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A day at Millfield with the London School of Capoeira

A day at Millfield with the London School of Capoeira

Our brief was to work with two groups to create a choreographed piece of movement and music to be performed in the evening as part of the school’s Arts Week celebrations. In hindsight, it was always going to be a challenge given the amount of material to cover and the time constraints, but one which both the London School of Capoeira and students at Millfield fully embraced.A few miles from Glastonbury Village, with stunning views over the Tor and the rolling hills of Somerset, Millfield School sits in what probably is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Founded in 1937, it grew steadily over the years and today the boarding school counts over 1,000 students,  featuring  impressive infrastructures, beautiful grounds  and, overall, a very serene atmosphere. We felt very welcome as both students and staff greeted us warmly, bright eyed and eager to begin a day of work with us.
We started with workshops introducing two groups of students to some of the ‘building blocks’ of the game of Capoeira – from the ginga and the esquivas  to some of the turning kicks such as queixadas and armadas through to some of the more challenging acrobatic movements .Both groups were extremely  dedicated, on the ball and very keen to learn. They worked hard and with remarkable focus – it was heartwarming seeing them not lose their smile and their determination even in front of Mestre Marcos demonstrating a macaco (a ‘monkey jump’ which resembles a semi back-flip) as the next move that they were going to attempt.
In speaking with members of staff throughout the day, we learned that a broad and balanced curriculum with an ample choice of subjects and experiences for its students is at the very core of the school’s ethos. At the same time, Millfield is also famous for its specialism in the arts and sports – interestingly, Capoeira falls in between the two. As Jo Szymkow (head of English at Millfield) noted some of the  students had never heard about Capoeira before and ensuring that they had exposure to a new and exciting art form was one of the driving motives behind our visit.
Our dedicated group of students rehearsing for the performance

We continued to work with one of the two groups throughout the afternoon; having given them a ‘crash course’ into the basics of Capoeira, they were ready to put all they had learned into practice by taking part in a choreographed piece. Mestre Silvia worked closely with them to craft a routine that gave  traditional Capoeira movements an ‘urban’ feel by blending them with walks, runs and twirling circles. She also spent some time with a group of students musicians to create a piece of music that could accompany the choreography – here the melodic sound of guitars and the tinkling of percussion chimes mixing with the steady rhythm of the atabaque (the tall drum traditionally used Capoeira) set the vibes for what turned out to be a truly remarkable performance that very same evening.

After the students had the chance to show off everything they had learned during the day to their peers and teachers, the evening ended with a breathtaking performance of Play Low by Passo Co featuring  Mestre Marcos and Mestre Silvia which left everyone in the audience (me included!) absolutely gob smacked. There was much excitement in the audience and many of the students that had worked with us during the day took the time to bid us farewell and say how much they had enjoyed the day  learning about an art form that, in their own words, was ‘fun and different…in a good way!

Mestre Silvia and Mestre Marcos performing ‘Play Low’


And as we made our way back to London through the rolling hills of Somerset two thoughts popped into my head. I am beginning to realize that teaching Capoeira requires at least the same amount of stamina as playing it. But, as ever with the London School, ‘missão dada é missão cumprida’ (a mission given is a mission accomplished)!

It was an absolute pleasure to work with the staff and students and Millfield School and we hope to be able to continue doing so in the future.
Caterina Violi
senior student at the LSC
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