Kicking it capoeira style
By Sarina Trangle
Friday morning started with the rhythm of ginga for about 30 New Visions Charter High School for Humanities students.
Legs shot back diagonally and swung forward as rows of students kicked through the alternative footwork of the Brazilian martial art called capoeira. Arms jut out of students’ navy Humanities shirts and thrust across their chests to the beat of a large tambourine called a pandeiro. Between leaping legs and jabbing arms, students showed off their mastery of capoeira’s principal move: the ginga.
This fall, Humanities unveiled an alternative to the traditional physical education curriculum by offering students the option of studying capoeira with Marcelo “Côco” Fagundes. Mr. Fagundes, a Brazilian native, began learning capoeira when he was 9. By 16, he was schooling others on the movements and rhythms that fuse self-defense techniques, dance, acrobatics and music.
During their first week, students focused on learning various kicks. They learned the ginga, a step used to keep capoeiristas on their toes, and a cartwheel-like move called aú.
Students will learn about capoeira’s history, which Mr. Fagundes described as an art form that grew “pregnant in Africa, but was born in Brazil.” Enslaved Africans pioneered the martial art as a freedom fighting tool in 16th century Brazil. In order to disguise capoeira from the Portuguese, the slaves incorporated dance moves and practiced the steps to music. According to oral tradition, groups of capoeiristas successfully rose up against their masters, escaped and began passing on the martial art to others. Centuries later, Mr. Fagundes and his wife Jennifer Sanchez-Fagundes, who founded ABADÁ-Capoeira Bronx, are part of a global community that uses capoeira to promote healthy lifestyles, inter-generational bonding and highlight an Afro-Brazilian tradition.