Dance Companies Save Money
featured photo
Battery Dance Co.

Brought to you by
Body Wrappers; New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews

Go Home

Flash Review 1, 10-10: Capoeira Dialogue
Appropriation Versus Appreciation

By Tamieca McCloud
Copyright 2000 Tamieca McCloud

I thought quite a bit about appreciation vs. appropriation as I watched Capoeira Angola Palmares perform at Symphony Space on Saturday, in a concert produced by the World Music Institute. Why was I thinking about that? Well, when asked if I'd be interested in reviewing the performance, I hesitated because I am a member of this group...when I have time to make it to class anyway. (And I must be honest; I have a hard time with being unbiased in such situations.) So what I thought I'd do was be as open-minded as I could, and scan the other audience members for whatever reactions I could get from them. I also figured I'd speak to Mestre Ombrinho (a.k.a. Michael Goldstein), and see if there was anything he had to say about the attraction of capoeira to many dancers. (I'll let you know what he said a bit later.)

So there I sat, watching folks between the ages of seven and sixty-seven do something they obviously enjoy. The skills of some were far above those of others, but everyone giving it their hearts none-the-less. One audience member commented, "They all [move] alike...except for [Grand Mestre] No." I'll admit that to a certain extent he was right -- those performing that lacked a certain level of experience relied on what they knew, the movement style of their mestre (Ombrinho). And his style manifested itself through stiff and hesitant movements that didn't allow for individuality. However, most of the performers definitely had personalities of their own as they played. And for the onlooker, that's where a good part of the thrill of capoeira is derived -- watching and learning the personalities...and waiting to see how one's style will respond to another's. Having said that, the parts of the evening that I enjoyed most were watching Mestre Ombrinho, and special guests Grand Mestre No, Elder Mestre Bigodinho and Contra-Mestre Valdir Axe. It didn't matter who they played, they all impressed with their skills and their approach to the game. You should know, by the way, that Grand Mestre No and Elder Mestre Bigodinho are literally living legends in the world of capoeira. Overall, it was an enjoyable performance.... Really, no bias necessary.

Capoeira Angola is a crafty practice. It relies more on slyness and control than on the high-flying tricks and acrobatics (although that's there as well when called upon) that popular culture has made almost synonymous with the word "capoeira." The players can't just attack and counter here -- there must be awareness and forethought. There's a deeper level of interaction than most might appreciate. At the end of the performance, another audience member stated that she felt that watching them "spar, or whatever you call it, is like watching a game of chess...but more interesting." Well put, I'd say.

Now, back to that thought on appreciation vs. appropriation.... I'm not going to get into that "our responsibility as artists" thing; it's not really that deep. I will, however, present this: A lot of dancers use capoeira movements in their work -- that's understandable, it has some beautiful movements. When I first stepped into a class, I did so with the notion of learning something new to add to my movement vocabulary. But as I began to gain more of an appreciation of the form, I wondered how many people actually bother to gain an understanding (not necessarily an acceptance) of what's behind those "cool" moves (and this doesn't have to apply to only to capoeira, by the way). I asked Mestre Ombrinho how he felt about dancers' take on capoeira, and here's what he said:

"When one first sees capoeira, one is impressed by the amazing movements, the acrobatics and control. But as one gets more involved in capoeira, sees more capoeira, trains capoeira -- especially when you see some the older mestres and the intimate dialogues -- the give and take of attacks and escapes, the creative solutions to entrapments, and how people are able to come up with incredibly creative, beautiful, funny and dramatic answers to these situations -- one realizes that the beauty in capoeira really lies in the way one conducts the dialogue. [It is] a very intimate dialogue, between two people that connect very intensely. And while the isolated movements in capoeira are very impressive to people in the dance world that are looking to be inspired by other dance forms, [capoeira] goes far beyond that. And so I offer this as an open invitation, to all those interested in dance and in movement, to come and try a class and see what capoeira is really about; how we respond to the give and take of the game and conduct this dialogue -- because it is more beautiful and powerful, and teaches more wisdom, than any isolated movement ever will."

If anyone's interested, check out Capoeira Angola Palmares's web site for all kinds of information.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home