The baiana with a long skirt knew capoeira; the baiana with a short skirt is scared of capoeira
Correio da Manhã
3rd May, 1959
„Mestre Pastinha, the bahian women know capoeira?
„Boy, woman now doesn't want to know about capoeira any more: When they used long skirts there were nobody who could compete with them. Now that the skirts became short, there is noone who would end up making just one kick".
This was the first dialogue that the reporter had with mestre Pastinha, the grandfather of capoeiras in Salvador, the owner of the first academy of its kind: "Capoeira Angola Sport Centre".
Mestre Pastinha or Vicente Ferreira Pastinha is a bahian who is devoted to Senhor do Bonfim, who likes a good vatapá and an excellent capoeira. Despite is seventy januaries, mestre Pastinha is a figure who is always present in the capoeira spectacles. A few days ago I met him here in Rio. He was leading a group of capoeiras who were in Rio Grande do Sul to show what Bahia has.
Skinny type, slim and short, he is so fast as a stealing thief. His sideways look, almost ironic, shows the crafty type that a good capoeira has to be. A brave guy when passing by him and thinking of his skinny looks, and wanting to measure bravery, could be certain that mestre Pastinha would give him a lot of work.
On the request to the reporter he goes to fight capoeira with some of his disciples. His agility made us feel embarrassed. His fighting-partner, a black guy of his twenty and so years, wanted to be faster than the old man; couldn't. For a kick, mestre Pastinha has a counter-kick, so fast in its execution as the mind of a mathematician.
„Mestre Pastinha, which are the kicks in capoeira?“
„You can see how fast they are“, Pastinha told us, diverting completely the meaning of my question.
I also didn't play dumb:
„Mestre Pastinha, besides rabo de arraia which are the kicks in capoeira?
[„Boy, if we name the kicks, it loses grace, of playing around. You wouldn't want anybody tell you the whole film before going to the movies, would you? We also don't like to tell, to show the kicks before we give them".
„You are saying the kicks are real state secrets".
„Exactly. Who enters to our Academy will learn these little by little", stressed our interviewee, giving an end to the matter.
I didn't want to force him more on the subject. I took advantage to ask him about his academy.
According to him, his academy - the Sport Centre Capoeira de Angola - is the first in Bahia, at least by official recognition. It was founded on 23rd February 1941. Its headquarters today still are on Baixa do Sapateiro, on the Pelorinho hillside. It already has rules and many students - "children and men, women don't want anything [to do with it]".
Pastinha returns now to his group. Squatting, he and a companion, in fornt of the instrument players, start to make invocations before beginning the fight. In a pretty monotonous rhythm, which resembles more macumba rhythm, the two start to challenge eachother. Suddenly they begin to fight which more looks like a ballet spectacle in pair.
Marking the rhythm for the two fighters, the musicians use their instruments in a slow beat. From all the instruemnts, the berimbau is the most known. It's a bow of a beriba (from this the name) tree which is on both ends attached to a streched wire. On the bottom end is a gourd which permits the percussion[?] of the sound. The arame-wire is streched[?] with a dobrão (coin). With the help of a stick the player hits the wire, giving in consequence a resonance, through the gourd, of a characteristic noise.
The other instruments used by the musicians are pandeiro and reco-reco.
While Pastinha makes movements, someone explained that Capoeira da Angola has the slowest "game". "This means, he expains us, that since the music is the slowest, the capoeiras have to enter to the same beat.
Capoeira was brought by the african negros. The farm masters, although, didn't permit these fights; they found them too anti-humna. But the negros, crafty like the proper capoeira, to not to lose their fitness, transformed the fight in a dance spectacle. The masters sitting on the big house's balcony could observe the capoeiristas' movements. This way capoeira was permitted.
According to the musicians it is possible to distinguish various types on capoeira, among these we quote: S. Bento Grande, S. Bento Pequeno, Santa Maria, Samongo, Riuna [Iuna – velhosmestres.com], Angolê and that of Angola, the slowest of all.
Pastinha returns to our side. Despite having "played" capoeira for more than 20 minutes, it doesn't show. The habit to "play" since child gave him the necessary preparation so that even at 70 years he could compete with younger and more agil.
Asked Pastinha the reason capoeiras looks sideways when the "play". The response was immediate:
- This is one of the tricks of the game. Looking sideways, obstructs the adversary to perceive the direction of his kicks. See how one gets confused when on the street people who meet face to face, one looking at the other: they lose the direction completely, become dizzy, don't they? Also in capoeira almost the same happens. If a buddy would look at his adversary he would know the intention. The eyes, as have told the poets, are the mirror of the soul and I say now, that they are also the mirror of intentions".
In reality, the capoeiras don't look directly, but only with the "sides" of their eyes. And this manner is pretty characteristic to all good capoeiras. Mestre Pastinha is a typical example; during the interview he only few times looked the reporter directly, almost all the time from the side, as if he was distrusting something.
Pastinha had to go. Other engagements called him. But he still had time for me to ask him the last question:
- You informed me in the beginning of this interview that the bahian women with long skirts dances capoeira, and the ones of now, that use short skirts, don't want anything to do with it. But how did they manage to "play" capoeira with long skirts?
- Initially, capoeira isn't a dance; is a hard fight, maybe the most brazilian of all the fights that exist. But the women in the past, when the had to enter in the "noise" they caught the end of the skirt and fastened it into trousers. This way the long dress was transformed into trousers, allowing ample movements.
- But the women of the past quarreled a lot?
- To be honest they quarreled little, but when they entered the fight it was for real. And it wasn't a fight of biting, or pulling hair; it was a real fight. They faught as well as any man.
Pastinha thanked, as he went with his idealistic group that practices capoeira not to quarrel, but to maintain one of our traditions which is the legacy of the negros. While many want to transform capoeira into authentic spectacles of ballet, Pastinha and his disciples maintain the "game" in its natural state.