Zoom Burst

You know how some people say, “… then life happened.”

Well, this last week capoeira happened.

It’s basically the same thing.

Except that after your Contra-Mestre comes to town for a week and it flies by in a whirl of workshops, performances and rodas, all followed by plenty of food and friends and late nights, your legs hurt more than you would like to admit, you are pretty sure your feet might fall off and you have a constant stream of songs in Portuguese running through your head. But in either case nobody has done the laundry (well except for your capoeira whites of course) or gone to the grocery store or, you know, slept.

But that’s okay. Because when life and capoeira happen, sometimes you’ve just got to embrace it, tape up your feet and enjoy the ride!

I had no idea what a zoom burst was until this week’s Dogwood Photo Challenge. I had experimented with some nice colorful flower shots but this picture of my capoeira cord on the group’s drum (with a tiny string of lights for extra fun) seemed much more fitting.

 

 

 

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Capoeira

I didn’t set out to challenge myself.

In fact, had I known just what I was getting into, I probably never would have done it.

But I didn’t have any idea, so when a friend asked me to join her in a beginner’s capoeira class I said “yes”.

And then, by the time I found out what I was getting into, when I glimpsed the first twinkle of the water at the bottom of the well I was about to dive into, and started to panic, it was too late.

I had already jumped.

Street roda in Santa Cruz.

The thing is, if you found a box labeled “Jessie’s Kryptonite” and opened it up, you’d find dental work drooling on a frustrating lack of rhythm that would be squashed in the corner with a bunch of bananas. Math facts, foreign language and singing would be filed under the category of things I failed at in school and crippling shyness would be crying right there in the middle of it all, terrified that the whole shebang was going to fall off someplace really high.

Capoeira consists of a circle of people singing in Portuguese while playing instruments and clapping as they watch two people play together in the middle of the circle. Occasionally people offer you a banana for a snack when you are done. If it were performed on a cliff edge and required you to run through your seven-times tables as you did it, you’d pretty much cover all the things I have spent the majority of my life avoiding.

Street roda in Santa Cruz

But, I had already made the leap.  I said I would do it and I have always agreed with Horton when it comes to issues involving faithfulness, so I nervously went along with my friend.

The movement drew me in.

I lived in a pool for a large portion of my life. I knew I could flutter kick with the best of them but I had never done a cartwheel.  I hadn’t done a handstand since I got yelled at in grade school for practicing handstands in the outfield when I was supposed to be fielding balls. But I learned to do both, and to move in ways I never had tried before. (Heck, I didn’t even know these movements were possible. Did I mention I used to live in a swimming pool?) I liked the challenge of the movement. The physicality of pushing my post-children body into doing stuff I never thought it would be able to accomplish pre-children was addicting.

A perfect example of a movement I didn’t think was possible. (And no, I can’t do that, but two years ago I couldn’t do a handstand…)

The movement drew me in but the people I trained with were why I stayed. Never, I thought, could I do this thing. I can’t clap in time to the beat, I can’t speak Portuguese, I can’t sing anything and every time I try to do any of these things in front of people I burst into panic induced tears. But the group was kind, and encouraging,  friendly and fun.  And even though I kept crying and sniffling and panicking, they continued to be understanding and patient. I quickly found that despite myself I was having fun, so I kept coming back.

I panicked and cried at every class I went to for the first year.

But I loved the people. I loved the movement.  Even the challenge of learning all the things that come so very unnaturally to me was starting to grow on me. Also I’m very stubborn.

So I kept coming back.

It’s been two and half years.

I can clap and sing at the same time- (sometimes). I understand rudimentary Portuguese and can sing a number of songs in it (some of which I even understand). I can play inside a large circle of people who are watching me without bursting into panicked tears- (usually).

I didn’t set out to challenge myself, but oh have I ever.

We just got back from a fantastic week-long vacation full of capoeria and all the good people involved in it. When I think of all the fun I have had, all the people we have met and all that I have discovered I can do, I’m grateful I really had no idea what I was jumping into.

Because it’s true, had I known just what I was getting into, I never would have done it.

And I would have missed so very much.

 

 

 

 

 

Clap Along!

I can read music.

I took piano lessons as a kid.

I played the clarinet for more years than a person who is mostly tone deaf should, because it kept me out of the choir room – I wasn’t welcome there.

I still play the piano.

Now I, due entirely to the fact that capoeira has bewitched me beyond what is sensible, have started to learn to play instruments no one has heard of like a berimbau, pandeiro and atabaque. I’d describe this mysterious capoeira activity and it’s associated instruments to you but I’m sort of afraid that it will enchant you too. And then, even if you are also a natural music-less hermit, you will find yourself preforming this martial art in front of people, while singing and clapping and it will be all my fault and I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility.*

I know this because I would be the hermit who has absolutely no sense of rhythm (a word I just found out I can’t even spell)  and so I sing and pretend to clap in front of people because clapping is hard.

Those of you who just reached out to mentally pat me on the head with a slight roll of your eyes because we are talking about the thing we teach our babies to do before they even walk, I congratulate you.

You have rhythm!

Take a bow! Your musical life, as well as any concerts you attend will be enhanced. I hear with practice one can even sing and clap, or tap a foot and play an instrument at the same time. You are going places and you are doing it on the beat!

I, however, will be watching.

In fact if you could manage to clap so that it is easily visible to those around you that would be great. I, and others like me, need to watch your hands so that I can make my hands make the noise at the same time yours do.

Because clapping is hard.

Last night John told me, “When I get behind on the beat I just clap faster,” and then I dissolved into hysterical laughter.

Because

A) I don’t know when I’m behind. I mean I know when I’m the only person in a room clapping at a different time than the other people, but behind? Ahead? How do you even?!?

B) He just “claps faster”… I’m not even going to tell you the things I do to try to get back on beat. It’s too embarrassing. Let’s just say “clapping faster” would be a heck of a lot easier if I could figure it out how on earth one does that.

And now, because I’d really prefer to minimize the comments that tell me I should just practice more I’d like to refer you back to the top. I have played instruments and read music since I was ten years old. I have been regularly practicing clapping, as well as clapping and singing at the same time for two and half years. Despite the fact that my brain refuses to acknowledge how it works, the concept of rhythm is familiar to me. I just don’t have it.

Of course I’m not saying that practicing doesn’t help, I have improved! I can now sing and clap at the same time so long as one of you wonderfully blessed persons is standing where I can see you clap and all the syllables fall on the beat. I figure at this rate I’ll be successfully clapping and singing at the same time in another ten years… as long as I’ve got someone next to me to watch.

So please, if you’ve been blessed with rhythm, clap nicely.  Those of us who aren’t are watching!

*  That’s a lie. I’m totally ready for that responsibility, come to class with me, it’ll be terrible and the most fun ever all at the same time, trust me… I know…