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date: 20 November 2019


  • Greg Downey


An acrobatic Brazilian dance and martial art, with a distinctive instrumental and vocal accompaniment. The art derives primarily from African challenge dances with limited influence from Portuguese and other cultures. Long suppressed for its association with slavery, rebellion, and urban unrest, capoeira emerged in the 20th century as a Brazilian national folk art, especially in Bahia.

In a jogo (game), two practitioners seek to out-maneuver, evade, and upend each other with fluid, often circular, kicks, leg sweeps, and headbutts, while moving in harmony with the musical accompaniment. The basic swaying step, the ginga, emphasizes fluidity and constant movement. Capoeira vocal practice includes solos and call-and-response sequences, with song types distinguishing preparation and play. Adept soloists improvise verse and calls that comment upon and regulate the game.

Capoeira schools disagree about the proper configuration of the ensemble, but unanimously concur that the berimbau, a single-string musical bow struck with a stick and played with a ...

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