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Greg Downey

[Mestre João Grande; dos Santos, João Olivera]

(b Itají, Bahia, Brazil, Jan 15, 1933). Brazilian teacher and master practitioner of capoeira angola. After migrating from rural Bahia to Salvador, he learned capoeira in the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola under the legendary mestre Vicente Ferreira Pastinha. Influenced also by such veteran practitioners as Cobrinha Verde and Barbosa, he became a widely respected capoeirista, adept at the art’s movements, songs, and instrumental music, especially that of the berimbau, a musical bow. João Grande and three other students accompanied Pastinha to Senegal for the first World Festival of Black Arts in 1966. He later joined Viva Bahia, a folk dance troupe directed by Emília Biancardi, touring Europe in 1976 and was publicly recognized as a successor by Pastinha. In 1990 he moved to New York, where he established the Capoeira Angola Center of João Grande. He has received a medal from the Brazilian ministry of sports (...