I’m starting to see an interesting pattern emerge from researching all these female mestres and contra-mestres. Very few of them seem to have based their lives on capoeira alone, as it appears with many males mestres, but have expanded and merged it with other major aspects of their lives or livelihoods as well. Mestra Edna Lima took the physical, sports science aspect of capoeira regional and turned it into fitness or physical education programs. Mestras Janja and Paulinha focused on the sociological aspect of capoeira angola and through that, publish examining articles while working for change and progress in related social issues. Now, we have Contra-Mestra Susy, whose life and career highlights the potential of capoeira’s dance aspect.
Contra-Mestra Susy became the first European female in capoeira angola to earn her rank’s belt, in 1992, and she puts the “dance” in the dance-fight-game. In addition to nineteen years of capoeira, sixteen of which were with Berlin’s Mestre Rosalvo (the first angoleiro to arrive in Europe), she studies and practices breakdancing as well as Afro-Brazilian dances associated with capoeira. Contra-Mestra Susy, or Susanne Oesterreicher, also performed in the dance piece Grupo Oito by Ricardo de Paula, with whom she has been working since 2005, and who choreographed her debut solo performance, “Identity”. Ricardo de Paula is known for his work in attempting to combine contemporary dance and “contact improvisation”, inspired by capoeira.
Contra-Mestra Susy organized the First International Capoeira Angola Convention in Europe, in 1993, followed by a series of international meetings that hosted guests such as Mestres João Grande, João Pequeno, Cobra Mansa, and Ciro. She then founded the Academia Jangada with Mestre Rosalvo in 1997, Europe’s first capoeira angola academy, for which she coordinated the First International Convention for Afro-Brazilian Dance in 1998.
In 1999, Contra-Mestra Susy founded Grupo Vadiação, and since then has also been teaching the children’s capoeira group in Academia Jangada. She now holds workshops throughout Europe, Brazil, and the United States, where she attended the Fourth International Women’s Conference at the invitation of Mestre Cobra Mansa, in Seattle, 2002.