Once upon a time, practicing capoeira could get you arrested and tortured. Capoeira, a martial arts form developed by unarmed slaves attempting to defend themselves against their armed masters, was banned several times during Brazil's history.
One of the ways slaves "hid" their practice of capoeira was by turning it into a dance...a beautiful, athletic, amazing form of dance.
Today, capoeira is celebrated as a symbol of Brazil's culture and heritage, and watching people practice it in the streets of Salvador is one of the treats of visiting there.
Here's a video of some children playing the traditional instruments that accompany the dancers within the capoeira circle:
Here you can see teenagers practicing the high kicks that are a major part of capoeira:
For those who can't see video, here's a photo of some of those high kicks:
Capoiera also includes gymnastics and tumbling runs, such as the backflip you can see in this video:
And the tumbling run done by a young boy about half way through this video:
One man did twenty back-hand-springs in a tight circle at the evening capoeira performance I attended. As I watched the olympic-level tumbling runs and the simulated fighting with sticks and machetes, my jaw literally dropped in amazement at the strength and athleticism of the performers. I wasn't allowed to take video of the performance, but here's a link to a You Tube video that can give you a sense of the experience.
Not far from where I saw people practice Capoiera is a statue of Zumbi, an escaped slave who lead a settlement of fugitive, escaped slaves for many years until the Portuguese were able to capture and behead him on November 20, 1695.
I happened to be in Salvador on November 20, 2010, the 315th anniversary of Zumbi's death, which gave me the privilege of observing the anti-discrimination festival and day of Afro-Brazilian consciousness held every year in Zumbi's honor. I was happy to see the school children there learning about Zumbi, and learning capoeira, both great symbols of humankind's yearning for freedom and self-determination.