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The Independent Culture
The Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira: part dance, music, mystique and street-fighting technique, celebrates a 'batizado', or initiation party, this weekend. The London School of Capoeira welcomes masters from Europe and Brazil to a ceremony marking students' rites of passage into the art.

Students and masters will play together in a 'roda' or ring. Singers and percussion players chant ancient Afro-Portuguese songs. Students sit in a circle, clapping out the rhythm, watching for their chance to pit their wits against the masters. In the centre, the play is rhythmic and tricky, highly athletic. Finally, with a spectacular feint, the master catches the student off-guard and sweeps him onto the floor. The student is thus christened into the world of capoeira.

This tradition dates back to the first influx of African slaves to Brazil. They managed to practise and develop this fighting art because to the untrained eye capoeira looks like a playful dance. When the masters came near, the 'berimbau' - a one-stringed percussion instrument - sounded and the fighting became a type of samba.

Last century capoeira became a means of survival for the freed, urban black poor. Groups of players formed gangs in Rio de Janeiro, sometimes robbing and causing set- tos in the crowded Rio streets.

Paso a Paso, London School of Capoeira's dance group, will be performing live, from 6pm onwards.

The Batizado Party, Sunday 11 September, 4-11pm, at Jackson's Lane Theatre, 269a Archway Road, London N6 (081-341 4421) Entry pounds 7, concs pounds 5, children free

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