Maybe it’s a good thing that I did not set a goal for how many posts I wanted to do this year since this is only the second installment that I have written. Low expectations seem to yield low accomplishments. Moving right along now, let’s do this “year in review” blog so that I can keep my mind off of all the cookies that have invaded my house in the last few weeks.
What a year it has been. It seems like there were multiple capoeira events happening every month this year. It was a challenge but I tried to get to as many of them as I could. Here are reminisces of some batizados, workshops and rodas.
The year started with the UCA Hayward batizado. Contramestre Recruta and his students hosted a beautiful event that was well attended by members of the local capoeira community. I assisted Mestre Marcelo with the workshop that he taught and even managed to surprise Contramestre Versatil in our game. Not easy to do, believe me.
At the end of the month a few Mandinga folks made a road trip to Fresno for a roda organized by Kaitlyn and Jesse and their friends. It was great to get out of town and meet new people who share your passion for capoeira. Although I had already planned to do more traveling this year, the positive experience of this trip helped encourage me to actually follow through on some of those plans.
In March I participated in one of the most enjoyable fundraisers ever. This was the Capoeira Ijexá scavenger hunt. Imagine a bunch of capoeiristas running through the streets of San Francisco, searching for clues and interacting with unsuspecting civilians! A fun day indeed. Later that month Mestre Toni Vargas was a special guest for Vadiando, a roda organized by Mestre Itabora. I would like to publicly thank Mestre Itabora, not only for creating Vadiando for our community, but for being the kind of loving, passionate, compassionate, dedicated person that he is. We should all aspire to be like him.
I was in Petaluma several times this year. In April there was Contramestre Fabio’s batizado (who knew there were so many capoeira kids in the north bay?) and for the Petaluma Music Festival to name two. After dancing in front of the stage to the music of SambaDá, we were joined by Mestre Papiba and members of the band in our roda. Some of us also made it even further north in July for Mestre Canguru’s capoeira camping and batizado. We had a great time playing capoeira and dancing samba around the campfire.
Of course, the 500-pound gorilla of this capoeira year was the Mandinga Formatura week. It was so big that it deserves it’s own blog post. Stay tuned.
I finally made it back to Southern California this summer after about a ten-year absence. I went to the Capoeira Besouro batizado in Santa Monica and to Contramestre Muito Tempo’s batizado in Pasadena. It was great to reunite and hang out with Mestres Batata, Kinha, Efraim and Beck in June and to see the turn out for Muito’s 2nd event in September. SoCal capoeira is in good hands.
In October I had the great pleasure of reuniting with Mestre Ombrinho at the CAQSF roda. I was glad to see how much he has recovered from a near-fatal accident a few years ago. I even got to play a game with him as well as with many of the students attending. Later we hung out during the potluck and I repeated my intention to make it back to NYC someday soon for a visit.
Early November saw us returning to Rochester for Contramestre Carcará’s batizado. And by us I mean Mestre Marcelo, Professores Silencio & Capeta and myself. We taught some workshops, did some sightseeing and spent some time getting acquainted with students in the group. They are a good mix of vets that we’ve known for years and youngster just entering the capoeira community.
I made it back to Oakland in time to take workshops in Regional and puxada de rede at Professor Malandro’s Zumbimba event and Angola workshops with Mestrs. Tisza and Cabello. Yes, it was a very busy month.
I was able to stay pretty close to home in December. The capoeira tournament and batizado for Capoeira Mestre Bimba was held in East Oakland and the Ijexá formatura happened in nearby San Francisco. Congratulations to both Professor Sereno and Mestre Urubú Malandro and thanks for helping us end the year on such high notes of quality capoeira and performances.
I’m excited to see what next year brings!
I had originally thought that this post would be a recounting of how I met and was befriended by Kendal and JC, but that’s just not gonna happen tonight. For now I’ll just say that they are good people who do great work but are currently struggling to keep their business open. I’m trying to do my part to help out by organizing a capoeira workshop as a fundraiser for the studio. The pertinent information is included below.
Join Mestre Bengala of Capoeira Mandinga as he attempts to “volta no tempo” and share some of his favorite capoeira trainings from bygone days. I can promise you a little history, a little mystery and a lot of fun.
Sunday February 22 at 1 pm. 2124 Dwight Way Berkeley, CA. Registration is $20.
