Capoeira: Martial arts meets dance in Vail |

Capoeira: Martial arts meets dance in Vail

Rosalie Hill Isom
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Jelon Vieira

VAIL, Colorado – Many elements of Brazilian lifestyle have found their way around the world, and lucky for us, some have just arrived in the Vail Valley.

Take Capoeira, for example. It may not be the trendy Brazilian cocktail with sugar, lime and cachaca (Brazilian rum); no, that’s Caipirinha. But the stunning Afro-Brazilian dance and martial art from South America’s east coast promises to be just as tasty for dance lovers this weekend.

Capoeira is a dance fusion of speed, power, precision and lyricism set to different musical rhythms. Capoeiristas are the athletic dancers who perform the breathtaking moves.

Performing in the esteemed Vail International Dance Festival’s International Evenings of Dance, two members of the troupe, Tiberio “Tiba” Vieira and Paulo da Silva aka “Chuvisco,” will bring Brazilian rhythms and dance to the outdoor stage Saturday and Sunday at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Jelon Vieira, choreographer and artistic director of The Capoeira Foundation and DanceBrazil, and the late Loremil Machado first introduced traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and the Capoeira to the United States more than 30 years ago. Vieira formed a company that was soon noticed by Alvin Ailey, who later sat on its board.

Vieira has practiced Capoeira for 46 years.

“He guides us,” said Tiba, one of the dancer’s performing this weekend. “He is more than our teacher. He is our master, friend and a father to us.”

When at home in Brazil where he spends several months of the year, Vieira teaches children and young adults in Boca do Rio, using Capoeira to build self-esteem, teach self-discipline, and raise social consciousness.

Part martial arts, part contemporary dance, Capoeira immediately caught the attention of Brazilian children, and Tiba remembers the acrobatic movements he first saw as a little boy.

“It was all about the flips. That got my attention,” he said. “My friends wanted to learn the flips, too. I didn’t even understand the art at first.”

Tiba moved to the United States in 1997 and continued his training under the supervision of Vieira. Now Tiba is a professor of Capoeira and has taught at several schools and universities, among them the Alvin Ailey School in New York City for nearly eight years. He goes to Brazil regularly to train with his master teacher.

Capoeira is a 400-year-old tradition that began as a form of self-defense. Over the years the very physically challenging dance has changed, Tiba said.

“The movements are not different, but the attitude and expressions of the movements have evolved over time,” Tiba said.

Dancing with Tiba at the Vail festival is Chuvisco, who began his Capoeira training at the age of 12 in his native Goiania, in central Brazil. He is a professor of Capoeira, as well as a student learning English. Translated from Portuguese through Tiba, Chuvisco answered the question, “What does this dance mean to you?”

Tiba related Chuvisco’s response, “Basically, it is life for him. It has helped him explore the world and made him a better human being. He said it has taught him not only how to move, but to express every aspect of life.”

Chuvisco travels and teaches Capoeira. He has been a guest teacher in Spain and France and was a special guest of UNICEF at the Exchange Program in Trinidad. When he’s in Brazil, he teaches a weekly class.

Dancing at high elevation in Colorado is not new to Tiba – he spent three days in Denver in July – but it’s still somewhat difficult. Tiba has danced in Boulder and said it was pretty tough with the altitude; “It’s as if your lungs are going to come out. We do cardio three times a week to prepare, to make sure our bodies are 100 percent.”

Tiba and Chuvisco have practiced three to four hours every day, putting the Vail International Dance Festival performances together.

And the two capoeiristas arrived in Vail Thursday “to adjust to the air.”

Writer Rosalie Hill Isom has previously worked as production and publication liaison for the Vail International Dance Festival.

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