Top 10 Signs Your Capoeira Group is Like a Jealous Lover

29 04 2008

Are you in a healthy relationship with your capoeira group? We’ve all been there: you miss a class or two, and suddenly it’s all “Where have you been?! Why haven’t you been training?!” You find yourself constantly accounting for why you couldn’t make this workshop or that roda, and once in a while it gets to the point where you feel like calling up the doctor for a note or two, just in case. I’ve never noticed this before, but thanks to an astute and mercilessly sharp-witted, non-capoeira friend of mine, it hit me that sometimes one’s capoeira group can really seem like a jealous lover.

Love and Capoeira

Is your capoeira group a little too attached to you for comfort? Here are the top ten signs to look out for!

10. Your friend tells you your capoeira group is like a jealous lover.

9. They get upset if you’re late and demand a reason why.

8. They demand to know where you’ve been if you haven’t seen each other for a day.

7. They try to become the centre of your world, or act as if they are (and get upset if you act as if they’re not).

6. They are possessive and don’t like you being friends with potential/imagined “rivals”.

5. They are constantly suspicious of the intentions of “other” friends and friendly strangers.

4. They try forbidding you from seeing those they are most suspicious of.

3. They are always trying to affirm or retain your fidelity even if you have not shown any signs of being otherwise.

2. If one thing happens or you do one thing that seems to suggest the slightest sign of infidelity, they (a) overreact and (b) never let it go.

1. They automatically assume that every minor break, dispute, or more (or any) time spent with “other” friends means you want to or should break up, and their suspicions and paranoia only ever end up sabotaging the relationship…but somehow, you still can’t help loving them!

Now that you know the warning signals, it’s up to you to decide if everything’s going strong, or if it’s time for a break and some space. Just remember that no matter what happens, at least capoeira itself is one love that will never die!

Picture source: http://ladynina.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/capoeira.jpg





Video: Xaxado

28 04 2008

Here is a video of xaxado to go with the post profiling this dance! I’m so sorry for the delay and recent lack of updating; I’ve been travelling and had little to no internet access, and went to two batizados in two different places within a week of each other! They were really good, but now it’s back to normal everyday life…thank you to everyone for your patience and comments, and I will be replying to all of them (from way back) and posting regularly again as I settle down into exam-study mode!

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Capoeira é Dança, Part 4: Xaxado

24 04 2008

Wild Wild…North

The lament of a mournful harmonica whistles phantomly through the air. The wind blows, and a single tumbleweed rolls across the dry, arid land. These are the badlands, the sertão nordestino, home of the notorious cangaceiros. Defenders of the poor, bane of the rich, these nomadic outlaws will live forever in the dance of xaxado.

Cangaceiro on the look-out

(Alright, so there was no harmonica and who knows about the tumbleweeds, but the rest of it is true!)

Xaxado is a lively folk dance associated with baião that originated in Pernambuco, Brazil (specifically in the regions of Pajeú and Moxotó), in the 1920s. Popularized by Luiz Gonzaga of forró fame and other northeastern Brazilian musicians, this dance comes to us from the adventures and exploits of the northeastern bandits known as cangaceiros (from the word cangaço, meaning banditry). With brash and energetic movements, xaxado enthuses with their “work hard, play hard” spirit and evokes life in the hard northeastern countryside.

XaxadoLampião and His Merry Men

One of the most famous cangaceiros and celebrated figures in Brazilian legend and history was Lampião, once called the “King of Cangaço”. Despite recent research stating otherwise, many believe that Lampião was specifically the person who created xaxado. Whether or not this is true, it is thanks to Lampião and his gang that xaxado spread throughout the lands, and its strong association with the northeastern cangaceiros and their exploits (such ambushing police “macacos”) remains to this day.

1, 2, Sha-sha-sha!

How did xaxado get its name? There are two main explanations. The first is rooted in onomatopoeia—more specifically, in the sha-sha sound of dancers’ dragging sandals or boots as they go through the dance. The second explanation attributes xaxado’s name to an old sertão war song or war cry, “Parraxaxá“.

Natural Rhythm

XaxadoOriginally, xaxado was danced to no instruments. Dancers sung to provide music, and rhythm was marked by the sounds of sandals dragging through earth and rifle butts hitting the ground. Then, xaxado was danced to the same instrumental trio as was originally used in forró: accordion (sanfona), triangle (triângulo), and zabumba (bass drum). Today, one can see xaxado performed with as many instruments as the original three plus bongos, flutes, and maracas. As for the songs themselves, they consist of lyrics with satire and aggression, reminiscent of how the cangaceiros must have viewed and treated life.

