Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUCLA

Dancing, fighting, and staging capoeira: Choreographies of Afro-Brazilian modernity and tradition


This dissertation analyzes capoeira's choreographies of Afro-Brazilian modernity and tradition throughout the twentieth century: from the "national gymnastics" proposals of the 1920s to the Capoeira Angola/Capoeira Regional split in the 1930s and 40s; from capoeira's participation in Bahia's tourism industry in the 1950s to the adaptations of capoeira for the international stage in the 1960s and 1970s. By using movement analysis to revisit iterations of capoeira previously dismissed as cooptation, de-Africanization, and "loss of character," I identify previously overlooked processes through which capoeira's Afro-diasporic "traditions" were tactically re-articulated through the hegemonic discourses of modernity.

Conversely, by considering Capoeira Angola as more than a static "survival" of a capoeira practiced in an imagined past across the Atlantic, I acknowledge both the modernity and the creativity of those responsible for choreographing "traditional" capoeira. Rather than reproducing the binaries that accompanied the development of twentieth century capoeira--tradition/modernity, rescue/loss--I historicize these very binaries and propose a mutually constitutive relationship between them.

In this dissertation, I trace the alliances and antipathies between some of the most influential capoeira innovators of the twentieth century--Samuel Querido de Deus, Bimba, Pastinha, and Canjiquinha--and members of Bahia's artistic, intellectual and administrative elite, such as Édison Carneiro, Jorge Amado, Hildegardes Vianna, and Waldeloir Rego, in refashioning a marginalized and criminalized activity into one of the centerpieces of Bahia's cultural tourism industry. I extend my analysis to the emergence of folkloric shows for tourists which, in addition to capoeira, included maculelê, samba de roda, and dances from candomblé. Among the dozens of folkloric ensembles that sprung up in Salvador during the late 1950s and early 1960s, I focus on three of the most influential: Mestre Bimba's Folkloric Ensemble, Mestre Canjiquinha's shows sponsored by Salvador's Tourism Department, and Emília Biancardi's Viva Bahia, the folkloric ensemble that introduced capoeira to the world in the mid 1970s.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View