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Capoeira Comes to Oglethorpe

Oglethorpe University Core professor, Dr. Jaclyn Donelle McWhorter, also known as “Dourada” in Capoeira, brought her extensive knowledge of Capoeira to the Schmidt Recreation Center dance studio Monday from 1-2p.m.

Dourada’s classes are open to all students. They are perfect for beginners who have never tried Capoeira before and are curious to learn more about the basic Capoeira movements, kicks and acrobatics, as well as history, music and Portuguese.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that was first developed in the 1600s by enslaved African immigrants in Brazil. Its unique style of movement enabled these enslaved African immigrants to rebel against their owners in order to seek freedom.

In 2003, Dourada became interested in Brazil while she was studying Photography and International Studies at the University of Alabama. After graduation, she spent years traveling back and forth to Brazil and eventually decided to pursue a master’s degree from Tulane University in International Development to further understand social complexities.

While working on her master’s degree from 2008 to 2010, Dourada studied the model of AfroReggae and how they use culture as a tool for social development. They also utilized Capoeira in order to strengthen cultural pride while building confidence, focus and discipline. Dourada was then inspired to begin Capoeira training with more dedication by conducting doctoral research at the University of Florida by focusing on Capoeira as a form of social inclusion in the periphery of São Paulo, Brazil.

Historically rooted in resilience and resistance, Capoeira incorporates kicks, defense mechanisms and acrobatics that enables unarmed men to protect themselves from armed attackers. For hundreds of years, marginalized communities practiced Capoeira as a fighting strategy in order to protect themselves. However, they had to be extremely careful because Capoeira was not legalized until the 1930s, which is why Dourada uses her Capoeira name during the class.

As a practicing Capoeirista for eight years now and anthropologist for the last four years, Dourada has come to learn that Capoeira embodies social inclusion. “To live Capoeira is to recognize a connection through energy that the art of Capoeira provides to us all,” said Dourada.

By listening to the music alone, we are motivated to strive harder in Capoeira training and in life. If you specifically listen to the lyrics of the songs, you will notice that they often explain hardships and lessons that we can all apply to our personal lives. Capoeira helps teach us how to overcome these challenges that the songs mention.

In physical training, the classes provide the opportunity to improve endurance, as well as push you to work harder, faster, and stronger by challenging the mind and body both mentally and physically. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, Capoeira calls us to use our own capabilities because our body is unique with its own shape, form and limitations. This relates to life because we are called in different directions and must choose to take our own unique path.

Philosophically, Capoeira is also unique. It was created as a resistance against the injustices of slavery in colonial Brazil, and Dourada believes that “Capoeira is symbolic for the fight against injustices of any form.”

When the practitioner is disconnected from the true meaning of Capoeira, an injustice occurs. Humans are all capable of error, but we must look to the connection that Capoeira embodies within the circle of roda. This is where we can learn to grow together in union, rather than dehumanize others which forces us apart.

The circle must always stay connected because if there are gaps, the energy leaves the circle which causes the music and energy to escape the game. The music is in charge of the game’s energy, as well as the environment and atmosphere that it creates. Capoeira reflects the energy that individuals put into it because the dance is an energy field created by humans. The energy and attitude of others has a ripple effect on human behavior, according to Dourada, which means that human presence also effects the experience of the game.

Capoeira helps motivate us every day to conquer our own battle’s in life by acting as the spirit against injustice. Good and evil are constantly battling, and this historical battle is also present within Capoeira.

For Dourada, the essence of Capoeira is found in the difference between magic and black magic because it depends on the witch and her experiences. The essence of Capoeira is also “the union between diverse and distinct humans and their lived experiences to bring their energy together and create a phenomenon that is unlike any other time,” said Dourada. This essence can teach us so many things about life and how our human experiences can connect us to the planet and the universe.

Dourada will continue to hold Capoeira classes in the Schmidt Recreation Center dance studio on Mondays from 1-2p.m. If you would like to know more, come try a class! You can sign up or ask any questions by emailing her at

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