Sunday, 2 January 2011

Feliz Ano Novo (Happy New Year)

When I first came to England, I remember thinking how strange it was that children went to bed so early. Sometimes it was still light outside but my friends went to bed at 7. Weird. In Brazil, I remember going to bed at the same time as the adults did, especially at parties. I’m sure I went to bed earlier on school nights, but my memories are always of adults and children mingling – whatever the event, whatever the time. I thought of this yesterday when I went to the Southbank Centre in London on New Year’s Day to watch a capoeira workshop. Admittedly, it was early afternoon, but I liked to see adults and children enjoying the same event, and everyone taking part. The capoeria workshop took place in the Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall, which looked and felt like a huge village hall. As adults and children attempted to stand on their hands or skilfully lift and sweep their legs in a martial arts manoeuvre, tiny little kids would run between them and duck under those raised legs. But, as with so many Brazilians, the instructor was really chilled out and welcomed the children taking part. Some participants were brilliant; others, at least, took part. And everyone was having fun. For those of you who don’t know, capoeira is a type of martial arts combined with dance, devised by African slaves in the north of Brazil. The dance element was important, as it disguised the fact that the slaves were actually creating a form of fighting. Watching some of the more experienced members of the class, I saw how capoeira is both graceful and powerful. The movements all seem so considered that, as a result, they almost appear as if in slow motion, but you need to be strong to execute them. Indeed, strength and agility seem to be the key ingredients to excel at capoeira; it’s a really beautiful and admirable art form to watch. The instructor also shared with the class a Brazilian New Year’s Day tradition, which is to wear white and throw flowers into the sea. The aim of the latter is to wish for “good vibes” – as the instructor said – to come your way in the new year. On that note, I wish you all a feliz ano novo.