Tap Dance de Terra

Xaxado is usually danced in a line, a result of Native Brazilian influence, as opposed to more circular forms found in dances such as maculelê. Most modern-day xaxado performances are choreographed, and involve both women and men, although only men used to do the dance when it was first developed.

Dancers of xaxado wear old cangaceiro costumes while performing, which include (fake) rifles and bullet belts. The basic step involves putting the right foot forward and out to the side three or four times quickly while dragging the left foot behind, resulting in what one source describes as “a dragged out, slippery kind of tap dance.”

Click here to see other posts in Capoeira é Dança


Sources:

http://www2.uol.com.br/uptodate/glossae.htm
http://www.aquarela.com/Styles.html

http://bellsouthpwp.net/l/u/luiscnogueira/Learn_About_Brazilian_Dance.html

http://www.sambaolywa.org/whatissamba.htm

http://www.bellinati.com/publics/publics.html

http://www.musicabrasileira.org/zezoribeiro/

http://www.bellinati.com/compositions/compositions.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serra_Talhada

http://www.jornaldesafio.com.br/meio/xaxado.php

http://www.edukbr.com.br/artemanhas/folclore_dancas_xaxado.asp

http://www.recife.pe.gov.br/especiais/brincantes/ingles/5b.html

Picture sources:
http://www.filmreference.com/images/sjff_01_img0089.jpg
http://sarecife.vilabol.uol.com.br/Apresentacao1.html





Capoeira Book Reviews

19 04 2008

To follow up my Capoeira Addict’s Ultimate Guide to Capoeira Books (and in response to Xixarro’s feedback), I’m going to give brief reviews of all the capoeira books I’ve read.  (So keep this page marked, as I will be adding reviews as I read more capoeira books, as well!)  To be honest, I’ve never felt comfortable writing reviews on anything, because how do I know whether it’s good or not, and who am I to tell other people, especially when reviews are usually done on such subjective works such as music, or literature?  So just consider this a disclaimer that everything here is (obviously) my own personal opinion!

Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game (Nestor Capoeira)

This was the very first capoeira book I read, and I loved it…at least the first time around.  As I’ve mentioned in a (much) earlier post, some parts of it felt like Nestor Capoeira had read my mind, especially when he talked about the beginner’s experience when first learning capoeira.  This was also my first major introduction to capoeira history, capoeira myths and legends, and all the complexities and variations that they involved.  It was engaging, interesting, and informative, and I thought it was a really good pick to have read as my very first capoeira book.  Nestor Capoeira also uses a lot of long passages from others’ works (so much that I almost put it as a negative point), so you get some exposure to other well-known capoeira scholars as well.

There were just a couple things that bugged me about the book, just a little at first and then became more pronounced as I read it more and the novelty of it being a capoeira book wore off.  The first was that in certain turns of phrases or sentences, I thought Nestor Capoeira seemed to be pushing an ”agenda” or ”ideology” a bit too much to make the whole read completely enjoyable.  I know I may be on thin ice saying this considering my own blog is angled, but it was just something that kept coming up through the book.

The second thing I wasn’t crazy about, and this became more obvious when I started reading A Street-Smart Song, was the style of Nestor Capoeira’s writing when describing certain concepts.  I don’t know if I or he wasn’t sure who the book’s target audience was, or if he was just trying really, really hard to be completely accessible to people with all education levels, but at several points I felt that the writing was almost…talking down to me, or gimmick-ifying (for lack of a better term) normal but just not often mentioned things.  The one example off the top of my head is from Street-Smart Song (which I won’t review now because I’ve only gotten a few pages in), when he describes solar flares, ending the description with something to the effect of ”These are what are known as ‘solar flares”’ (with the quotation marks).  Maybe it’s just my own neurosis on this one, but I didn’t really like the way outside examples were introduced like the water cycle is introduced to kindergarteners. 

Overall though, still a good read!

Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form (Bira Almeida / Mestre Acordeon)

Now this one, I really liked.  I don’t actually quite know why I like it so much, but it seemed like the perfect all-around introduction to general capoeira history/philosophy/mythology to me, and without the bits of ”obvious agenda-soaked text” and over-simplified writing that irked me in Roots.  The writing overall is much more polished, and the entire book is pretty well written.  I liked pretty much everything in this book, but highlights included: a poetic description of the different stages of being a capoeirista, from beginner to mestre; a chapter made almost entirely of song lyrics and English translations (I liked to cover up the translations and test how well I could get the gist of the Portuguese first, and pick up some vocabulary along the way); and a really beautiful capoeira parable, an excerpt of which you can read here.

Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art (Greg Downey)

This book was so cool!!  Purely because I’m a nerd and really enjoyed seeing the words ”capoeira” and ”ginga” alongside other words like ”ethnographical” and ”Foucault”.  😄  Seriously speaking though, reading this book was a really good way to find out more about capoeira angola, since the author’s research consisted mainly of training (to a fairly high level) with GCAP.  This book is an anthropological study of capoeira and how it changes us, physiologically as well as in all the other ways we (will) know and love so well.  It talks about historical as well as modern-day capoeira, and brings in contemporary issues such as racism in Brazil, and capoeira’s role in it all.  Learning Capoeira was the first academic capoeira book I read, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

p.s. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my last post!  I haven’t had time to respond to them yet (because I want to do it properly), but I will as soon as possible.  Just so you know, I’ve actually been travelling since the 16th and will be doing so until the 28th, but I will try my best to keep blogging as normal all the while!





Perspective in Capoeira: Falling Behind on the Journey

16 04 2008

How much does it matter? Does it matter? Why?

Normally, people love what they are good at; conversely, you are usually good at what you love. Writers write, actors act, graphic designers design graphics, and soccer players play soccer. Academics excel in academics, and mechanics know their mechanisms. Passion and motivation are all you need to carry yourself to great heights in what you love, at least according to Chicken Soup for the Soul, et al.

What perspective do you take on capoeira?Of course, capoeira, being the malicious trickster it is, doesn’t care what Chicken Soup or the rules say. That’s one of the things that I always thought was awesome about capoeira; you didn’t necessarily have to be good at it to feel like you were getting somewhere, and anyone could fall victim to “capoeira fever” (to quote a friend), whether they were a beginner or athletic or not.

But after a certain point, sucking at something you love kind of…well…sucks. This is what’s been bothering me lately, and where perspective comes in, but first, some background: My friends and I have been training at different places for the past eight months due to geography, and seeing one of them this past weekend made it very, very obvious that we’ve been progressing at devastatingly different rates. I can’t do half—no, make that any of—the things they do, and I started a year before. I blame (rightly or not) where I’ve been training for not being hardcore enough in comparison to my old place, not intense enough, not pushing their students enough, but am blasting myself for the same things. It’s not like I haven’t been training (on the contrary, although I may as well not have been), but what if I’d pushed myself just that much harder each class, that much further, not let myself become that much more complacent?

And though I’m still upset, after talking to a non-capoeira friend about it, I also have to ask…why? Why do we get upset about capoeira if we still enjoy it while we’re doing it? Is there a point to it? Does it make our lives better?

On the one hand, this kind of dissatisfaction is good in the way that it can motivate you to really train harder and be determined to rev it up. (Although if you’re me, that in turn only leads to a sprained toe. Ah, irony, my dear old friend.) But if you put it into the context of your life overall…is there a point? If you enjoy capoeira and you enjoy going to class and training and playing in the roda, then can’t you just enjoy what you are doing, instead of getting upset about what you could be doing? That’s how I used to view capoeira. That is, I knew before I started that I wasn’t athletic at all and didn’t have much hope of really getting good, so my overall outlook every class was basically to not expect anything, so everything I did do was a happy surprise.

This also reminds me of what Xixarro said after “The Battle Between Capoeira and Everything Else“, about just enjoying capoeira while you’re there and not worrying about what’s not there (like extra time to train, or I guess in this case, actual capoeira skills).

But isn’t a capoeirista who doesn’t esquiva fast enough, kick high enough, can’t jump, has too little balance, not enough malícia, needs more control, hopeless at floreios (even if they are auxiliary, but definitely expected in my group, and the bar for them just keeps getting higher)…just like a writer who lacks vocabulary, spells things wrong, forgets punctuation, can’t structure paragraphs, and doesn’t even have very much to write about?

But again: if you enjoy it anyway, and doing capoeira makes your life better nevertheless…then does it matter?

p.s. In no way do I actually think this does not matter; I hate that my progress is practically non-existent and that I can’t do anything, especially while everyone else I know is zooming by on rocket-powered cordas. This is another “thought experiment” and just to see what other people, i.e. you guys, think. Or maybe you can convince me that it really does not matter and I should lighten up/stop thinking too much/look on the bright side/don’t worry?





Videos: Capoeira Games with a Twist

14 04 2008

By now, you’ve probably all seen countless games of capoeira regional and capoeira angola.  You’ve played benguela, and experienced awe watching iuna.  However, have you ever seen Amazonas in action?  Have you played to the toque of miudinho?  All of the following videos feature different variations of capoeira games, created at different times for different purposes, and they are truly interesting and fun to watch.  Enjoy!

