Interview with the Instructora...

Recess editor Tim Perzyk talked to Duke physical education instructor Lua Fabbri about her passion for Capoeira and the captivating art of "transcendent living."

How would you describe Capoeira?

It's an Afro-Brazilian martial art--it's a fusion of different martial arts and dances.

One of the debates at the heart of Capoeira is the nature of its origins as both an African and Brazilian martial art form. Where do you weigh in on this historical debate? What are Capoeira's roots?

Many, many Capoeristas have looked for Capoeira in Africa and nobody has found it. Its roots are in Africa, most certainly 100 percent so.... In Africa they don't do Capoeira saying this is Capoeira. They do angola, they do the dance of the zebra--and all those different African people when they were brought over in slavery to Brazil, they were all in a really bad situation. So they kind of all sort of made a melting pot of what everybody knew and threw it all together.

A man named Nestor Capoeira made a very nice metaphor: Imagine aliens coming from another world and coming and grabbing at random a bunch of people from this planet. And they take them to another place and put them in slavery--so all these people suddenly have a common tie because they're all screwed.

So they all volunteer what they know to preserve their culture and try to develop self defense, something that could help all of them. So everybody was like, OMy uncle says this,' OOh, in my tribe we did that' OOh, well check this out.' So they just kind of fused it together.

Why do you think Capoeira is becoming so popular today?

When I started Capoeira, very few people knew what it was--that was in 1993, almost 10 years ago. And since then it's gotten a lot of media, and more people have been getting into it. It's just become more visible. I think that helps the fad.

How long have you been working with Capoeira in the Triangle area?

It'll be about a year. I started in September. I came here with a troupe--it must have been in '98--we did some performances and workshops at Duke, but that was just a five-day thing. It was sponsored by the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts.

Some have described Capoeira as a culture, a sort of "transcendent living." Is this something that you can do casually? How invested do you become?

It's the same thing as with anything else. It's like if you want to play piano, how invested do you become in playing piano? If you want to become a dancer or if you enjoy dance, when do you say, OOh no, that's too much, I don't want to do anymore.' When does it stop being just a hobby and when do you start having it be a way of life?... In Capoeira we make a roda [dance circle]--that's where the Capoeira is played, and where it lives. The roda's a microcosm of life. In terms of living Capoeira, through Capoeira training, through dealing with others, through being taught and then possibly teaching as well, you learn social skills: how to deal with people, how to deal with a community. You learn about yourself, first and foremost, and how you react to people or what you put out, what you take in--and that translates into how you live.


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