Capoeira club brings rhythm to HC

By Maureen Klewicki, Staff Writer

Nearly 50 students crowded into the dance studio at the Heritage Center on Tuesday night, moving to the rhythms of tambourines, clapping and the “Zoom, zoom, zoom” song heard in Mazda commercials.

The group, led by U student Bryan Gutierrez, celebrated the revival of Brazilian Capoeira, a unique dance originating from Africa that has inspired the creation of a new club on campus.

In the studio, dancers shifted from rows into a giant circle where Gutierrez instructed students about the art of Capoeira.

“You’re gonna learn all of these moves,” said Gutierrez, a junior in business management and president of the U’s new Capoeira group. “Now, Capoeira is more of a game, and in this game we’re going to play against each other.”

Capoeira, now considered a form of martial arts or a game, was brought from Africa to Brazil by Angolan slaves. Because slaves could not openly practice self-defense, they created Capoeira to disguise their practice of self-defense as a dance.

“The story is that African slaves, taken by the Portuguese, disguised fighting as a dance. They disguised it to look like a party,” said Xris Macias, a junior in history. “In Capoeira, different rhythms mean different things. Some might mean the master is coming, some might mean the police are coming.”

Macias plays the berimbau, a Brazilian instrument made of a bamboo stick, a metal rod and a hollow coconut, which controls the rhythm of the dance.

Macias maneuvered the instrument, while a pair of students cartwheeled into the middle of the circle to fight Capoeira-style.

Some of the advanced dancers aroused cries of “Opa!” from the crowd with kicks and punches that led to flips and headstands. Others who were just beginning to learn the dance stumbled on cartwheels and came inches from kicking one another in the face.

“If a foot comes your way, duck yo!” said Sulia Falepapalangi, president of the Capoeira club at Salt Lake Community College.

Many students from SLCC came to support the U’s new group.

With support from SLCC and $700 from the Associated Students of the University of Utah, the group should stay afloat, unlike previous years, Gutierrez said.

“Mercedes, (the former president), couldn’t get supporters so it died,” Gutierrez said. “I kept the constitution, but I revived it.”

Gutierrez said he is managing the budget for Fall and Spring semesters, which will go toward equipment and facility rental.

He said the group will remain strong because many students show an active interest in learning the dance. Gutierrez said he expects the numbers will rise to more than 200 students and the group will have to find more space to practice.

This is how it is supposed to be done, out in public, said Jeremy Fix, a senior in parks, recreation and tourism, and a native Brazilian. In Brazil, Capoeira is performed in the markets with everyone watching.

The dance group plans to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. at the Heritage Center.

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Erik Daenitz

Members of a new student group on campus gathered in the Heritage Center Tuesday night to dance the Brazilian Capoeira. The group is planning on meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays nights at 8.