With handstands, headstands, and twirling kicks, the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira is one of the most challenging sports on earth—so a good teacher is a must. Look for a group where teachers understand all of capoeira–the cultural tradition, the movement, and the music, as well as how to build a family among pupils.
A few places for aspiring capoeiristas to get started
Instructors Joy and Tuzinho
Classes in: Astoria and midtown
Classes in: YMCAs all over Manhattan
Style: mostly regional (modern, fast, acrobatic) style of capoeira
The teachers here are serious but patient—and advanced students are supportive and always ready to help newcomers. A bonus: they’re well organized, so you can expect an awesome batizado week. Ojo: Expect a high-quality level of capoeira, and playing in the roda almost the first day (forget that beginners’ shyness!)
Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre João Grande
Mestre João Grande
Classes at: 14th Street and 6th Avenue
Style: The older, slower Angola—a root style developed by Central-African slaves in Brazil in which players attempt to outwit each other with graceful sneak attacks.
This mestre’s amazing life story (check the website) and 55 years in capoeira make studying here a great history lesson, as well as an intense workout for both body and spirit.
Capoeira Guerreiros Palmares
Contra-Mestre George “Palmares” Carneiro
Classes: uptown at Columbia University, and in Newark
Style: All styles are taught
Alegria reigns here: Both the teacher and the diverse group of students are so friendly, you’ll feel at ease right away even if you can’t ginga a lick. Typically the lively Friday-night rodas include every style of capoeira imaginable—plus samba de roda. And luckily for broke grad students, each two-hour class costs only $10. (Ojo: Although many in the group are Columbia students or alums, all are welcome—no school ID necessary.)
Abada Capoeira New York
Mestranda Edna Lima
Classes in: all over city, see website
Style: Abada capoeira (a worldwide group that teaches a uniform set of movements to all students)
Edna Lima was the first woman to reach Mestre level in capoeira and continues to represent the sport all over the world. This group also has an extensive youth program.
Batizado Capoeira Brasil, by Sophia Wallace
Capoeira Brasil, by Tia Sue