Obrigada Mestre Acordeon (Or: Meeting a Famous Mestre)

31 10 2008

So apparently, a god or goddess in the universe discovered I saved a busload of children, rid Europe of a plague, gave up a multimillion editorial position to feed the poor, and singlehandedly solved the affordable housing crisis in a past life, because recently, I was given a fluke opportunity at a capoeira workshop to meet Mestre Acordeon.

It was like Christmas, only replace the sacks of toys with irregularly shaped parcels of capoeira wisdom.

Okay, I’ll be honest with you.  When I first heard the news he would be there, the capoeirista part of me got about a nanosecond of reaction in before the journalist part of me hijacked the car and took it way beyond overdrive: “INTERVIEW!!!  YOUR BLOG!!!  YOUR READERS!!! THE SCOOP!!!!!

(So as not to lead you guys on, I’ll say right now that I didn’t actually get to do an interview with Mestre Acordeon, after all.  I know.  I’m sorry.  My heart broke a little bit, too.)

What was it like, seeing and hearing a famous—legendary—capoeira mestre in person for the first time? Well, I think that was the first and only time I’ve been “starstruck” by a capoeira mestre. So much so that I actually let the entire first of only two days go by before even just going up to introduce myself! Much of it was because Mestre Acordeon has broken ground (to put it mildly) in all THREE of this blog’s (so by extension, in a way, my) raison d’être: capoeira, gender equality, AND writing/publishing!! For me, meeting Mestre Acordeon was like meeting three stars/role models in one.

It was kind of surreal, actually.  He told us an anecdote I recognized from one of his articles—and it was the story, told to us firsthand.  When he sang—it was the CD track/voice, live in concert. And the capoeira?  Well, yes, it was our profesor disarmed and down in three seconds flat.

Slight correction to something above: although I didn’t get to do a bona fide interview with Mestre Acordeon, I did get to speak with him for maybe five minutes, which was about four minutes and thirty seconds longer than I would have ever expected. (See?  I do love you guys. :P)

There was one question particularly burning in my mind, and so on the last day, at the end no less (as people were pulling on their jackets and shoes and our teachers were kicking everyone out to avoid overtime rental fees), I slipped myself into a small group sitting on the ground in front of M. Acordeon, storytime-style, listened to the end of a story he was telling, waited out the usual “Look!  It’s Mestre and me!” photoshoot, then walked up and introduced myself, and asked my question.

Basically, I asked him about the whole “tradition vs. ‘modern-day’ values” issue in capoeira. I described some of the ideas we’d been struggling with here, such as changing capoeira and cultural appropriation, and asked him, essentially, how a capoeirista today can reconcile “modern” values like gender equality without losing the importance of “tradition” in capoeira?  I’ve run into this question several times since starting this blog (ex. here and here), and I figured, who better to answer it than a capoeira mestre of M. Acordeon’s reputation, experience, and standing?

A lot of what he said in response was, I think, more or less what you’d expect to hear. In the end, what it all came down to was this quote that stuck the most in my mind, which he’d also said in a talk earlier to everyone at the workshop:

Change is important, and capoeira has to change, because if something doesn’t change, then it grows stale, and dies.

(I was going to get into a discussion of that quote here, but I think it would go a little beyond the confines of this post, so I’ll save it for one of its own!)

In the end, I decided against asking Mestre Acordeon for an interview even if there had been more time, because while he was talking, it just seemed…like it wouldn’t really be right.  Not morally or anything like that, but just in the sense that he took time out of what’s probably an extremely busy life just to come to the workshop, and everybody wants to talk to him when he’s not already surrounded by the other mestres and teachers, and so it didn’t seem quite fair nor courteous to ask for even more of his time, on such short notice, to ask straight-out for answers to potentially heavy questions so I could publish what he said online.

However, one can always hope…!  Thus, just for interest’s (and temptation’s) sake, these are the other questions I had prepared to ask Mestre Acordeon in the event that a god or goddess in the universe had found out that in addition to all those things I did in my past life, I would one day in a future life save the universe from imploding into a giant black hole of DOOM (Feel free to add in Comments any burning questions of your own 😉 ):

Mestra Suelly was the first woman to become a mestra outside of Brazil.  As the mestre who graduated her, what reactions or controversy, if any, did you encounter from this?

What do you think about all-women rodas, or events?  Do you believe they are truly beneficial, or help to perpetuate sexist gender stereotypes in capoeira?  Do you think gender equality is a shrinking issue as capoeira spreads in North America and Europe, or if not, what needs to be done to address it?

