Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form--a fluid, rhythmic martial art; a ritual; a dance of deceptive vulnerability, wit, and grace. The intricate movements of Capoeira Angola weave tradition, history, spirituality, and philosophy into a uniquely beautiful "game." Like many African based traditions, it is orally transmitted from masters (mestres) to students. 

Although there are few official history records, it is known that Capoeira was created nearly 500 years ago in Brazil by African slaves (mainly from Angola). Taken from their homes against their will and kept in slavery, they started inventing fighting techniques for self-defense. To hide this practice from their owners, the African slaves used their traditional music, singing and dancing. Capoeira continued to develop and soon became not only for self-defense but for rebellion.

Nowadays, Capoeira is a well known and very popular dance game all over the world. It is often included in schools and university programs. It is also known that Capoeira has influenced several dance styles such as break dancing and hip hop.

The above information was pulled from and

Watch the video below to see the Bellingham Capoeira residency. Events took place at Northwest Indian College, Carl Cozier Elementary, and Alderwood Elementary.

How and why did African slaves end up in Brazil?

Brazil's population includes the largest number of people of African descent in the entire Western Hemisphere. How did Africans get to Brazil? As in Mexico and India, in Brazil Africans were transported to the country as slaves. Here, slavery lasted longer than in any other country in the New World.

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500, 2 - 5 million indigenous Brazilians were living in the territory. The Indians and the Portuguese battled for land, and the Indians resisted against the Portuguese as they tried to enslave them. The growing Portuguese presence in Brazil after 1530 brought with it more disease and caused an increase in the number of slave raids. Many of the Indians were killed and many others were forced to migrate into the interior of the country.

What caused more Portuguese to come to Brazil around 1530? The Portuguese began to cultivate sugar and settle on the east coast of Brazil. The growing number of sugar plantations demanded more workers, and the Indian population had become smaller because many Indians had died. To deal with this labor shortage, the Portuguese began to import slaves from Africa into Brazil to work on the plantations.

Before this time, the Portuguese had been taking African slaves from the West Coast of Africa to Portugal as early as 1433. Now, slaves were transported directly from Africa to Brazil, and the trade followed a triangular route. European goods were taken to Africa and sold. African slaves were purchased and taken to Brazil to work on the sugar plantations, and sugar was exported from Brazil to Europe.

The decline of the sugar industry in the 17th century led Portuguese colonizers operating on the coast of Brazil to go inland, and here they found gold and diamonds. These valuable products were carried from Brazil to Europe. Portuguese traders then used the money made from the sale of gold and diamonds to buy African slaves and ship them to Brazil. In the 19th century, coffee became the crop sold to Europe.

Image and surrounding text pulled from

Image and surrounding text pulled from

Enslaved Africans were taken from various parts of Africa and brought to Brazil. Many came from present-day Guinea and later from the Congo and Angola and the east coast of Africa. This wide-reaching trade created a diverse population of African slaves. Twice as many males as females were taken to Brazil and more adult slaves than children. Most slaves entered the country through the port cities of Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, and Santos.


1) Tupi-Guarani (indigenous people of Brazil): Nascent underbrush growing on an area of recently cleared scrubland. From caá or kaá [underbrush] + coêra, poêra or puêra [a form of the past tense that says that the current underbrush is not the one that it used to be; i.e. the scrubland was cleared and then reborn]. The theory is that slaves played capoeira in the scrubland, and that escaped slaves fleeing from the capitães-do-mato (officers sent to recapture them) hid in the underbrush and even used capoeira to defeat the slave hunters.

2) Portuguese: Big basket or cage in which capons and other birds are kept. From capão[capon, a male chicken castrated when young] + the suffix eira. This etymology suggests that slaves bringing cages of birds to sell at the market used to pass their time there by playing capoeira.

3) African: From the Kikongo word kipula or kipura. In the cultural context of the Congo, these words referred to sweeping ground movements used in martial arts. The connection of this etymology to capoeira is through the movements, since the art of capoeira uses many ground movements and sweeps. - See more at:

These definitions pulled from:

The following video is an excellent example of quite advanced Capoeira players or Capoeiristas. You will notice that they are in a physical dialog with one another. One player offers a "comment" or idea and the other responds by getting out of the way! This is called Capoeira Angola. In this form, the players avoid contact, avoid conflict. This is the kind of Capoeira Silvio teaches. Contact is not the goal...seeing, listening, and communicating are the goals.
If you google search Capoeira videos you will find films ranging from very slow and deliberate play with no contact to quite gymnastic and fast play with no contact. You will also discover videos where the players do make contact, where the game looks more like martial arts. This is not what Silvio practices or teaches.  

Click on the video below to hear from Silvio about a Capoeira program he runs in Seattle, WA.

Click HERE to watch a short film about Palestinian children learning capoeira in refugee camps.

Click HERE to watch a short film about a dancer bringing capoeira lessons to children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


When deciding what movement traditions to include in The World Dance Project I immediately thought of Capoeira. I have learned a great deal studying Capoeira. I have learned about paying attention. I have learned about how I I see and listen or don't see and listen. I have learned about my natural instincts and tendencies. I have learned that I am more capable of accomplishing difficult, physical work than I thought. I have learned about discipline and persistence. I have also learned about the people of Brazil, more specifically the African slaves the Portuguese settlers brought to Brazil. We are fortunate to have Mestre Silvinho share this tradition with us. He has dedicated over 25 years of his life to Capoeira. We are in for a treat...
Pam Kuntz

Silvio dos Reis and student in a Capoeira game, Seattle, WA.

Silvio dos Reis and student in a Capoeira game, Seattle, WA.