Updated: Dec 10, 2021
By Michael B. Murphy
Those who attended the Midday Performance at the Heineman Ecumenical and Cultural Center on Monday, Sept. 17, witnessed the sounds and physicality of Capoeira – a zesty style of Brazilian martial arts.
For nearly half an hour, eight members from Grupo Capoeira Brasil took turns chanting, dancing and throwing dizzying spin-kicks, while also playing highly rhythmic and percussive music all on the Center’s small stage.
“I asked [Grupo Capoeira Brasil’s leader] if he could work with this space,” said Mark Evans, Artist-in-Residence and coordinator of the performance and music co-curriculum. “He said, ‘no problem.'”
Capoeira is so physically intense that it at times seemed like the performers would spill off of the tiny stage, but there was a reason why Evans chose the venue that did.
“My hope was that the space would heighten the energy transmitted to the audience – it did,” he said.
Capoeira is not just acrobatics, and those in attendance were able to understand the important role music plays in this particular martial art.
Comprised of bongos, large wooden sticks and the unusual looking Brazilian instrument – the berimbau – the music was the backbone of the performance.
Grupo Capoeira Brasil’s instructor Anacleto Assis, or Professor Caveira as his students call him, stressed the importance of masking the martial arts component of Capoeira in song and dance.
Slave owners in Brazil, Assis said, were hyper vigilant for any signs of rebellion from their slaves and Capoeira provided a way for those enslaved to train in self-defense without being detected.
“The slaves owners would think, ‘Oh, they’re just dancing,’ but they were actually practicing martial arts,” Assis said.
Having practiced Capoeira for 23 years, Assis described the Brazilian martial arts/dance hybrid as a way of life.
“It’s a wonderful Brazilian art form. It involves a lot of different aspects like culture, self-defense, acrobatics, flips, music, instruments, dance and rhythm,” he said with a laugh. “It means everything. It’s what I eat, it’s what I drink.”
This mixture of so many disciplines is what compelled Evans to bring a Capoeira demonstration to FSU. He said he believes Grupo Capoeira Brasil’s performance provided an opportunity to showcase Brazilian culture to FSU students.
“A practitioner of Capoeira must master an array of percussion instruments,” Evans said. “Then, of course, one must master the physicality of the moves and the communication with one’s sparring partner.”
Freshman Sabrina Sun came to the event as part of a class assignment and walked away impressed.
“It thought it was exciting,” Sun said. “I want to learn more about [Capoeira] now.”
Shante Carlton, a junior, said the performance was “crazy.”
“The music, the flips – it was really interesting,” Carlton said.