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The Cultural Spark

Wednesday, 30 December 2015 00:00  by Yolanda F.


There are times when life presents many possible reasons to run and hide under a cloak of anxiety and depression. Certain scenarios could keep us entrenched in a perpetual state of crisis. But I also believe there are just as many diverse ways to overcome, or at least cope with these terrifying reasons and scenarios.

I thought about it last night as felt the cultural spark I love so much as I stood in a circle of about 10 people, (most of whom I’d just met) at Capoeira---a Brazilian martial art class---while attempting to sing along in a foreign language.

Since I was a child I have found comfort in the folkloric practices of other cultures. As my seventh birthday approached I knew I wanted to celebrate by going folk dancing. I had gone a few times and each time was even more fun than the time before. By the end of a class I never felt ready for it to be over. It wasn’t only the dancing I enjoyed, but also hearing unfamiliar music.

I had only heard about Capoeira once before while visiting my brother and his family when we happened upon a demonstration. The body movements were a combination of break-dancing, karate and hip-hop, and unforgettable to me because it also combined singing and rhythmic clapping.

The name was also memorable when a new friend invited me to check out a class of the Brazilian martial art at a nearby boxing gym. I almost didn’t go because of the intermittent pain in my lower back when I moved a certain way. But I figured I was going more importantly to expose my 14-year-old son to something new. I hoped he might also enjoy it and perhaps discover a novel way to embrace physical fitness.

What was expected of us was challenging, and we couldn’t pair up at any point because neither one of us could instruct the other. But we did plenty of laughing while attempting the movements, and even more so watching the experienced members of the group. Handstands and cartwheels, kicks and self-defense tricks were combined to create a somewhat intimidating choreography that I imagine takes years to fully grasp.

I came to find out that Capoeira, which dates back as far as the 16th century, when slaves from western Central Africa arrived in Salvador, is a martial art hidden in dance and music. The movements are designed to develop balance, strength, stamina, and reaction, while the music and singing is a way of toning the body from the inside and practicing mindfulness with repetition.

The music added a social aspect to the two hours and fifteen minutes that offered the rare opportunity to connect rhythmically, as we began the class in a drum circle. There was also call-and-response singing with percussion instruments in the middle of the class, as an interesting rest period after the training portion.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect of it all was that my lower back pain I had going in, is gone today. I assumed to have new aches today from doing things I wasn’t used to, but I believe the fun I had cancelled out the pain.

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