In one of your articles, you mentioned the “extraordinary political potential” of capoeira.  I think that is one of the most exciting things to think about in capoeira, but how exactly would someone fully explore or even start to draw upon, I suppose, this potential?  What do people actually mean by saying “capoeira is a tool of civilization”, and how do you see this happening today, in real life…or is this something we have to wait for that will come in the future?

What do you think it is about capoeira that not only draws so many different varieties of people, but draws them all with the same incredible amount of strength and attraction to the art?

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Videos: Mestras Edna and Suelly in Action

7 12 2007

It dawned on me that my previous posts on Mestras Edna and Suelly were kind of like trying to teach someone about an artist without showing them a single one of the artist’s paintings. Thus without further ado, I’d like to present to you the following videos!


This first one shows Mestra Edna Lima playing (now-) Mestranda Marcia, which is perfect as she’s whom I’ll be writing about next! It’s an old 90’s video from a roda in California. Mestra Edna is the one in the sports top, and their game lasts for about the first 50 seconds. This video is cool also because it shows Mestre Marcelo playing after, capoeira’s own real-life video game character =D:




Second, we have Mestra Suelly in a batizado roda from earlier this year. I like the double kick she does towards the end!




Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra


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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 2: Mestra Suelly

6 12 2007

Unfortunately, there is way less information out there that I could find on Mestra Suelly than there is on Mestra Edna Lima. However, I will make up for it at the end by directing you to a beautiful article on her final troca de corda, written by Mestre Acordeon himself!

(L to R) Mestra Suelly, Mestre Acordeon, Mestre Ra
Suellen Einarsen, or Mestra Suelly, is the first North American woman to become a capoeira mestre. She currently runs a United Capoeira Association academy in Berkeley, California, along with Mestres Acordeon and Ra. Mestra Suelly was also one of Mestre Acordeon’s first students in the United States, when she joined his class in San Francisco, 1983.

A professional dancer by the time she started capoeira, Mestra Suelly took naturally to the fluid, expressive art. She continued developing her dance career as her capoeira experience accumlated, eventually helping to found the widely successful Joe Goode Performance Group.

Since then, Mestra Suelly has toured, performed with, and left the group (1997), and of course–earned her mestra’s cord, which ocurred in 2000. For an incredibly compelling description of the occasion, please read Mestre Acordeon’s article, “Mestra Suelly: The Making of a Mestra“.


Sources:

http://www.capoeira.bz/school/mestresbio/suelly.html
http://www.capoeira.bz/mestreacordeon/articles/mestrasuelly.html


Postscript: The one (slightly disappointing) issue I have with Mestre Acordeon’s article is (as you’ve probably guessed), his reference to Mestra Suelly as “being my woman”. I honestly have no idea what that means! Does he consider her “his woman” patronizingly, since Mestre Acordeon “brought up” Suelly capoeira-wise, and helped her be the first American woman to reach the rank of mestre? Or does he mean that they are in a relationship (which, however, still doesn’t make it sound better)? If anyone could clarify, I’d greatly appreciate it!


Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra

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Ie Viva Meu Mestra, Camara

1 12 2007

Remember that pop quiz in this blog’s introduction post?  Never be caught unwares again, after we’re through with Ie viva meu Mestra, Mandingueira‘s very first post series!  Focusing on the lives and accomplishments of female mestres, or mestras, around the world, this series seeks to redress the balance of prominent figures offered to capoeira students as hero(in)es to revere or look up to.  From Mestra Suelly, the first and possibly only (please correct me if I’m wrong) North American mestra, to Mestra Edna Lima, the first mestra ever, these women should have wider recognition for what they have done, as inspirations to women and meninas everywhere who do capoeira today.  Please come back soon to read our first profile and biography, on Mestra Edna Lima!

Update: Just so there’s no confusion, mestranda and contra-mestra are terms used for the same rank in different grupos, indicating the level right below mestra. 

Ie Viva Meu Mestra: Archives

Why Write about Female Mestres? The Feminist Catch-22

Part 1: Mestra Edna Lima
Part 2: Mestra Suelly
Part 3: Mestranda Marcia/Cigarra
Part 4: Contra-Mestra Marisa Cordeiro
Part 5: Mestra Janja
Part 6: Mestra Paulinha
Part 7: Contra-Mestra Susy
Part 8: Mestra Jararaca

Part 9: Contra-Mestra Cristina 

Videos:

Mestra Edna Lima, Mestra Suelly, and Mestranda Marcia
Mestra Marcia/Cigarra
Mestra Janja and Grupo Nzinga
Mestra Paulinha
Contra-Mestra Susy (Grupo Vadiacão, Capoeira Angola)
Mestra Jararaca