‘Festa do Brasil’ highlights Brazilian culture

Ryan Morris

Sophomore management major Josh Blanco (left) practices a capoeira move on lecturer Gabrielle Motta-Passajou (right) in a class offered through the Watauga Global Community. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and music. There is a workshop followed by a Capoeira performance Friday at 5 p.m. in the Grandfather Ballroom of Plemmons Student Union.  Parker Arnold  | Courtesy Photo
Students and community members who want to learn more about Brazilian culture have the opportunity to attend “Festa do Brasil,” three days of free festivities celebrating Brazilian culture sponsored by departments in the university.

The festival kicks off Wednesday in the Price Lake room of Plemmons Student Union with “Brazil’s National Treasure,” faculty presentations on capoeira, football and samba. 

The documentary “Bus 174” will be shown Thursday in the Greenbriar Room of the student union at 6 p.m., followed by a panel discussion about cultural conflicts in Brazil. 

On the final day, Friday, there will be a workshop and capoeira performance followed by a free Brazilian dinner catered by Appalachian State University Food Services.

“Festa do Brasil” grew out of an idea that university lecturer Gabrielle Motta-Passajou had a few years ago.  She wanted to bring certain aspects of her native Brazilian culture – especially the dance-fighting art of capoeira – to campus in the form of a celebration. The previous festival, which occurred a few years ago, lasted one day and included a capoeira performance and discussion on the Afro-Brazilian dance.

“This year is just a little bit more ambitious,” Motta-Passajou said.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that is commonly described as “dance-fighting.” Those who play or perform capoeira are called “capoeistas,” and the duel or dance between two capoeistas is called a “roda.”

“What happens is you have the circle with the people who play the instruments and the people who sing, and in the center you have two people who play capoeira to the music,” Motta-Passajou said.

Motta-Passajou, who teaches both Spanish and Portuguese, also teaches the only capoeira class at Appalachian, offered through the Watauga Global Community, as well as capoeira classes off-campus in a studio.

“It never really took off,” she said. “It’s always been a marginal activity here in Boone.”

Jack Faught, a freshman currently enrolled in the class, said capoeira is not a typical martial art.

“It is more of a game than anything else,” said Faught. “It is played to music and the object of the game isn’t to win, the object is to have a great game that flows well and is enjoyed by both the spectators and the players.”

“Festa do Brasil” is sponsored by a collaboration of several departments on campus, including the Office of International Education and Development, the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, Belk Library and Information Commons, the Office of Multicultural Student Development, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Interdisciplinary Studies and the English and dance departments.

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, A&E Reporter

Photo Courtesy: PARKER ARNOLD