Tallahassee Capoeira offers physical fitness in an old, exotic form

Americans’ love of the Blues, of pizza and tacos, of tribal tattoos, or even our devotion to sports teams’ Indian insignias may be thought of by some as cultural appropriation — a kind of stealing of one culture’s traditional hallmarks without thought to their meaning or social import. By others, the use and enjoyment of such symbols is only an homage, a deep bow to the histories and customs of people unlike ourselves.

But on a recent Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee, it is unlikely one could see a more stark elevation of a once subversive “foreign” practice to an art form that is today performed mostly by people of a totally different ethnic, racial, and age demographic than its original.

Know its roots or simply love to see it in action — Capoiera is a fascinating practice that nearly defies definition.

Instruments made of gourd, wood, and wire are used at Tallahassee Capoeira and a seated circle of children, adolescents and adults chant and clap in Portuguese, a language none of them understand.

Inside Tallahassee Capoiera, a florescent-lit academy off Monroe Street, odd 5/4 and 7/4 rhythms are throbbing on seemingly primitive made of gourd, wood instruments, and wire. Four musicians sit facing a seated circle of children, adolescents and adults who chant and clap in Portuguese, a language none of them understand.

The beat is powerful, the calls and responses mesmerizing, and soon, at the direction of instructor, Brandon Alkire, two young teens stand up and facing each other in the circle, begin to sway like snakes evaluating which part of the body before them they will strike. Suddenly one of them, swings a leg high over the head of the other and then recoils into a balanced spin near the floor. The other crouches low, extends an arm behind, and with imperceivable impetus, lifts himself off the ground into a slow-arced, backwards hand-spring that brings him safely away.

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