 

Amazonas

Amazonas, appropriately enough, has capoeiristas moving in ways that imitate rainforest animals, as well as more domestic types. It was created by Mestre Camisa of ABADA Capoeira, and is played to Mestre Bimba’s toque of the same name.  It was my friend’s idea to write this post topic, but this video she sent me was the inspiration for actually doing so!  It’s one of my favourites, and one of the coolest capoeira videos I’ve ever seen.  It’s just so creative, and it’s amazing what people can do with their bodies.  (I know that applies to capoeira in general, but somehow it really hit me with this video.)

 

Jogo de Dinheiro

Jogo de dinheiro, or the “money game”, involves two capoeiristas playing each other with a bill or handkerchief full of coins or money placed in the centre of the roda. The goal of the game is to pick up the money with your mouth, as reminded by the song lyrics in Apanha Laranja: “harvest the orange not with your hands, but with your feet and mouth (‘beak’)”. One source mentioned this was how capoeiristas sometimes battled for their earnings after busking on the streets.  This video is from a Senzala group in Croatia, and just plain fun!  I love seeing how all the capoeiristas block each other from getting the money. 😛

 

Jogo de Dentro

Jogo de Dentro (“Inside Game”) is generally known as the close (or closed) game where capoeiristas play low, tight and as closely to each other as possible.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any videos that for sure showed jogo de dentro being played, so instead here’s a video of Mestre Jogo de Dentro, moreover who is playing Mestre Moraes.  Plenty of sweet “gotcha” moments in this one!

 

Miudinho

Miudinho is a particular type of close, tight game of capoeira created by Mestre Suassuna. In his words:

“The game of miudinho is generating controversy because it is being misinterpreted. People are thinking it’s a new capoeira, and it’s nothing like that. I simply rescued an older capoeira, modernized the manner of playing it, changed the sequences… the name miudinho arose because I was observing that capoeiristas were playing very distant from each other and in our time we played very close; thus, I said to people, ‘I want the game more minute, closer, play very tiny.’ Then, I created a toque on the berimbau. Miudinho is not a new capoeira, it’s a different manner to display capoeira. Just like the games of Iuna and São Bento Grande exist, the game of miudinho exists.” 

The capoeira jogo in this video seems a little more acrobatic than I would’ve expected miudinho to look like, but it’s still really cool.  Another video’s description mentioned how a lot of movements in miudinho are supposed to be more circular than normal so as to fit within a tight space.

 

I hope you enjoyed finding out about and watching these samples of “creative capoeira”.  😀  If you know of any more capoeira game variations or find cool capoeira videos that do a little something different, please share it with us!





What Capoeiristas Can Learn from the Fall of Enron

10 04 2008

Goodness knows you’ve heard enough of this if you have me on facebook (and if you dont, why not?), but I thought, what better way to say good riddance to my monster, life-sucking sociology paper once and for all than by sending it off with a dedicated blog post!? And with all the capoeira time it stole from me, it might as well give something back. 😄 So without further ado, here is what you as a capoeirista can learn from the biggest and most sensational bankruptcy and business scandal in U.S. history:

How will you profit in the capoeira roda?Enron was one of the largest and fastest growing energy and trade companies in the U.S., until it very publicly went bust in 2001, taking along all of its investors, stockholders, and employees with it. The company turned out to be a case study in corruption, with accounting fraud, insider trading, conflict of interest issues, the works. The CEO, COO, and CFO were all brilliant men who used their genius for purely personal gain, at the expense of everyone else. In a way, Enron’s executives were kind of like white-collar malandros—except, of course, a real malandro would never have gotten caught. So, what did they do wrong, and how can we profit from their mistakes inside the capoeira roda?

1. Bad Planning / Not Thinking Ahead

Some people say Enron was doomed from the beginning, for two reasons. First, one of their early branches was caught for corporate crime and they didn’t really do anything about it, opening the way to more corruption in the future. Second, part of the reason behind the “creative accounting” was Enron trying to succeed in two contradicting business strategies: one needed them to invest money and suck up a lot of debt, but the other needed them to have good credit (ie. no debt), so obviously, something had to give. Both these cases showed poor planning and a lack of thinking ahead.

When you go into the roda, what are you thinking? Do you buy in with a certain goal in mind, or just jump in ready to wing it? Although you can’t—and shouldn’t—actually buy into rodas determined to roll out entire set sequences no matter what, it can’t hurt to focus your game just a little. Especially if you’re a beginner, a super helpful tip I read that works for me is to think of just one move, like a kick or a certain esquiva that you really want to master, and try to fit that somewhere into the game when you get the chance. As you become more advanced, you can start buying in with things like a specific feint combo or a certain floreio in mind.

