Friday, 4 May 2007

Catching the Capoeira bug

We've skipped forward nearly a decade. By this time I'd stopped reading Archaeology, spent roughly a year in Polopos, a tiny village in southern Spain, and finished up in Los Angeles. Long story, not relevant, moving on. I had graduated with a first in English Literature from UCLA in 1982 but decided that the job market was saturated with BAs, and I didn't have the "fire in the belly" for a PhD in English (there was no stopping at an MA in that field, which was known as a "terminal master's"). Therefore, I went on for an MA in Latin American Studies based on my background. I was already working in the UCLA Latin American Center's editorial department - the only link between my BA and MA - and I was accepted mainly on the strength of having grown up in Puerto Rico. I welcomed the opportunity to learn Portuguese - something I'd wanted to do since I was 11, and the only language requirement I needed to fulfill because I already spoke fluent Spanish. However, my original focus was on Puerto Rican politics and history, and apart from Bossa Nova, I had little interest in Brazil.
"If these kids can do it, I can"
Then, an on-and-off boyfriend who was doing an MA in Dance Ethnology asked me to do him a favour. He had to be out of town during a Capoeira performance, known as a "roda," so could I photograph it for his thesis? I had heard a lot about it but was curious to see it first-hand - albeit through a camera lens - and as I would find, Capoeira is something one has to see in action to comprehend (which is why this blog is riddled with videos). The roda was run by a Brazilian actor and artist known as Paris, and most of his students were youngsters. They flew through the air and did cartwheels (aus) with the greatest of ease. I had never seen anything like it, and found the combination of athletics and wily sparring with music and song particularly intriguing. As I clicked away with my camera, I thought, If these kids can do it, I can (note: it would take me years to do an au properly). I had already caught the Capoeira bug, but didn't know it. It would take a traumatic event to turn it into a full-blown infection.

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