Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian dance/martial arts form that is at once a dance, a fight, and a game. Capoeiristas form a “roda” (circle) and alternate playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and head butts.

There are multiple theories behind the origin of the dance. In the sixteenth century, Portuguese explorers brought southeast Africans to Brazil to work as slaves on sugar cane plantations. In Brazil, the slaves performed Capoeira, a smooth, circling dance of choreographed fighting movements. Some believe the form began in Brazil as a medium for Africans to express their anger and frustration towards the oppression of slavery, while others argue that Capoeira originated in southern Angola, prior to the transportation of African slaves to Brazil.

It is likely that both arguments for the origin of Capoeira carry elements of truth, perhaps most notably because Capoeira can be classified into two styles: Capoeira Angola and Regional Capoeira. Capoeira Angola is classified as having more dance-like choreography compared to the regional version. Another unique characteristic of the Angolan style is known as the “chamada”, a physical call and response between dancers that serves to challenge an opponent dancer to change choreographic styles. The popularity of Capoeira Angola has spread across the globe largely due to its promotion in training schools founded by Grão-Mestre Pastinha from Salvador, Bahia.

Regional Capoeira is considered the more common form of the dance and is practiced more widely in Brazil. Developed by Mestre Bimba, Regional Capoeira attempts to more closely adhere to its fighting origins than Capoeira Angola. In so doing, Regional Capoeira is characterized with faster, more athletic choreography than its Angolan counterpart. As in other martial arts forms, dancers performing the regional style are ranked by ability with a colored belt known as a “corda”.

In popular culture, capoeiristas can be seen performing in television commercials, video games, and music videos. The popular video game Street Fighter incorporates capoeira choreography in characters such as Blanka and Elena. Capoeira also slips into mainstream media. For example François "The Nightfox" Toulour, the rival master thief in Ocean's Twelve, executes capoeira to avoid a laser grid. Likewise, in the movie The Rundown, wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, is pitted against a group of capoeiristas. In the hip-hop scene, capoeiristas dance in music videos by Wyclef Jean and the Black Eyed Peas.

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Also known as 
Capoeira Angola, Regional Capoeira, Capoeira Contemporânea 

Undecided: either Angolan performers or African slaves in Brazil 

Region of origin: 
Angola, Brazil 

Popularized by: 
Mestre Bimba, Grão-Mestre Pastinha

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