Salt Lake capoeira classes offer life lessons through the balletic Brazilian martial art; combines music, dance, acrobatics

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Maester Jamaica. Photo: saltlakecapoeira.com

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 18, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Gephardt Daily recently spoke with Mestre Jamaika Romualdo about capoeira, the balletic Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and acrobatics.

Mestre, which means master, Jamaika found his passion for capoeira at the age of seven, living in Teixeira de Freitas, Bahia, Brazil. He began training with Mestre Gil, of Capoeira Garras De Ouro and, at age 15, was traveling across Brazil to train and compete, later winning three consecutive titles at the Brazilian Confederation Capoeira Championships, all before the age of 20.

Certified to teach under the title of “Professor” in 1997, Mestre Jamaika’s skills and acrobatic talent have since placed him among the most sought after instructors within the capoeira community, and he has taught and performed at workshops and events around the world.

He has also had roles in various independent films, documentaries, and music videos, as well as Shockwave’s popular Capoeira Fighter 3 video game, aptly playing a character named Jamaika.

In June 2013, Jamaika was given the title “Mestre” by Mestre Amen.

He continues to give workshops all over the United States and around the world for capoeira schools as well as arts and professional dance programs.

He told us: “Capoeira is 100% Brazilian, and it was created by Africans when they were forced to go to the country, then they became slaves in the country, then they created capoeira as an auto – defense disguised as dancing.

“Capoeira is just a beautiful art form. I like to say it’s an art form because there’s so much involved in it; it’s the music, it’s the dance, it’s the culture, it’s the language, but what I love the most is the community, and especially the community that we create here in Salt Lake City for 20 years working with the Utah Arts Alliance.”

Mestre Jamaika said he initially wanted to master this art form to help support his mother.

“Later I found out that I couldn’t just help my mother, but I could help a lot of people,” he said. “And that’s my mission, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years of my life.”

Mestre Jamaika also talked about coming to Salt Lake City and forming the capoeira group Volta Miúda in 2009, named after the area where his family is from.

“In 1999 I was invited by a group of people who were teaching capoeira, actually practicing capoeira at BYU through a capoeira club they started,” he said. “So the club gets so big, and then they actually need someone who knows a bit more about the culture.”

He applied for and got a visa. He first moved to Utah, then to Massachusetts for about a year and a half, eventually returning to Beehive State.

“There was something about Utah that made it feel like a magnetic thing. I think it’s the mountains, or something, you know?” he said. “So I came back to Utah, and I’ve been here ever since.”

He added: “When I arrived here, it was very difficult. I didn’t speak a word of English. I had to get used to the weather, because it’s a bit different from where I come from. Also, as an immigrant, I’ve done all kinds of jobs you can think of – pizza delivery, construction, working in a hospital – but I’ve always had this thought in my mind that my mission in this world is to spread this beautiful art form which is capoeira.

“So I always had that in mind and I kept training on my own, going to the parks, doing off-peak times sometimes when people go to the club and then they come out of the clubs. They were going eating out, like Denny’s, and I was in front of Denny’s doing capoeira, playing berimbau, doing flips, just getting people’s attention And then slowly building a small group of people and start training in the park and slowly get bigger and bigger.

“And here we are today with this beautiful community. In our community we have a lot of children training, women, men, old men, young men, old women, young women. I like to say that capoeira is for everyone.

He also talked about what the art form brings to people’s lives.

“Let’s put it this way, capoeira is great therapy. When you go, interact with other people, clap, sing, dance, challenge each other, my class is so beautiful. When you see a parent come in with their own kids and jump in a circle, play, smile, then come home and start competing against each other but in a good way, it couldn’t get any better than this.

“How many times do I have cases of people coming into my class, and they’re pretty quiet. I can tell there’s something going on with that person. Then, six months later, the person comes to me and said to me “thank you very much, this community saved my life” I was about to leave this world somehow, you know, I was in a deep depression, I was stressed, and all of a sudden, being with you, I feel alive again.

“Every time we go out on the streets and perform, it’s something really beautiful. It’s a lot of fun for people; people look at it and say, whoa, that’s awesome, you know? But then people always ask a question do you dance or do you fight? We like to say, we dance like a fighter and we fight like a dancer so that’s the best way to explain capoeira, you know what I mean?

Mestre Jamaika said he recently took a group of 10 people to Brazil to explore the culture and the country. He said he was looking forward to eating some of his mother’s food.

“My mom is my hero and I like to say my mom is my first teacher,” he said. “She taught me who I am today. Everything I use in capoeira, my ideas, my passion for capoeira definitely comes from my mother.

He said he also learned lessons from his father, including focusing on the present rather than the future. “I think it’s very important to be present right now,” he said. “One thing my dad always told me; try not to worry about the past because if you worry about the past you are hurting yourself twice so try to learn from the past leave the present and prepare for the future.

“So my preparation for the future is just about believing in my people and making sure that the little kids that are training in the classroom today, they can be a better person in the future, and they can help us change this crazy world we live in. right now.

Capoeira classes take place at the Théâtre de l’Alliance on the Place du Trolley on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 3614 W. 2100 South.

For more information, click here.

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