Esquina de Brasília
18th March 1969
There are three or four "greats" of capoeira in Bahia today. And now that Mestre Pastinha, who until the last year was still running the Academy of the Pelourinho Hillside and, with his students, played the berimbau, pandeiro, réco-réco, agogô and rattle, sand and even played, retired due to his eighty years and the blindness, the "Pope" of the capoeiristas is Mestre Gato.
And Mestre Gato is in Brasília with eight students. They were invited by the Athletics Federation of UnB and the Folklore Centre of Sobradinho, to which they already showed capoeira, pandeiro and maculelê. (This maculelê that few know how to practise, this maculelê done with the heavy sticks that is the hands of capoeiristas seem light artistocratic walking sticks, this maculelê that is a stange and sensational fight, frantic and rhytmic).
We bring to your attention that there are bahian capoeiristas amoung us. We would like that many people had the joy of seeing the game-fight, game-dance, so beautiful and so much more brazilian than judo, however much more spread. We would want many to see the kick called "meia-lua" with its spinning leg movement when the kick is thrown; would see how the bananeira is planted to attach with the feet, from up-high downwards, in an incredible speed; or the malicious headbutt to the thorax; and the "rabo de arraia", with the leg whipping the head of the adversary, and the "chapa de frente" when the capoeirista, with arms crossed knocks the other one down by stopping him with the leg; and the "chapa de costas" with the frightening rasteira; and the "jogo de dentro" with the feet and hands acting without the body touching the ground.
The famous Mestre Gato, who teaches his art at the Dance School of the University of Bahia, was, in 1966, in Dakar, with his students [actually with M Camafeu de Oxóssi, M Pastinha and 3 of Pastinha's students - velhosmestres.com]. There they stepped up in the Black Arts Festival and it's good to remember that thanks to them Brazil was the great winner of the International Festival.
The joy of capoeiristas impresses as much as their speed. It's good to see that, to be prepared for the defence and attack they also develop physical and mental exercises that help them to master themselves, to manage this physical equilibrium that is needed for the game. As one famous capoeirista told me "capoeira demands loyalty, absolute obedience to the rules of the game and some mysticism", stressing "they are happy because the hatred is gone when beginning the fight to defend the integrity of oneself, cautiously, with resistance, speed and elegance".
And this fight that engages with the hands and head, and, mainly, feet, and this fight against which is no possible defence, when suddenly initiated, against an attacker; and this fight at the same time so efficient and so gracious, deserves to be seen when authentic, the "cavalaria rhythm" explains why it became a fight and a dance: this rhythm warned, in the old days capoeiristas that the police cavalry was approaching, and as capoeira was repressed because the slave shouldn't possess such means of defence, this was enough for the fight to transform into a dance!
But lets leave the memories of Bahian capoeira - "Bahia, minha Bahia" as they are used to sing, "Bahia de Salvador". Who doesn't know capoeira / can't give it it's value / All can learn / General and a Doctor / But for this it's necessary / To find a Teacher". The teacher here is with his graduated students!
Lets take advantage of this opportunity! That the Cultural Foundation would organize a capoeira night, this week, at the Theatre Martins Penna so that the capital of national integration could get to know a brazilian art! That the TV would invite the capoeiristas to make their game for the numerous televiewers. That some clubs and institutions would invite them!
The fight-dance is folklore, beauty, happiness, and which cunningness, and unnoticeable connections to the speed, represent the best means of defence that there is, - who could forsee that the capoeirista pretending to retire could return suddenly, to jump from side to side, advance, recuse, pretend that he doesn't see the other one, spin, contort himself and, without any hurry, only launch a kick when he is certain that it would not fail or miss? - capoeira, which is beautiful should be given prestige, in Brasília, now that this opportunity has arisen.
For this is ask with insistence that the clubs, institutions, and, mainly the Cultural Foundation invite Mestre Gato to show our public this spectacle of an art which is typically brazilian, which surprises and stimulates, in the atmosphere that the ioruban songs make almost mystical.