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Saturday, February 04, 2006

E hora, e hora, Camara

When I was in the Southwest, I used to play Capoeira Angola. At the time, I loved Capoeira more than just about anything. I even bought a berimbau and practiced it every day. I made a pact with myself never to live anywhere I couldn't learn Capoeira.

Once I left Desert City, I lived in California for a while. I tried a Capoeira
class, but it was a much more aggressive, less spiritual style (though not Regional), and I didn't like it. One time, out for a walk, I came across people practicing Capoeira in the park. I asked to join in. They let me, and it quickly became clear that (despite my low skill level) I was more experienced than the students. The teacher stepped in and basically used the chance to knock me over with a well-placed head butt, and then they all left the park without saying goodbye. As they walked away, I overheard the teacher saying that Capoeira was invented by black slaves & white people shouldn't do it.

This left a bad taste in my mouth. I suspected that the happy, communal Capoeira I'd been taught was a fluke.

When I came back East a month later, I initially looked for Capoeira classes, but I couldn't find any. I was living in a small town at the time, and finally I learned there were classes in the city, but it was quite a drive away. Moreover, after my experiences in Cali, I felt less like playing anyway. I theorized that my life in Desert City had been a little empty, and so I'd become more attached to Capoeira than I would have otherwise.

Since then almost 6 years have passed, during which the bow from my berimbau moved in with my parents while I moved, moved again, worked, moved, fell in love, and studied shiatsu. (The shaker and gourd traveled with me.) I pretty much forgot about Capoeira. In October, as my mom revved up her empty nest clear-out and re-decorate, she called to ask me, yet again, when I would take my instrument off their hands. She suggested I hang it on the wall in my practice, which despite her good intentions seemed like absolutely the wrong thing to do with it.

Knowing that the lovely berimbau should be used & enjoyed, I did some research online, and emailed a Brazilian cultural organization to ask if they might want it. Someone who shares my last name replied, asking me to bring it by sometime so he could see it.

I grew busy again, in the last semester of shiatsu studies, and forgot about it. Over the holidays, I retrieved the bow from my parents' house. I called the Mestre who shares my last name this week and asked when I might come by to give him the berimbau. He said to come by a certain dance center at 3 on Saturday, when he'd be teaching Capoeira. This worked out perfectly, because I had tai chi class in the same neighborhood as the Dance Center from 12:15-1:30, and then I was meeting my friend K. for lunch.

Over lunch in a dark pub playing the Manchester United game for an enthusiastic crowd of Brits (GOD I love soccer!!), I realized how perfect it was that K, a friend from my Desert City days, would go with me to return the berimbau. I was feeling foolishly reluctant to give it away, though. When I'd packed up my berimbau that morning, reuniting the bow with shaker and gourd, it seemed to possess a magic as a unit. I shook it off and reminded myself that that chapter was closed, and that I was never good, anyway.

After eating, K and I walked to my car for the berimbau. As we approached the garage, there, on the other side of the road, the Mestre was carrying HIS berimbau and a drum to the Dance Center. I ran across the street and introduced myself. He told me where the D.C. was and said he'd see me there shortly.

As we walked upstairs in the D.C., past the hiphop class having silly fun, I started to hear Capoeira music--live Capoeira music. And something opened up in me, that same thing (whatever it is) that Capoeira music used to open up. My heart started pounding as we climbed the stairs and got closer to it.

The mestre was happy to see me. He inspected the berimbau and said,
"This is a good berimbau. Where did you get it?"

"It's from Brazil. I ordered it online."

"I can tell it's very, very good because of the gourd. Why don't you do Capoeira anymore?"

"I don't have time."

"You make time."

"I never could walk on my hands."

"I teach a very traditional style. You don't have to. I can take this
berimbau from you, but then you'll need to buy a new one."

Something clicked.
"I'll see you next week," I said, "But where do I get a berimbau string?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll bring you one."

It was the weirdest experience. You know those stories you hear, wherein
someone is reading a meditation book in the esoteric bookstore, and then
the Zen master/Taoist priest/shaman walks in and says, "Come with me. You meditate now. Where the hell have you been? Took you long enough to get here." It felt like that.

But...we'll see how it goes next week, eh?

PS He's a real mestre, which is very rare. I've never met one.

6 Comments:

Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Explain what a mestre is? And this is a cool (very cool) story.

1:29 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

"Mestre" means master in Portuguese. He's a Capoeira master.

:)

2:38 PM  
Blogger Lah said...

what a cool story. I look forward to hearing how the class goes next week...

it made me think a bit about my bellydance experiences, and how I quit because of the atmosphere with the other dancers and my teacher's repeated flakiness. Although I miss dancing in general, whenever I think about it I remind myself of all the bad points and tell myself that I'm not going back.

I've been thinking that when I graduate (hopefully in December) that maybe I'll try a new form of dance. I was thinking about W. African. I have happy memories of watching you and melinda in performances at Wesleyan... :)

12:06 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

maybe there's another bellydance troupe you could join?

How are your studies going, anyway?

4:28 PM  
Blogger Lah said...

Yeah, I just don't know about trying another bellydance class. I'm not so sure how much of it was palika and how much of it was actually bellydance as a dance practice. I recently read about something called "budokon" which appears to be a combination of yoga, martial arts, and meditation. Besides looking rather trendy, I think it might be cool to try...

Anyways, school goes, I guess. It's exhausting and stressful, and I'm ready for it to be over. Unfortunately I have a full year left. September through December should be the most painful, as I write and assemble the 500 page portfolio and conduct original research in the field, which are both required as the exit mechanism of the program.

Next week I start my practicum teaching. I'll have a class of 15 female university students visiting Monterey Institute from Japan. In other words, I'm preparing for a lot of giggling and peace signs... ;)

1:11 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

That's some intense stuff. I wish you'd blog again--everything you're doing is so interesting. C'mon, you don't need time to sleep.

Are you still glad you're studying what you're studying?

(Ya know what--email me!)

9:52 AM  

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