Capoeria is not your average martial art. Created more than 400 years ago by Africans brought as slaves to Brazil, it began as a way of training to fight for freedom, incorporating lots of kicks and escape moves widely thought to accommodate fighters whose hands were tied behind their backs. But, as slaves, the first capoeira fighters had to disguise their training as a dance, incorporating song and percussion--not to mention amazing cartwheels, spins and flips--into their practice sessions. The resulting art form is beautiful and compelling to watch.
Nevertheless, capoiera developed a bad name in post-slavery Brazil, because it was often used by muggers and in street fights. In fact, it was illegal to practice until 1965. But over the many years it's been in existence, it's gained popularity throughout the world, especially in the United States--including Tucson.
Anne Pollack, who's been practicing capoeira for almost 20 years, will offer Tucsonans the chance to both watch and take part in the sport this weekend at the grand opening of her capoeira school, Capoeira Mandinga Tucson. Attendees ages 5 and older can take a free class for beginners, as well as observe a capoeira and Brazilian dance performance to see true capoeira masters at work.
"Capoeira is a really fun challenge--mentally, physically and musically," said Pollack in an e-mail. "It is a very flowing art form, as escapes from kicks, rather than blocks, lend themselves to all kinds of movements depending on your talents. ... It is hard only if you are not patient with yourself."
Both the introductory classes and the show will be free, so bring your whole family and give it a try. --A.M.
The Old Soul Sisters aren't old. Nor are they sisters. But they do have soul.
Made up of 11 talented local women, the Old Soul Sisters are a folksy vocal ensemble that sings music in all kinds of languages from all kinds of countries, from America to Africa to Eastern Europe. As long as it's folk, and as long as it sounds good, they'll give it a try. Because they love to sing.
"We're a group based more on the process of singing than on performing," says director Gabrielle Pietrangelo. "The beauty's in the a capella tradition of just getting together and singing beautiful folk songs." In other words, the Sisters aren't in the singing game for money or fame, and they don't go too far out of their way to promote themselves. At the same time, though, they've just released their first, self-titled album--and they're very excited. They've agreed to give a live concert this Friday, featuring a lot of old, traditional songs as well as some brand-new original material. And while the group doesn't like to show off, Pietrangelo does admit that "it's very fun to share."
The new CD is something to check out, because it was recorded live and in the round, with a very unique and organic sound that lets each woman's individual voice emerge. And the energy these women bring to their singing is a spectacle not to be missed: "It's an expression of music that's very heartfelt," declares Pietrangelo. "We get so high off singing together that (the audience) will get high, too!"
The concert will be followed by a dance party featuring DJ Adam Higgins spinning world beats and funk music. Drinks, refreshments and CDs will be available for sale, and the event will cost $5 at the door for adults. (Kids of a single-digit age get in free.) --A.M.
Born in New Mexico of Indian-Mexican descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was abandoned by his parents when he was 2 years old. He grew up raised by relatives, in an orphanage and on the street. Functionally illiterate at the age of 21, he was arrested for drug possession and incarcerated in a maximum-security Arizona prison for five years.
But Baca made good use of his time in prison, not only learning to read and write, but discovering that he had a fierce passion for poetry--and skill at composing it. He earned his GED and had his first poems published the very year he was released. Today, he's one of the most famous mestizo writers in the country.
Baca has won numerous awards for his work in both poetry and prose, which covers themes like poverty, injustice, love and the Southwestern landscape. He's devoted his post-prison life to helping others overcome hardship through writing and is currently conducting workshops at schools, community centers and correctional facilities around the United States. His down-to-earth attitude and close work with communities have earned him the nickname "The People's Poet."
This week, Baca will be making visits to our own Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, as well as to the Tucson complex of the Arizona State Prison. But those of us who aren't locked up can hear him speak next Thursday, when he'll deliver this year's Lawrence Clark Powell Memorial Lecture. The lecture will focus on the role of literature and the Southwest.
"Everyone should come to this lecture!" exclaims Helene Woodhams, project coordinator for the Southwest Literature Project (which will be hosting the event). "Baca's message will resonate with everyone, and we hope to attract people from all segments of the Tucson community."
The event is free. --A.M.
Everyone knows HIV/AIDS is a huge problem, but not many people think about the devastating effect it has on women. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it's much easier for females than for males to contract HIV through heterosexual intercourse. Plus, women with HIV suffer from additional, gender-specific manifestations of the disease, and it's generally harder for them to receive adequate health care and social support. In any case, the number of females infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide is rising faster than that of males. And the problem is the worst in sub-Saharan Africa--the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reports that women account for 59 percent of all adults living with HIV in that region.
Luckily, AIDS awareness is spreading along with AIDS itself. For that, we can thank people like Anita Isaacs, an HIV-positive Namibian activist who's gone to great lengths to help prevent AIDS in her country, as well as to support women both infected with and affected by the disease. As the director of an organization called Lironga Eparu, or "Learn to Survive," she inspires Namibians to accept their HIV status and live positively despite their illness.
Now, it's time for Isaacs' message to reach a broader audience, so she's been doing radio interviews and giving public speeches here in the United States. She's also the focus of a new documentary called You Wake Me Up, an inspiring story of the courage and energy of HIV-positive women in rural Namibia. And in honor of World AIDS Day--which takes place this year on Dec. 1--Tucson's own RESULTS and TIHAN will be screening the movie this Sunday.
The event is free, and the movie is a must-see. If you don't think AIDS affects you--well, it's a must-see for you, too. --A.M.