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Dances celebrate Carnival and culture

It is currently Carnival season in Brazil, so to join in the celebration Irving hosted an event at the East Branch Library, which included professional samba dancers from the United Dance Academy and a capoeira demonstration by Dallas Capoeira. After performing, the dancers allowed the kids to samba for themselves.

“One thing you want to know about samba that is different than other dances is that it’s more like a community,” said Ernesto Plazola, one of the dancers. “It’s not just the dance, it’s not just the awesome costumes, but the people who are drawn toward samba are usually people who are really family-oriented.”

The kids could watch a short tutorial and then test their limbo skills with the samba dancers.

While samba is popular in Brazil, it has its roots in other cultures.

“Samba started with the slavery when they brought the slaves to Brazil, and they would do the samba that is more afro-based, not the one that is done in Rio de Janeiro right now,” Plazola said. “Now it has more influence from jazz and different tendencies like swing. But back in that time, they used to do the samba in a circle, and what it means when you dance in a circle is that we’re all the same. The philosophy of samba is that we’re all the same in that moment with the music. Everybody’s the same no matter the dance level.”

While the kids were not able to learn samba in the few minutes it was introduced to them, Plazola believes anyone who sticks with the difficult task will feel benefits.

“Samba is not easy to learn in the beginning because of the footwork,” Plazola said. “People can take a few months to learn it and actually feel comfortable doing it, but once you can get it, it is amazing it’s like you have superpowers. You can’t even believe it when you see yourself in the video.”

Following the samba dancers, Dallas Capoeira gave a capoeira demonstration during the celebration. Capoeira is a type of martial art that originated in Brazil with slaves. It is a different type of martial art as it had to be disguised as a dance in order for people to practice it, according to the demonstrators. Because of this, capoeira involves instruments and music.

“We try to expose, especially the kids, but the whole family to different cultures,” senior librarian Stephanie Gimble, the organizer of the event, said.

“I saw two things I had never seen before,” Gimble said. “I had never seen capoeira, and I had never seen professional samba dancers.”

Among the attendants of the event was Tania Trinidad, a native of Brazil, who is in an English as a Second Language class at the library.

“It really demonstrated how great is the Brazilian culture,” Trinidad said through translator Francisco Zangerolame.

Trinidad believes events like this one are important for kids.

“It shows the exchange of cultures and makes the young children have interest in other cultures,” Trinidad said. “It would be very helpful if the children developed an interest in capoeira, because it is a good sport. They should not stop doing events like this, and every year maybe complement with other things.”

Ernesto Plazola also believes it is important to expose kids to other cultures.

“It’s important because it gets them to get out of their bubble,” Plazola said. “We’re in Texas, and Texas is a conservative state. Many things are geared towards either Mexican independence, or Tex-Mex stuff, so for them, it’s diversity. [They should] experience and know there’s something else besides Texas.

“When I was their age, I thought everything happened in my town. Hopefully these kids will be able to expand their minds. Maybe they like the music, maybe they like the costumes, maybe they want to learn the dance, so it’s just all exposure for the kids right now.”

Hedison Mui has attended similar events at the library and feels it is important to experience different things.

“[It’s important] just to support the community and see what’s out there,” Mui said. “If anyone’s interested, it’s always good to showcase what people have, and what people are teaching. With how kids are nowadays, they watch TV or play video games, so it’s always good to show them something different.

“It brings the community together, and even if we can’t afford to travel to Brazil, we get a little peek at another culture. It’s another country kind of like traveling while staying at home.”