Samba no Mar

More important than the choice of clothing, however, is the differentiation marked by the style of the play. In demonstrations students are asked to do ‘flashy’ kicks and leaps, and the mestre himself does gymnastic feats. In class the teacher is more likely to stress skilful moves that may not be ‘showy’ or impressive to the uninitiated, and may not do anything complex or elaborate himself at all. When a group are doing a public performance the skills of the best students and of the teacher will be showcased. For the more advanced students, being chosen by the teacher to perform at displays is a privilege and a mark of their relative skill. When Perseus chose Mowgli and Andromeda to to carry real machetes in a maculele display, while everyone else danced with wooden sticks, that was a public sign that they were the best students in the class.

Turning from dyadic relations between students and lay audiences to the dyadic relations between students and their most informed audience, visiting mestres, there are conventions about clothing, who plays and playing style. Dress at Batizados is carefully planned. White trousers are required, and t-shirts designed specifically for the event are worn. The cost of the event includes a t-shirt, which the discipulos being baptized or moved up a corda are required to wear, as are other club members who are more peripherally involved. Trovao explained to Bruxa how he learnt this rule at his batizado:


Achilles had been going on for weeks in advance that we all had to have the (abbadas) the trousers. So everyone had to have – abbadas. And then the t-shirts Achilles gave out in the morning. I already had a white t-shirt on, I didn’t realise you had to wear that specific one, not for the training session, and I carried on just wearing my white one. And then Achilles came up to me ‘Trovao what are you doing? where’s your t-shirt?’ and so obviously you had to wear this particular one to celebrate our Batizado – I thought we were just having it, I didn’t think we had to wear it specifically then.


At a subsequent Batizado Trovao and Bruxa saw a student, Baloo, in an ordinary, grubby t-shirt stopped from entering a roda by Achilles. Another student pulled him off the stage and took him to get one of the special, commemorative t-shirts produced for that Batizado, and only then could he join his club mates on stage and ‘play’. Baloo was not due to get a new higher corda and had not realised that he was not allowed to do any capoeira that day unless he was properly dressed. For students, the t-shirts are a significant aspect of their other-relatedness. The teacher’s t-shirts are part of his dyadic relatedness. At festivals, the local organisers often produce special t-shirts for the visiting teachers to wear during the event, so they stand out from the crowd. At Perseus’s 2004 batizado the students had white t-shirts, while the visiting teachers had turquoise ones: at one of Achilles’s events the students got emerald green t-shirts, the masters yellow ones. Even ignorant spectators could therefore see the status of the players.


Players who have the kit, and earned a corda, walk into class, train and play in the roda with more confidence than those in ordinary clothes, or as yet without a belt. After their batizado, the newly belted ‘blue cords’ have to learn to tie them correctly – and in the lineage Trovao belongs to this is gendered – men knot their cords on their right hip and women on the left – and then that these belts must be worn with the white trousers, but not with the coloured abbados. Students with the higher cordas may be taught separately. The more advanced students will be chosen by the instructor to be his demonstration partners when he wants to show how a pair of players should do a routine. Guest teachers who wish to divide the students into different subsections will frequently use the presence or absence of a belt to make that division.


When Meneloas visited Perseus’s group for a master class, he divided it into two halves saying ‘Beginners over there, intermediates here’. He then scanned the ‘intermediate’ group, all but one of whom had blue, or blue and brown belts on. Meneloas looked at Perseus, querying with his eyes if the unbelted student, Ferao, had chosen the wrong sub-group. Perseus signalled that Ferao was an intermediate student, and Meneloas went into teaching a complex sequence of moves.


Inside the private sphere of the regular practice session, everyone, however bad a player, is given time and space to try their capoeira moves, and better students are required to help and encourage less experienced ones (Reis, 2005). During a roda in ordinary classes students are routinely ordered to adjust their play to the skill level of their opponents, that is, to be genuinely dyadic in the roda.. Orders are issued such as ‘Play gently with the beginners’; ‘make no kick really strong’, or ‘use the ginga, not just kicks’, or ‘practice the moves we have trained today’, and ‘relax and enjoy the game in the roda’. In other words, in the roda that ends the training classes, enjoyment and practice are to govern the play, but in a dyadic way. Advanced players must play in ways that will help beginners to learn, not be selfish or expose them to danger.