal? Why did I feel so…”eh”…about it? I mean really, regional and angola are both capoeira; they’re like brothers in terms of lineage–Bimba and Pastinha just took it in different philosophical directions, right? But it feels so different. I’ve only played regional a little bit, and the few times I was in a roda, I didn’t really feel like I was having a conversation the way I would in an angola roda. I didn’t feel that connection to the berimbau and to the lyrics in the corridos that usually provide commentary, history, and direction during the games.

I watched the training and the roda on Tuesday. It was very fast. I don’t mean short, but I mean all the movements were done with a lot of speed. The roda itself is a bit different, which I already knew before coming: they stand up in their circle, they clap the rhythm the entire time, and their bateria is usually abbreviated–without the reco-reco and the agogô. They started off their music, playing at full speed, without a call of “Iê!”, without a ladainha, without a chula. Their games started, and within 20-30 seconds were over as the next person would “buy” the game and a current player would exit. People bought as they felt, in no particular order, and kicked, spun, and ducked. That’s how the roda stayed for the duration. At one point, the CM called in everyone real close. I guess this was their moment of “playing angola” as the players began playing very low to the ground. The tempo of the music never slowed once in the half-hour, and, in fact, only got faster. After about 5 minutes of playing angola, they brought out the brazilian drums (i don’t know their proper name, sorry), and it turned into a bit of samba de roda, without the samba and with a lot of dance. They never lost energy, they sang louder and jumped higher, and danced for another five or ten minutes before it was all over.

Like I said, everyone was great–their community was very welcoming, like most every capoeira group I’ve ever been around. But something just didn’t feel right for me. I guess because in the back of my head, I could hear/picture my professor, or another CM or Mestre(a), singing an impassioned ladainha, or stopping the game because someone’s shirt came untucked, or all out prohibiting a game to begin until their shirt was tucked in, or changing the rhythm and the speed of the music during games and in between games. Or maybe it’s just that I could picture the intricacy and evolution of a conversation between two players as their game was allowed to progress–5 minutes in it’s aggressive, 10 minutes in it’s a dance, and 1 minute later a rasteira brings one player to the ground and a chamada is called.

The group invited us to come train with them. When I said I would consider it and didn’t exhibit full out excitement, they asked why?  to which I said I’m an angoleira. The responses varied from long “oooohhhh’s” to “we train angola too.” I get it, you know, that in saying they play angola, they mean they play games low to the ground, games without all the flips and kicks, slow games. But (and this may sound separatist of me), my professor, and every other CM & Mestre(a) that I’ve trained with, don’t approach angola as just a style of movement that can be added to a list of repertoire. It’s the full experience: the music, the song, the ritual, the praise, the call to ancestors, the dance, and the fight in combination that makes angola what it is. Interestingly, you rarely, if ever, hear an angoleiro state that he/she plays regional too.

My professor did encourage us to look into regional when we first started, to get another perspective. To see if angola was the right fit or if maybe regional would be more appealing. I never really did too much of that, because I liked where I was. I had a mini introduction to regional while in fortaleza, brazil. For a week I did a community project with another cordão de ouro group. In that week I jammed a quad muscle and messed up my back from training flips in the middle of a field. Mess 🙂

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and go to training last night. It was a beginner class. It was pretty small. We warmed up, stretched, and then got to the movements. Ginga was a bit more structured–there was less room for my dance-like/varied way of ginga-ing, but I adapted. What I couldn’t really adapt to was the speed. Most of the movements were similar if not the same but there were a few that I never really train (queixada and vingativa). Usually we move through movements slowly, or slow enough to understand how it feels in your body so that you can eventually speed it up and do it with fluidity. I was always taught never to compromise form for speed, so do it at your own pace. This wasn’t the case. I started out trying to keep speed, but in order to do that I was getting sloppy and throwing my body in ways that I knew would eventually lead to me injuring myself. So I just did my thing at my own pace. If I’m going to train I want to learn, not just do.

Anyway. I had a lot of fun at training. I don’t ordinarily throw such aggressive movements. I think training with them could improve my game in one sense, since i’m usually hesitant to show an aggressive move and when I do, I don’t often place it right, let alone execute it. But I think many of them may get frustrated with me, because I slow down our combinations when we practice in order to do them correctly before I do it at full speed, and they’d rather I just  play fast.

Oh well. You have to stay true to yourself, right? I miss my collegiate capoeira family, but maybe this will finally give me the push I need to train back in New Orleans. Until then, I’ll take this month with cordão de ouro as a learning experience while never forgetting that eu sou angoleira!