Capoeira, a Brazilian art form best described as a mix of martial arts, music and dance, took over the Auxiliary Gym for workshops and several classes this week starting on Monday, Oct. 28.
After being contacted over the summer by Associate Professor of Dance Jennifer Smith, Marisa Cordeiro of Gingarte Capoeira Chicago agreed to teach a residency at Knox, directing two capoeira workshops open to all at 6:30 p.m. on Monday and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. She also offered an Afro-Brazilian Dance workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday and instructed Smith’s and Assistant Professor of Music Nikki Malley’s classes.
Smith is currently teaching Cultural Perspectives in Dance, a class that will take a two-week trip this winter break to Ghana along with Malley’s Music of the African Diaspora class, and she was searching for ways to make connections between the two fields of study.
She hoped doing so would offer the students “a much rounder perspective of dance and music and the collaboration between the two.”
“Especially when you talk about cultural dance, cultural music in the African diaspora, the separation between dance and music isn’t as common,” Smith said.
Brazil was an easy place for both professors to make the connection. Smith explained how she wanted her students to be prepared for the more multidisciplinary culture of Ghana, where their cook just might be a master drummer, their dance teacher an experienced storyteller.
Describing the roots of the craft, Cordeiro herself explained that capoeira’s development was tied to the presence of Africans in Brazil.
Though there is no definitive proof, those in the capoeira world believe that music was introduced to the form as a means of disguising it to look like dance.
“It was used in the past as a means of liberation from slavery and a means to protect these villages that they formed, people that ran away from the plantations,” she said.
It was this wealth of history behind capoeira that fascinated freshman Robin Delaquess, who has been practicing capoeira for several years and who thought Cordeiro “did an excellent job of meeting us where we’re at and pushing us a bit.”
Cordeiro likewise appreciated the experience of teaching at Knox, saying that “when I look back in the mirror, I see all these young people moving with me and it’s really impressive. These are young people who are apparently moving all the time.”
Cordeiro got involved in capoeira “by accident” when friends invited her to come to classes.
“I started that way and never stopped. It’s been close to 30 years.”
Junior Juan Irizarry, a student in Smith’s class, had never done capoeira before the workshops or the classes that Cordeiro was teaching this week, but had seen it performed on YouTube and in the video game Tekken.
Now, he is even thinking of joining Knox’s Capoeira Club because, he said, this has been “a great experience and I’d love to learn more.”