For 10 years, Mariano Silva has served as the Contra Mestre of Santa Barbara’s very active and dynamic Capoeira Batuque. For those not already in the know about this popular form of Brazilian dance, that means Silva is the professionally accredited leader of a school for this hybrid art form, which combines dance, martial arts, and music. Born in Bahia, Brazil, Silva made his way to Santa Barbara in 2000 and has been spreading the word about capoeira ever since. For evidence of his success, look no further than the next Solstice Parade, in which Silva will lead a group of more than 100 drummers, 35 samba dancers, and more than 100 capoeiristas. They’re instantly recognizable, prowling across State Street with deep, slinky and rhythmic side and back steps that are only interrupted for the occasional acrobatic cartwheeling kick. All of this bubbling energy proceeds to the beat of the drums and the incessant twanging of the berimbau, the Brazilian stringed instrument that stands at the core of the capoeira experience.
Talking with Silva last week, his buoyant life force was evident not only in his body language, but in his voice as he regaled me with tales of how wonderfully Santa Barbara has taken to capoeira, a dance that began as the characteristic expression of Africans who had been transported to Bahia by the brutal Middle Passage of Atlantic slavery. “The community here is so open to it,” he said. “The students at the university were my first real constituents—that’s why the studio is in Goleta. But when we started to appear in the Solstice Parade—ah, that’s when it really began to take off. Since then everyone wants to capoeira. Now we work with a huge range of people, from kids at Girls Inc. and Santa Barbara High School to adults from the States to people who have emigrated here from Brazil. They all like to do the dance.” In addition to taking part in the parade this weekend, the Santa Barbara Capoeira Batuque will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a full day of activities on Sunday, June 26, at UCSB’s Robertson Gym. Starting at 8:15 a.m. in Room 2320 of the gym, there will be dance workshops (moving to Room 1430 at noon), and beginning at 2:30 p.m. the “Batizado,” or graduation ceremony, will take place in the same location. For more information call 965-4488 or visit dance805.com.