Mestre & Novice
I don’t understand the language
of this game called Capoeira
but I’m invited to play all the same.
Hesitant, I arrive at the circle, the roda.
Teacher explains music is the guide –
tempo determines style of play,
fast or slow, methodical or wild –
learn to trust the rhythms.
The mestre holds an instrument
shaped like a bow
made taut by a metal wire
with a gourd resonator attached.
He strikes three times
calling everyone to attention.
Timbre-like vibrations fill the air
accompanied by a voice full of reverence and song.
Teacher taps my thigh
cueing me to clap along.
Quietly, I try to keep time with the rest of them.
In the center two bodies unfold
in dialogue with a relaxed Berimbau.
One male, one female – the ying and yang of life –
conversing through an unscripted series of movements
played close to the ground.
Bodies bend and contort
with playful flirtation and disciplined design.
All the while mestre moves the gourd
back and forth against his stomach
controlling the sound’s resonance
amplified by the surrounding instruments.
The drum beat switches.
Faster now and the crowd responds,
“Hey, Mestre Bimba!”
Two muscular men flip into the middle
buying the game with fiery energy –
kicks thrown in sequência with such speed and variety
I hold my breathe – what if they slip?
Around me spontaneous shouts of appreciation
sound off and the players
respond in aerials and smiles.
Meanwhile, Mestre passes off his instrument
motioning for me to join him
at the foot of the Berimbau.
Wide-eyed, I look to Teacher, who nudges me.
“Just Flow” she instructs.
I crouch to meet mestre with timid eyes.
His hands reach for mine – the touch of a master –
and together we enter this mysterious
thing called a roda.
Trying to Flow,
A Warrior Princess