What are the different styles/currents of capoeira?

Here is an interresting text written by Shayna McHugh in 2007. She is at the origin of many English translation of Portuguese texts that you can find on the internet. Although the following article is not a translation but her own creation. You can find the original text here.
Although each capoeira group (and each individual capoeirista) develops their own style, the styles of capoeira fall into three main categories: Angola, Regional, and Contemporânea. Here is an overview of the history and characteristics of each one.
Capoeira regional was created in Salvador in the early 20th century by Mestre Bimba (Manoel dos Reis Machado), who marketed a modified version of capoeira, with a greater emphasis on fighting technique, to the middle- and upper-class populations. Bimba originally called it the Luta Regional Bahiana (Bahian Regional Martial Art), and it later became known as capoeira regional.
The older and more traditional form of capoeira was preserved by Mestre Pastinha (Vicente Ferreira Pastinha), Mestre Waldemar, and others. Mestre Pastinha established the Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola for the training and promotion of the style that came to be known as capoeira angola.
The contemporânea style was primarily developed by Grupo Senzala in Rio de Janeiro during the 1960s. This style heavily influenced capoeira regional, and most of the groups called “regional” today are actually much closer to contemporânea than to Mestre Bimba’s original capoeira regional (which used a very particular and specific teaching method).

Some general and overarching characteristics of each style:

Capoeira Angola

  • Played at a wide variety of speeds, from slow to fast. Generally played lower and closer than the other two styles. Games are long – on average ten minutes – and buying the game” (cutting in to play with another player) is seldom done.
  • Very loose and improvisational ginga.
  • Emphasis on malícia, strategy, and deception.
  • Uses a full bateria: three berimbaus of different sizes (each with its own role), one or two pandeiros, an agogô, reco-reco, and atabaque. Uses ladainhas, chulas, and corridos (three different types of songs).
  • Uses the chamadas, ritual sub-games in which one player “calls” the other to approach.
  • Does not use batizados or colored cords to mark the capoeiristas’ level of graduation.
  • Examples of angola groups include the International Capoeira Angola Foundation, Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho, Capoeira Angola Palmares, Filhos de Angola, and the academies of Mestres João Grande, João Pequeno, and Curió.

Capoeira Regional

  • Usually played at a more accelerated pace than capoeira angola. Games are primarily upright, on the feet, and shorter – on average two to three minutes.
  • Cadenced ginga.
  • Emphasis on technique.
  • Uses one berimbau and two pandeiros, and plays to the toques of regional: São Bento Grande de Bimba, Benguela, Iúna, Amazonas, Santa Maria.
  • Utilizes Bimba’s eight sequences and the cintura desprezada (cooperative throws).
  • Does not use chamadas or ladainhas.
  • There are very few traditional schools of capoeira regional in the world today, but the most famous is Fundação Mestre Bimba (under Mestre Nenel – the son of Mestre Bimba).

Capoeira Contemporânea

  • Generally faster-paced games played farther apart, of short duration – on average one minute. Buying the game is common practice.
  • Some contemporânea groups try to merge elements of angola and regional into a single style; others practice each one separately depending on what rhythm the bateria is playing.
  • Emphasis on technique.
  • A wide variety in the composition of the bateria – most groups use more than the simplified bateria of regional, but do not include all the instruments of angola. Some groups use ladainhas, chulas, and chamadas when playing to the angola toque; others do not.
  • More standardized ginga.
  • Some groups make use of ornamental flips during the game or to enter the roda.
  • Use of batizados and colored cords to classify the levels of the capoeiristas.
  • Capoeira contemporânea is by far the most widespread style both inside and outside Brazil. The more well-known groups include ABADA, Senzala, Capoeira Brasil, Cordão de Ouro, Topázio, and Axé Capoeira.
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