By having these one or two tiny goals each time you play a game in capoeira, you practice looking for opportunities and integrating those movements into your game. At the same time, by keeping them simple you are not distracting or restricting yourself from going along with the general flow of the game and being able to work with whatever happens.

2. Digging the Hole Deeper

One of Enron’s schemes involved making up basically fake companies specifically to “do business” with them, so they could record the “profits” and push their debt onto the records of the other companies. When Enron started losing more money, instead of coming clean, they ended up pushing more and more debt onto the fake companies, so that by the end they’d hidden over $1 billion in losses, which of course only made things worse when they were found out anyway.

Does this situation sound familiar? You’re playing someone in the roda, and decide you want to get them with rasteira. You miss the first time, but instead of withdrawing you keep on trying, and get so caught up in giving (bad) rasteira after (sloppy) rasteira that you practically forget about actually playing the game. (And if that didn’t sound familiar to you…ummm…me neither. XD)

If an attempted take-down fails, give yourself time to recover. “Retreat”, let yourself ginga, and continue with the flow of the game; then try again when a good opportunity comes up. By recognizing when something you tried didn’t work and cutting your losses instead of building them upon each other, you give yourself a chance to regroup, which will increase your chances of success overall.

3. Not Taking Advice

One of the more sensational moments in the Enron scandal was when a then-anonymous memo sent to Enron’s CEO came out, telling him about the iffy business going on and advising him to do something about it. Of course, the CEO was already somewhat aware of what was happening, and instead of bringing in outsiders to investigate, as the memo advised, he assigned the investigation to Enron’s own auditors and lawyers—who were in on their schemes to begin with! Then he did nothing else, until it all came crashing down on his head.

This one’s pretty obvious. If someone has something to tell you, listen to them! Whether it’s your teacher, another student during training, or—if you’re lucky enough to understand Portuguese—a mestre singing certain lyrics while you’re playing inside the roda, more often than not you’ll benefit from hearing what they have to say. Conversely, if you ignore or miss out on advice or information, you can easily end up making an ignorant fool of yourself!

4. Bad Timing

Kenneth Lay (Enron’s CEO) and his wife Linda Lay definitely did not show a lot of malicía when it came to insider trading. Kenneth was caught out for sending an email to all of Enron’s employees encouraging them to not sell their stock but to buy more, calling it “an incredible bargain”, while he was selling off all his own shares of the stock at the same time. As for Linda, one day between 10:00-10:20am, she sold off all her foundation’s shares of Enron stock. At 10:30am, Enron released news that basically said the company would soon go into bankruptcy. Coincidence, much?

Even if you won’t be criminally charged for it, having bad timing in the roda never helps. Someone chapas their opponent straight into the chest? Think twice before you buy in. Going in for a take-down? Wait till you’re not right beside the instruments! Whether it’s something as basic as esquiva-ing the right way at the right time or making sure your opponent is actually where you’re kicking, or something requiring more finesse like a feint and last-minute trap, don’t let a few measly seconds or minutes be the cause of your demise.

This also applies to the timing of your overall game and movement—that is, your rhythm. Have you ever seen someone moving a little too quickly and frantically for the berimbau toque that was playing? It looks just as funny when you’re the one doing it (and does nothing for your game, either!). 😛

5. Telling Too Many People

After all was said and done, the Enron fiasco turned out to be an entire ring of corruption: everyone from the Board of Directors, to their accountants, to their bank partners, to credit raters and Wall Street analysts seemed to have been in on it in one way or another. With all these accomplices and potential witnesses, do you think prosecutors had much trouble making their case against Enron?

Similarly, I’m reminded of what I read in Greg Downey’s Learning Capoeira. He said that old mestres were shocked that modern day capoeiristas actually tattooed capoeira images onto themselves, because in the pre-acceptance days, you wanted to announce anything but the fact you were a capoeirista!  The fewer the people who knew, the better. Others are more likely to let down their guard if you give them no reason to put one up, and this is related to something on the Capoeira Connection list that Faisca posted: “When you play with a stranger, don’t show all of your game. Save your best hits for the decisive hour, if necessary.

Even if you’re not playing any strangers, it could be a good idea to draw on some subtlety and/or modesty as you add new moves to your repertoire. Not only does nobody like a braggart, but the element of surprise is always invaluable (and gratifying :P) when you’re playing capoeira in the roda!

Well, now that you’ve learned more than you ever felt you needed to know about Enron Corporation…you know how I’ve felt for the past two weeks! But I hope you got something for capoeira out of the lessons they learned, so that you can avoid being taught them yourself in the roda. Axé!