Student takes up unique dance form

Capoeira is a form of martial arts practiced with a dance background incorporated

There are many different types of fighting artforms and one of the most original is Capoeira. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that is hidden in a dance. The reason that the martial art is mixed in with dance is that it was created by the slaves that were in Brazil decades ago who wanted to to practice martial arts but knew they couldn’t, so they made it look like a ritual art. This particular artform has survived over many years and is even going strong right here in Cedar Falls.

Junior Noah Miller has been practicing Capoeira since he was young and continues it today.

“My big brother Patrick actually somehow found out about it and found out there was a group in Cedar Falls that was a part of it. That’s how I was introduced to it. I started back when I was in fifth and sixth grade but had to stop when I broke my finger, and I couldn’t practice anymore. I did a project on Capoeira for my Developing Nations project, and the student teacher who was there at the time was in the UNI Capoeira Club and showed me the website. That’s when I started taking lessons again,” Miller said.

“I like it a lot, and it’s a good way to get exercise, but it’s not like you’re hurting each other. Everyone is always dodging and constantly moving. It’s completely freestyle, and even though everyone is dodging, people still do get injured sometimes,” Miller said.

There used to be building a Capoeira building downtown called Little Brazil years ago where people used to go practice and learn the art, but then it closed down and now there is a new place.

“I take my classes at the Heinz Academy for the Performing Arts next to West Music on University. Class right now is pretty small with only about five or six people in it. I go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then on Saturdays we have a Hota. Hota translates to circle in Portuguese, and it’s basically where everyone in the group will come and show off and practice with one another,” Miller said.

Capoeira is mainly about fighting, but there are many other aspects of it too along with dancing and music that play a major role in it.

“Usually during a Hota there are three berimbau, which is a curved instrument with a string, and each are set to different pitches. There is also one drum and an agogo, which is two cowbells welded together, and a slap tambourine. Sometimes more instruments are added also. I can personally play all the instruments other than the berimbau. During the Hota we also rotate who plays the instruments and who is participating in Capoeira,” Miller said.

“Also with the classes we have someone come in sometime to teach Samba classes so that we also get the dance part of the artform,” Miller said.

Since Capoeira is a form of martial arts, there are some similarities between it and other more well known practices such as taekwondo or judo.

“We wear a traditional uniform which consists of a white shirt and white pants, sort of like karate. We order them straight from Brazil because one of our masters makes them with his family. I haven’t been able to put out an order to Brazil yet, but until then I’m ordering from Taiwan, like the stuff you see in Eastern Martial Arts,” Miller said.

“My group does do many performances, but since I’ve only been taking this class for about a month yet, I haven’t been able to participate in any yet, but the Heinz Academy for the Performing Arts is having a presentation at the Crossroads Mall in Waterloo on Feb. 2 and 16. My Capoeira group will also be there. During performances and practice, we listen to traditional Capoeira music, which sound almost like hymns sung in Portuguese,” Miller said.

Capoeira is a worldwide organization with different levels and different roles for everyone.

“I’m a nobel, which means I’m at the basic level without any ranking, but the rankings can go up to professors, instructors and masters where you can make a career out of doing Capoeira,” Miller said.

To advance, there is a Batizado, which is a baptism where one advances levels and masters come and teach and give seminars. Each organization holds one every year.

Like any type of exercise, there are many benefits of Capoeira.

“I really feel that more people should join, and it’s really easy to. The first class is free. You start to become more balanced and gain more agility. You don’t really need any punching bags for this, and I sometimes just practice at home. I’m not a flexible guy, but I can feel myself becoming more so after I started, and Capoeira also teaches you a lot of acrobatics. One of my goals is to become more flexible, which I’m already working on, but there are a lot of kicks and tricks I would also love to learn,” Miller said.

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