Another thing I’ve returned to since starting grad school is CAPOEIRA.
For those not familiar with the joyous activity that is capoeira, just say to your self, “Brazilian breakdancing karate. Brazilian breakdancing karate.” And if you have time, go to youtube and check it out. Capoeira is the happiest
The first time I ever saw capoeira, it was the Victoria Axe Capoeira group doing a summer performance down at the bottom of Bastion Square. I was in high school at the time, wandering aimlessly around downtown as I often did, and when I happened upon the roda (“circle” in Portuguese – in capoeira, the circle you form to play inside) I had no idea what I was looking at. It was music, it was dance, it was fighting, it was spontaneous and acrobatic and communal and absolutely ecstatic. The beat of the drums and the weird twang of the berimbau spurred on the two capoeiristas in the middle of the circle, who were whirling and leaping, lashing out at each other with elegant elastic kicks that never connected, then tumbling away with playful acrobatics. The colourful rope belts they wore spun with them, arcing gracefully after their movements. All around them, the group clapped and sang, grinning and laughing and just – HAPPY. I was enthralled. I sat down with my sketchbook and tried to capture their movements, to capture the joy.
Soon after that, I left for Princeton, and joined the Princeton capoeira group, where I was eventually given my apelido, my capoeira nickname: Sininho. It means something like “chiming bell,” and it’s the Portuguese name for Tinkerbell. Apelidos are often silly – you could be “Big Feet,” or “Orange,” or “Little Crazy Man”… the list goes on. The nickname helps build the capoiera community and identity. It’s not just a fun aerobics class, it’s a family. It’s an identity. I am a capoeirsta.
Or, I was. For my first two years at Princeton, I went to classes religiously, twice a week. I had some of the best times of my life with the Princeton capoeira group. It was one of the only things I felt totally, wholeheartedly, absolutely happy about in my first year of college. But then I got busy, and I spent a semester abroad, and my participation gradually tailed off. And then I spent four years far, far away from capoeira.
It was a bit daunting to jump back in, but two weeks ago, I started going to classes at UBC. It took all of thirty seconds before I remembered how much I loved capoeira. All it took was the first notes on the berimbau – the first shout of “OK! Jinga! Let’s go!” – and I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. Tonight was the third class I’ve gone to, and I giggled to myself all the way home.