Prefacing Roger Garaudy‘s Dançar a Vida (Dancing Life) Maurice Béjart tells how words can sometimes divide people while dancing seems to always harmoniously bring them together. The book studies the history of Dance and how it can become a practical life philosophy to dancers. I believe Maurice’s and Garaudy’s take can help us understand how Capoeira shapes our bodies and lives inside out.
In the preface Maurice shares how he once went visiting a Yoga Mestre in India hoping to practice ‘the real deal’ and not the marketed gymnastic sold world over. The Mestre explained that “the word Yoga means unity. This unity you can also find in dance. You are a dancer. Shiva, the Lord of the world, the great yogi, is also named Nataraja, ‘the King of the Dance’… You are a dancer, you are lucky. May your dance be your Yoga, do not seek other.”
Lately my life has been quite hectic. Family, studies, work… Living life in a completely different culture. And to make it worse, I figured all this harshness has been pushing me away from my forms of Yoga; Daily Capoeira, music, friends… It’s been like that for a few years by now. I’m not as fit as I used to be nor do I have the time to be, but that’s not the worse part. Some how I made choices that, to a degree, disconnect myself from the very things I’m made from. Aware of that, I have been working on recovering my unity; my Yogas, for I have a few things that brings back my oneness.
During the first 6 to 7 years of practice I used to train 3 to 4 days a week. For the last 10 years before leaving Brazil I used to play Capoeira every day. Really, 7 days a week. For that I used to train 5 days a week on top of the 3 to 4 classes a day I used to teach. This much activity, as much as the lack of it, can’t be much healthy either, but that’s not my point now. For now my point is that I wholeheartedly miss playing Capoeira everyday. Just as I miss those close friends I grew up playing with, and the sambas and forrós I used to go every week with them.
Dançar a Vida has a simple proposition, one we capoeiristas are quite familiar with: “what would happen if instead of simply building our lives we give in to the madness, or wisdom, of dancing it?”. Isn’t exactly what we do?! We live our lives according to the principles of Capoeira. We learn how to fall and, even better, how to get up. We learn how to cruise through our difficulties using more ginga. We learn to overcome our fears and limitations. And most importantly we learn that in our interactions we don’t ‘play against but with the other’. Dance is an integral part of Capoeira, and I believe many of us have learned how to dance, how to play our lives.
Today, as part of my efforts to get back my unity, I played samba to the sunset. And, once I couldn’t play Capoeira in a Domingueira (a sunday Roda), I went training alone as I did for many years in Brasília. Though the game and some of my dearest friends weren’t there, the training was good. The day was better. There was the ocean, the sunset, the music and Capoeira.
When Maurice was leaving, the Yoga Mestre looked him in the eye and said: “Ah! If all westerners could re-learn how to dance!”. Isn’t what we’re all doing in Capoeira. We, capoeiras, are all dancers, fighters, musicians… Artists, deep at the bottom, and all at once. We’re all mastering our lives based on the principles of Capoeira. At times we dance, at times we play. But most often, because to express ourselves in this crazy world is a laborious task, we fight. Often too we do that against all odds.
Whenever my students are demotivated because they can’t train as much as they would like to, I tell them that it’s easy to train a lot for a short period of time. The difficult part, however, is to build up our lives in a healthy way so that we can be playing throughout our whole lives and not only when we’re young. These latter years of my life have been the hardest time to prove my point to them.
Garaudy, R. (1980). Dançar a Vida. Nova Fronteira. Rio de Janeiro.
(Original title: Garaudy, R. (1973). Danser Sa Vie. Editions du Seuil)