Group dances in the streets

By Chason Wainwright Daily Planet Staff
Friday October 06, 2000

The capoeiristas flipped and twisted their way into downtown Thursday as part of the Berkeley downtown merchant-supported Fall for the Arts series. 

Known as Mestre Acordeon, Ubirajara Almeida, who has been teaching martial art/dance for over 40 years, led his company through several different jogo, or games, of capoeira before a dazzled crowd at the downtown BART station at noon.  

Almeida played the musical bow, or berimbau. The berimbau, which is the central symbol and instrument of capoeira, along with the pandeiro (tambourine), the atabaque (single-headed standing drum), and the agog (double bell) provide the accompaniment for the dancing. 

According to the Capoeira Arts Cafe Web site, www.capoeiraarts.com, the dancers, usually in a pair, exchange movements of attack and defense as if fighting and they both attempt to control the dance space by confusing their opponents.  

Mestra Sue Ellen Einarsen, who has been doing capoeira for 17 years, said Thursday that nobody knows the exact origins of capoeira. It was developed by descendants of African slaves brought to Brazil by Portugal, Einarsen said, adding that the singing that accompanies the music is usually about Brazilian life.  

Almeida said capoeira has taught him tolerance of himself and others, respecting his own weaknesses as well as his strengths. 

The Capoeira Arts Cafe is located at 2026 Addison and has class every weekday.