This workshop is a benefit for The People’s Movement Studio. If you are not able to attend, you can still give support by making a donation at http://www.gofundme.com/Pilates2thePeople.
Mandinga's montbly open roda returns at the end of the month! Please check the following link for the details. Come join us. https://www.facebook.com/events/449235308560998/
2014, the Year of the Horse, is trotting off into the cold, crisp sunset. Looking back, I was able to achieve many of my goals for this year but not all. I guess the ones that I didn’t get will have to be added to next years list. Something to look forward to.
Rather than discuss goal setting or reminiscing about capoeira events and personalities, I though I would close out the year by sharing some of my favorite online sites. So here goes:
Even though it has not been updated for a while, Capoeira Connection is a good site to check out. It contains articles and interviews but my favorite section is the dictionary. (http://capoeira-connection.com/capoeira/dictionary/) It lists translations of Portuguese words into English and uses song lyrics to put them into context.
There are of course many sites with song lyrics but the ones that I tend to visit first when I’m looking for the words to a new song are All Capoeira Songs (http://www.capoeira-music.net/all-capoeira-songs/) and Com Expressão (http://www.comexpressao.com/lyrics)
And while we are on the subject of music, you can find and purchase capoeira CD’s at http://www.dundak.com. It’s a great way to add to your music collection and support the artists who are sharing their love of our art form with us.
Want to learn or improve your Portuguese? Try Street Smart Brazil (https://www.youtube.com/user/StreetSmartBrazil)
There are, of course, more capoeira videos online than any of will be able to view in a lifetime, but one of my favorite recent finds is a state of the art clip of CDO (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiWKDdf7QkQ&feature=share)
If you have some favorite sites bookmarked, please share them with us. There’s nothing better than sitting in the warm glow of your computer screen on a cold winter’s night, unless it’s actually going out and playing. “Where the roda?”
On this day after Thanksgiving, I would like to say a belated thank you to the Capoeira Mandinga Michigan family for making my stay with them a total delight. Thanks to Sabiá, Sério and Forca for all the hard work they did to make the batidado weekend events run so smoothly. I realize that they did not do it all alone, so I also want to thank all of the students and their families for their work and support for the batizado. You made my job, teaching a few classes, answering a few questions and generally acting as if I knew what I was doing, so much easier than I expected it to be.
In one of my previous posts (Good and Small) I talked about some of the joys of small capoeira events. Well, this was another small event that produced some grand memories.
On Friday we got to do a little sightseeing and visited Hitsville USA where we heard stories about the founding and growth of Motown. It was a good reminder that the company was not just a recording company but was and still is a homegrown entertainment empire. Saturday was a marathon day of workshops, rodas, the batizado and the after party. I had wanted to set aside time for a bate papo but although that never happened as a formal event, there was plenty of informal story sharing taking place over the weekend. In addition to the usual tales about how we got into capoeira, there were stories shared about our families, jobs and even a world-class engagement story. Carcará recounted some of the most fun stories as he reminisced about “the good old days” of his time in California, training, teaching and doing graphics. I knew many of these stories but some of them were new to me. Trovie and Carvão helped fill me in on some of the early days of the Mandinga Detroit group. We also exchanged memories of the California Brazil Camps of yore.
I guess my take-away from that weekend was that everybody has a lifetime of stories and if you just ask the right questions, you can learn a lot. You don’t need a formal Q & A session to hear some good stories. The next time you have some downtime at a batizado or workshop, introduce yourself to the instructors, guests or mestres and share some stories. I’m sure that your stories will be as fascinating to us as ours are to you.
For the last five years Capoeira Mandinga, Oakland was fortunate enough to have a spacious studio to call home. Our second Piedmont Avenue academy was a risky undertaking, but the rewards eventually proved to be worth the risk. This new space allowed us to greatly expand the breadth and quality of the programs that we offered. In addition to adults and kids capoeira classes, we also offered Kindergym, Brazilian dance and percussion classes as well as Portuguese lessons and a series of art and photo exhibitions.
Although we are sad to have to leave this space so suddenly, we are confident that our next home will be even more wonderful. Until we meet at the next “academy warming,” here are some memories of the past five years.
The grand opening was a day of food, friends and classes. There would be many more to follow.
