Brazilian Motion: Mauricio Campos on Capoeira


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Photo by Karen Newman

Brazilian-born Mauricio Campos (Gringo) moved to Houston in 1990 and took a turn from his professional skateboarding career to study martial arts. After a few years of practicing and teaching martial arts he returned to his Brazilian roots and began training Capoeira in 1997. Under the supervision of Master Jelon Vieira (pioneer of Capoeira in USA), Mauricio became part of a worldwide school name Grupo Capoeira Brasil. He has conducted classes and workshops in several schools and universities. In 200, Mr. Campos and his students started the Brazilian Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to enhance cultural awareness and develop a pro-social community through the preservation of the Brazilian culture. Today the foundation offers programs at their own cultural center located in the Heights Historical District and also at Rice University, Jewish Community Center, and Houston Independent School District. Mr. Campos enlightens us on the rich history of Capoeira.

When I watch Capoeira I see part dance and part game. If you had to describe the form in one sentence to someone that has never seen it what would you say?
MC: Capoeira is a mix of dance, martial arts, acrobats and music. All of these elements blend in on a game of strategy and creativity and survival.

Where did the work originate?
MC: Both dances originated in the state of Bahia in Brazil, which was the first point of entry for all the African people that were brought by the Portuguese.

In the tiny bit of Capoeira that I did with you a few years back there seemed to be an element of challenge or competition in the form. Can you talk about this?
MC: Yes, Capoeira is a game and competition is always present, you are competing with yourself and with the other capoeirista. In Brazil we compare Capoeira to chess, the difference is that you are using your body and have to make decisions in a split second but the strategy and creativity are the same.

How do you train?
MC: I train in the physical and the musical part of Capoeira everyday as I am teaching and also set times to practice by myself or with a partner. I practice the mental part of Capoeira 24 hours a day; it may sound crazy but with time it becomes your way of life. The same way you have to make decisions, deal with different people and energy, be grounded, calm, smart etc in the game of Capoeira, you should transfer all these elements to everyday life and vise versa. I can honestly say today that capoeira helped me to become a much more balanced person!

Did your skateboarding skills give you an edge?
MC: It sure did, I believe that any physical sport or dance can be helpful withanother since they all bring a different style of movement and awarenessas far as your body, space, timing, distance, speed and flow of movements.

Music is a large part of Capoeira. Give us a bit of history on the instruments and how music fits into the Capoeira picture.
MC: The music is the soul of the art and the Berimbau (African instrument) is the instrument the dictates the rhythm and the style of the game. The capoeirista moves according to the speed and style of the rhythm, we also play Atabaque (drum) and the Pandeiro (tamborim), the capoeiristas that are not playing the game clap their hands and sing the chorus.

How does the work give us a flavor of Brazilian culture?
MC: Capoeira in Brazil is only second to soccer, so you can imagine how rooted the art is in our culture and everyday life. The art reflects the personality of the Brazilian people; we emerge of a straggle to celebrate every second of life with great passion and happiness.

Do people ever tell you that the Capoeira reminds them of contact improvisation, modern dance, or break dancing?
MC: If you ask 10 different people about Capoeira you will probably get 10 different answers. Yes, we hear all kinds of comments and comparisons and it is very interesting to me to find out how people see Capoeira.

Is Houston been receptive to your group?
MC: Yes, I have been teaching Capoeira in Houston since November of 1998 and it’s been a great journey. Today, we take part of traditional events in the city like Tapestry of Dance and the Houston International Festival etc; we also have programs at Rice University, Jewish Community Center, Wellness Memorial Center and several after school programs around the city. The Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County has also approved grants for our annual event for the past 2 years.

Tell us what you will be doing on in November at Barnevelder and other locations?
MC: We will be performing Capoeira, Maculele (dance originated at the sugar cane fields in Brasil) and puxado de rede (dance of the fisherman bring the net from the sea), and also an acrobatics show. Also in November we will have our annual Batizado, a series of workshops
during the week and the celebration and the Capoeira students graduation, Several masters and instructors from Brazil, Canada, France and all over United States-about 150 capoeiristas- will be participating in the events.

The Brazilian Arts Foundation presents Batizado on October 31- November 4th. The workshops will be held at 1133 E. 11th Street Houston , tx 77009 and the Batizado will be held at Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex on November 4th from 2 to 4pm, located at 2201 Preston.

Contact www.brazilianarts.org or www.grupocapoeirabrasil.com
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