Capoeira, what’s that? Elea de Frietas Baldin, a Brazilian with animated and darting eyes, a healthy olive oil-soaked tanned body and a deep smile, clarifies, her fingers in an elaborate pirouette: It is a martial art dance form (Angolan in origin) that was introduced in Brazil some 400 years ago in the days of slavery. It was a way for black slaves to defend themselves from their exploitative Portuguese masters. The insular masters couldn’t tell that the slaves were going through very robust, strength-giving motions that masqueraded as a dance rhythm. They even found ways to disguise it with the accompanying clapping, singing and dancing, which are integral to any black form of expression.
Ginga, involving the entire body bent at knee and elbow and in a constant clockwise, anti-clockwise swivel, is capoeira’s most basic step. A semi-akimbo stance, you might think. Everything else begins from this.
All those leaps and charges in the air, which are aimed at the opponent, are executed with such beguiling fluidity. But you can never calculate the hours of strenuous practise that precede these perfect moves.
Baldin is from Sao Paulo and has dance in her blood. She ‘samba’ed her life away as a child. She holds a university degree in physical education. Spending time teaching capoeira to children for years, she has introduced in her students coordination, balance, rhythm and breathing.
Recently, she danced in Panjim, Goa. She has already taken her energetic samba shows to other Indian cities like Mumbai Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Teaching a small group of enthusiasts in Pune, Baldin also strikes a drum or djambe to keep the dancers in motion. Pandeireta and berimbao which create a backbeat are the other instruments used to keep a mesmeric capoeira beat afloat.
A South American woman with frizzy hair, a coloured mingle of copper sulphate blue and heather, watches from a park bench and nods knowingly. Home is no longer miles away. Right here, a micro- mini carnival is in the making.