Capoeira on International Roma Day

Annually Roma children from the settlement in Peri make wonderful performances on International Roma Day. Usually these concerts are organised in the Leskolovo culture centre. Colourful Roma dances, songs and performances attract many people. This year the young Roma prepared a real surprise. For the first time they performed in a real theatre – the Saint Petersburg state children’s music theatre “Zazerkalye” (Wonderland).

This famous and unique theatte was born for the second time. One month ago after full repair it was opened by the city governor V. Matvienko. The stage manager of the theatre, Honoured artist of the Russian Federation, Alexander Petrov proposed the cosiest hall – the White hall for the performance of Roma children.

Thus, on April 7, 2011 the visitors came to see the performance prepared by Roma children. Among the visitors there were local and foreign students, as well as students of the neighboring school #195.


Anna Konovalova, former teacher of Roma classes at school in Oselki and current director of the Leskolovo culture centre, announced the first performance: a few episodes from the “Roma tale about happiness.” The White hall became full of fairy characters. Boys and girls wore exotic Roma dresses. Anna Konovalova commented the plot. Lyric Roma dances interchanged tap dance. As usual love won in the end.

Finally, it was the time for the surprise – capoeira. It was the second part of the performance.

In January we wrote about German volunteer Birte Lampart’s initiative to organise capoeira classes for Roma children. She invited famous capoeira trainer Andrei Girko and his colleagues to come to the settlement. These wonderful people agreed to teach capoeira in the settlement voluntarily.

Capoeira comes from Brazil where it was brought by African slaves. It is dancing, playing on instruments, Brazil songs and martial art at the same time. It looks like contactless karate, but more elegant.

Andrei is a unique person. He is able to “infect” anyone with his energy and personal charisma. He succeeded with Roma children as well. Children of different age sank into the new environment of Brazilian culture. The children were given all conditions for having classes in the Leskolovo culture centre directed by Natalia Rineva. That is why the performance in “Zazerkalye” can be considered a resulting concert, master class and premiere at the same time.

So it began. Andrei “Prontu” (his Portuguese pseudonym) shortly explained what capoeira is. The Roma children and Andrei’s colleagues made a worm-up to the Portuguese music. Then they made a circle and invited everyone to join them. After some doubts (my age and tummy) I also joined them. All people sang along to a simple song about the Virgin Mary. Andrei sang in Portuguese and played some exotic musical instrument. His colleagues played along to the song, and we sang along to the tune. The tempo was increasing with each verse. Andrei’s voice was becoming louder. Everyone was becoming more excited. It seemedthere was no end to the song and no limit to Andrei’s voice.

I looked at the Roma children and thought how easily they changed their traditional motives to this show. They did not seem to be young Roma but real Brazilians.

The tempo was at its high. The third part of the performance began. A girl stepped into the centre of the circle. She chose a Roma boy and started fighting against him. This was capoeira. It is difficult to describe but it was beautiful. After the fight they bowed to each other. Then another couple came out, and the fight repeated.

Finally, Andrei stepped into the circle. His partner was a strong guy. It seemed to be more difficult than karate. I wondered how they managed to avoid any harm. All this was accompanied by drums, songs and incredible noise.

The performance fascinated everyone.Everyone who was in the theatre joined the visitors. By the way, at the same time the theatre was preparing to the All-Russian festival of children’s theatres “Golden Harlequin.” In other halls of the theatre festival performances were being rehearsed. Nonetheless, professionals could not pass by.

Stop! The music is over. Everybody stopped. Andrei thanked everyone for participating in the concert. The performance was over. Everyone was happy and sad to go home. Thank everyone! Thank you, Andrei! thank you guys! Thank Anna Petrova and Natalia Rineva for the capoeira performance on the International Roma Day!

Ilia Berdyshev

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