The 2010 Halloween Haunted House & Roda of Horror! Who knew that ninjas would love capoeira?
What happens when you give almost a hundred adults and kids a bunch of instruments that they have never played before? If you are lucky enough to have a good teacher like Jimmy Biala, rhythmic magic happens.
When we had to move out of our original academy on Piedmont Avenue, we lost the mural that had been painted on the wall. This time, thanks to the talent and foresight of Pintora, we will be able to take her large-format paintings with us to our next home.
Last but not least, all the fun and energetic dance classes taught by Vania, Mosca, Tania, Tanilee, Jazz and others.
Here's to creating more good memories as we move on.
Summer is almost over and I've been thinking about some of the capoeira events that I have attended since the "Batizado Season" began this Spring. Some of my favorite memories are of smaller capoeira events such as rodas at Lake Merritt or at last week's Petaluma Music Festival. Here are some of my thoughts about a few of the "smaller" batizados that I have attended this year.
This is only the second year that I have been able to attend the Capoeira Azania batizado (I'm usually out of town) and I had a great time. Fabio and Come Come opened their house to out-of-town guests and (dare I say) made us all feel at home. Favorite moment #1: Mestre Lucas plugging in his guitar and turning the living room into a nightclub.
The Azania batizado followed the usual format; Friday roda, Saturday workshops, Sunday batizado. Favorite moment #2: meeting my "biggest" fan and playing with her in the roda. Some of my photos of the weekend can be seen at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90627197@N05/sets/72157645554056524/
We were fortunate enough to be able to host Mestre Cabello at the Mandinga academy in Oakland for two workshops in May. Although he could not participate in our batizado the following week, his energy, focus and respect for tradition helped prepare us for things to come. Favorite moment: "No high fives, no fist bumps, just a handshake." More photos of this event are at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90627197@N05/sets/72157645597488493/
Since there is no way that I can get away with calling our Oakland batizado "small" (medium, maybe) I'll simply post the link to the workshop photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/90627197@N05/sets/72157645833527340/
Mestre Paulo Batuta is a man who knows how to throw a really big party. Brazilian Day San Diego and Vegas Loves Brazil are evidence of that. When I read that his 15th Batizado would happen at the end of May instead of during Brazilian Day, I thought I'd go see if he could still manage to put on a small event. Well, not to worry. As usual, Paulo and Amy were great hosts and provided lots of opportunity for the capoeiristas to play, sing and take each other down.
Favorite Moment #1: Paulo's birthday roda. "But my birthday was three days ago!" He played us all anyway, despite a back injury.
One of the best things about an intimate batizado like this one is that you are not always rushing to get to the next big event on the schedule. Which leads to Favorite Moment #2: Relaxing and reconnecting with old friends and meeting and learning about new friends.
I'm going to share one final link with you. Cassio Martinho "Mestre Rã" of UCA is in desperate need of surgery. I have known Mestre Rã for over twenty years. He is a key figure in the growth and evolution of capoeira in California (I still try to channel some of his expression when I play.) Friends and colleagues have been raising money to help with the cost of the surgery. From acts as humble as selling items and passing the hat to organizing rodas, workshops and other fund raisers, capoeiristas have opened their hearts and their wallets in support of one of their own. Please go to the following page. Read the story, click on the "Give Now" button and share the link with your social network. No donation is too small to make a difference. Thank you.
International Women's Day is certainly an appropriate occasion to remember and celebrate some of the women in capoeira. Historically, women have not been well represented in capoeira groups and they have certainly not always been praised in song. In "Dendê de Aro Amarelo" we loudly proclaim "Sou homen não, sou mulher" and that's far from the worst thing that we sing about women in the roda.
Today, an increasing number of women have made a place for themselves in the roda and in the larger world of capoeira. Every time that I learn a little bit more about their lives and the work that they do, I am more impressed and thankful to have them as a part of our community.
Since I first started training capoeira in the mid 80's, there has always been a strong representation of women in our group (Capoeira Mandinga.) Many still do capoeira, but many more have gone on to other things...careers, families...things almost as important as capoeira. I would like to salute a few of those women by saying a grand "Salve" to Regina, Diane, Rebecca, Helena, Paulinha, Suzanne, Janela, Gazela, Peneira and so many others that I've forgotten.
