Gravity-defying kicks, traditional music, and the fluid dance movements of capoeira will be combined in workshops for all ages in the African-Brazilian martial art this weekend at the Caribbean Dance Company on Church Street in Christiansted. Treinel Kojo Johnson, an instructor from the D.C.-based International Capoeira Angola Foundation with 25 years experience, will lead classes in the art form, which blends self-defense with acrobatics, traditional music, and philosophy. The workshops will be held Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for children and 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for adults; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for children and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. for adults; and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with an emphasis on music and a roda, a community circle in which skills learned will be demonstrated.
"I’m hoping folks will come out and expose their families to something new but familiar, have a fun workout, reconnect with folks from the community, and learn about a hidden legacy of the Black Diaspora,” Johnson said. “Capoeira comes from the African experience but is there to be experienced by everyone."
Capoeira Angola, as the name implies, has its origins in the fight-dances of Angola, such as N’golo. There were and still are many fight games that allow a friendly competition between adversaries in the ring. These fight-dances or fight-games were brought over by enslaved Africans in Brazil and they evolved into what we now know as capoeira. It became a symbol of resistance to oppression and for this capoeira and its guardians have survived a long history of persecution. At one time it was prohibited by law to play capoeira in Brazil.
Johnson, who is also a vocalist and percussionist with Virgin Islands reggae group Bambu Station, held his first set of capoeira classes in the territory in March. In May and June, he is touring St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, and hopes to share this unique martial art with the British Virgin Islands as well.
"I hope that people who come out will walk away with the satisfaction of having learned something new and having grown just a little, even those who’ve done capoeira before,” Johnson said. “At a minimum we’ll all get some good exercise, burn a lot of calories, speak and sing in Brazilian Portuguese, learn to play traditional instruments and learn something about African-Brazilian folkways and culture."
Workshops are $10 each and capoeira CDs, songbooks, and berimbaus will be on sale. Participants are encouraged to arrive early to gain the full benefit. For more information, call 332-4555 or 752-5555.