Jamaican Children Learn Brazilian Capoeira as a Dance for Peace.
The Xchange movement, true to its name, has brought Brazilian Capoeira, to a number of Jamaican children in some troubled inner city communities in an attempt to provide an outlet for them to channeling their energy positively and to express themselves in dance and martial arts. The Xchange anti-violence being supported by UNICEF in violence-prone communities across Jamaica is aimed at using sports and culture to encourage young people to choose love over hate, peace over war and life over death.
Dennis Eckart, a Capoeira teacher, is now working with a small group of young people in the Mountain View area. He was introduced to Xchanger Orlando Hamilton from the Mountain View community through UNICEF Jamaica and has organised classes twice weekly for about 10 young boys between the ages of 9 and 15 years.
Mr. Eckart, who performs under the name “Simpson”, has been working in various communities in Kingston and St. Andrew providing Capoeira training. The Brazilian Embassy has provided support to the Capoeira movement in Jamaica and two Brazilian instructors are to come to the island in January to work in these communities.
In Mountain View, 15 year old Romaine Thompson says he became involved in Capoeira when Orlando invited him to join the group and enthusiastically explains the origins of the martial arts/dance form.
“Mr. Simpson said that it came from slavery days in Brazil, when the slaves try to free themselves by dancing and practising. They did the dance and the fight in one so that when their masters see it they would not know what it was.”
The group is very excited about the moves they have learnt and the musical instruments they have learnt about that are played to accompany Capoeira.
“When you learn it, it can make you reach for more,” 15 year old Junior states “You can become better at it and even become a teacher like Mr. Simpson.
“If you stick with it, it can make you go to many places,” 13 year old Mario adds.
Mr. Eckart notes that violence is one of the biggest problems facing children and young people in communities like Mountain View and says that Capoeira is a positive way of channeling the energy of youth and showing them how to use their abilities.
“It is a mixture of fighting and dancing and it was developed out of the slaves wish for freedom. Today we do not have chains on our hands and feet but freedom is not be enslaved by anyone or anything. Violence can be very enslaving. I like seeing the children in the classes because it as an opportunity to keep them occupied. On the physical side it is very healthy. It is a sport that gives a complete workout.”
He adds that Jamaican children and young people identify with the philosophy and culture of the Capoeira, coming also from a history of slavery and from a country with a strong African influence.
“The movement and the singing are very easy for them to identify with. … The anti-violence aspect of it is that it leads students to find harmony with themselves and with each other. In Capoeira students stand in a circle and two persons at a time perform in the circle. It teaches respect and control for each other. It is balance because you must control your body but you also are free to express yourself with different movements.”
Mr. Eckart hopes in the future to expand the Capoeira movement in Mountain View and to be able to organise classes for girls and for adults who may not be able to attend the training at the times scheduled at present.