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to extend a big hug and a thank you to Mestras Sorriso and Lagosta. We are all in your debt. Salve!
Yes, I know I should have said that last month, but fortunately for me, the lunar New Year is a two week celebration. Welcome to the year of the horse. According to travelchinaguide.com, "The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people's ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able."
You may have noticed that it has been a while since my last blog entry. My apologies for that. I really did not intend to let that much time pass between posts. Well, in the spirit of "...unremitting efforts to improve..." I would like to set a goal of doing at least 6 new posts this year. If all goes as planned, it will be a busy year for me. I plan to do more traveling and more teaching as well as completing a few photo projects. In light of all that, I think 6 new blog posts this year will be doable.
Stay healthy and embrace the "spirit of the horse."
Last night (August 15) Capoeira Mandinga participated in the monthly Piedmont Ave. Stroll (http://www.piedmontavestroll.org/blog.html) by playing capoeira outside for almost 90 minutes. Yesterday was also Mestre Marcelo's birthday and in true capoeira tradition he declared his intention to play with everyone in the roda. Considering that there were probably over thirty people present, that would be no easy task.
I was standing outside of the roda, catching my breath after finishing a game, when a passerby approached me and asked if I did that "dance" too. When I said yes, he told me that I should stop because I was too old and would hurt myself. I had to laugh. What the stranger didn't know is that when I first started training capoeira over 25 years ago, my goal was merely to train until I got injured, then quit and move on to something else.
Well, I've had quite a few injuries over the years but nothing that made me want to leave the game for good. I have had blisters on my feet, sore muscles, a busted lip, a dislocated toe, back pain, rotator cuff injuries, knee pain and other things that I've forgotten. Maybe it's love or maybe I'm just too stupid to listen to reason.
The only good thing about injuries is that they give you the opportunity to learn how to take better care of yourself. It took a while but I learned a few things that helped keep me going. For instance: stretching after class is a really good practice, icing joints and injuries helps with healing and wearing a knee, ankle, etc. brace can remind you to be careful how you use a body part that is in pain. One of the most important things that you can do for injuries is to know when to seek the help of a professional (doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor) and to be patient when you are told that it will be months before you are fully recovered.
The secret to longevity in any sport or activity isn't really a secret at all. Whether it's running, biking, rock climbing, golf or rugby, pick something that you love doing with a family of like-minded individuals who will support and encourage you. I'm grateful that my capoeira community fulfills that roll for me. Axé.
Most of us don't need Webster's or the Oxford dictionary to define "home." For some of us it's the place where we were born or where our family lives. For others, it's the community that we have chosen to be a part of.
Oakland has been the home of Capoeira Mandinga for almost thirty years. When Mestre Marcelo started teaching classes at the original Caribee Dance Center, capoeira was almost completely unknown in the US. Today the uniforms, movements and instruments are widely recognized even by people who have never trained it.
Over the past two decades we have offered classes throughout the SF Bay area, from Berkeley and San Francisco to Marin County and Santa Rosa. But Oakland has always been our home base, the center from which we have shared our knowledge of Brazilian arts and culture.
Approximately ten years ago we opened our first capoeira academy in a former yoga studio on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. It was an almost perfect location and we thrived there. It really felt like we were home. Having a fixed location really made a difference in our cohesion as an organization and enabled us to both increase our student enrollment and to expand our outreach to the community.
In 2009, after extensive negotiations and a lot of hard work, we were able to move into our present location on Piedmont Ave. This new, larger space has allowed us to offer even more classes and activities including Kindergym, Afro-Brazilian dance, Portuguese classes, acrobatics, drumming, a capoeira women's event and the list goes on. We believe that we are a vital force that brings a lot of positive energy to the community.
Due to recent complaints about noise from our academy, the city of Oakland has shortened our evening hours so that we cannot offer classes after 8 pm. Since most of our students work during the day, this will severely limit their ability to train. A major drop in our enrollment would mean that we could no longer afford to stay in our current home.
On July 17 we will be asking the City Planning Commission to extend our hours of operation until 9:30 pm daily. If you have ever been to an event at our academy and think that our appeal is reasonable, please support us. It would be great if you could attend the Planning Commission meeting (6 pm at Oakland City Hall) but whether or not you attend, please email case manager David Valeska (email@example.com) to express your support.