Mestra Ana Dourada
Mestra Ana Dourada lives in Austria where she teaches Capoeira and dance with the group Barracão Capoeira.
Her passion for movement, music and dance has warmed students from chilly Austria to the joyful and sensual dance cultures of Brazil.
She began training Capoeira in childhood, at the age of ten, and to this day is an example of strength, passion, and harmony in movement.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview translated into English:
Interview with Mestra Ana Dourada, November 14th 2016
When and how did you start in Capoeira?
I started when I was ten years old, in a project for poor children.
Initially, I did not start Capoeira because of the sport, because I thought it was beautiful, I went into Capoeira because I was very poor and we did not have food at home. It was a way of not going hungry, of not starving!
Capoeira did me a lot of good, it not only fed me, but also had another side, because I lived in a favela Alto das Almas do Morro in Guaratinguetá where we typically had few choices in life.
People would enter the world of crime, prostitution, or tough jobs for long hours and little pay. My family was very big, my mother had 14 children, life was very complicated.
I started working at age nine to be able to survive in the world, and Capoeira is where I found the food. Sadly, not long after I started I had to leave Capoeira because my parents would not accept it as Capoeira was marginalized.
Capoeira was for men, it was for potheads … and so my family took me out of Capoeira. And after two years, when I was twelve years old, I came back and I never stopped training.
Who do you consider your Mestre? Were they always?
My Mestre has always been Master Zé Antonio, I say that because when I started Capoeira, Mestre Ponciano, the brother of Mestre Zé Antonio, taught the classes, but he stayed only a short time and left a student of his in charge, but the group didn’t want to continue training with him.
Then came the proposal to form a female group at the academy of Mestre Zé Antonio. I started to train with Master Zé Antonio, but for this I had to go and clean the gym because we did not have the money to pay for the class. We cleaned up, took care of the gym, all to be able to follow the classes for free.
At first I trained only once a week on Sunday because there was no one training. Later, Master Zé Antonio called us to form the women’s group and I started working inside the gym as a cleaning lady, as a secretary. We started to get to know each other because I lived and breathed Capoeira 24 hours a day. Master Zé Antonio is really the only Master I have ever had, it was always him.
How did this women’s group come about?
Mestre Zé Antonio had a few more girls from high society, rich girls, they did not have much interest in wanting to travel and to take the opportunities that the capoeira gave them because they just trained for fun. As we came from the other side we started to train to be valued.
We set up an afro dance group, samba de roda, and we were the choir. Mestre Suassuna always said that the best choir he had was the girls. It was not so much the creation of Master Zé Antonio, but really us, the girls ourselves, wanting to overcome the male prejudice, because at that time there were not many women [in Capoeira], we were very few.
Besides your Master, who are the biggest influences you had in Capoeira?
Mestre João Grande is my mentor in Capoeira Angola. I always say that we have two sides, the sides of a coin, face and crown (in Brazil). My crown is Mestre João Grande, because he taught me Capoeira Angola, to play the music and sing, and the movements [of Capoeira Angola] that I know how to do come from him. I know many Capoeira stories for him, he is my best friend and my mentor in Capoeira Angola. On the other side of the coin are Mestre Ponciano and Mestre Zé Antonio.
What is your apelido and why?
My apelido now is Dourada (Golden), but originally I had another nickname; today I see how Mestre Morais, was a bit of a chauvinist with his apelidos, right? At the time, because I had a very thin shins, he called me Canelinha de Sabiá (Little Mockingbird Shins).
I did not like it because to me it was a bullying and I didn’t want to train anymore. After a while he came to my house to get me, because I was important to him because I did everything, and I said: I will come back, but I do not want this nickname of Canelinha de Sabiá anymore.
When I was born, I was a browny yellow colour, and my mother always called me Banana. Minha Bananinha (My Little Banana). Many years later, Master Poncianinho, I think maybe the second the third time that he came to my house while teaching in Austria, I started telling him the story about why my mum called me Bananinha, and he said, “No, you have nothing to do with yellow, but you have everything to do with gold. Your colour is gold, your hair is gold, your skin is gold, so you are Dourado (Golden). It was Mestre Poncianinho who gave me the name of Dourada. Swapped yellow for Gold, it got better!
What is your real name?
My name is Luciana, not Ana, not Aninha … Luciana!
You are a reference for many in the world of dance, how did dance come into your life?
The dance came before Capoeira because when I lived in Alto das Almas, in Morro, I grew up next to a Carnival Samba school. When I was five I competed for the carnival princess and I won, as did my sister who also won, Contra Mestra Andria. From the moment I joined Capoeira I learned Samba de Roda. Then came the Samba de Angola, Afrodance appeared and many other dances.
I’d like to talk about the importance of dance in Capoeira. Capoeira is a fight, but also part dance, and there are many other Afro-Brazilian dances that have close ties to Capoeira
Capoeira and dance, they walk together hand in hand, they were born pretty much joined. It is very difficult for you to separate Samba de Roda, or Maculelé from Capoeira.
When you introduce elements of Samba de Roda, Afro or other dances to your world of Capoeira, Capoeira becomes lighter, and more expressive. I think Capoeira is all about dance, I use my body to dance a lot in Capoeria. Sometimes people say I dance very differently in the Roda, but it’s because I’m a dancer and bring movements that are very beautiful from afro, and work them into my capoeira.
It is very difficult because I was raised in the Capoeira of Mestre Zé Antonio that was not only Capoeira, but also had Jongo, had Samba de Roda, today this is being lost a little in the world of Capoeira. But Capoeira and dance will never separate, because Capoeira is dance, and if you can bring some movements of the world of dance in your Capoeira will be more beautiful.
Do you see a religious side of Capoeira?
I do not have much of this mix, as I have a very strong side with the religion of Umbanda, not Candomblé. And many times when I’m dancing I work a lot with dance energy. Sometimes I’m teaching an event and I can not tell you what I went through because sometimes I do not even know what I went through.
So Capoeira does have a spiritual aspect, but it’s a part that is personal, I do not want to imply that Capoeira has this for everyone. Each to their own way. I enjoy it, because I have this gift of having my own side I enjoy, but I think it’s good to work that aspect of spiritual energy, for me it is amazing.
Many people come to Capoeira as just a sport but for me it is not, for me Capoeira is a whole. It’s war, it’s sun, it’s air, there’s no way for you to separate it. For me there is no separation. I think at times I trust too much in the dance, in capoeira, because I think I’m a little afraid because I’ve played many times without knowing how I was playing!
How was your arrival in Europe? How did you decide to come here?
I didn’t originally come to Europe for Capoeira, it was for my artistic side as a dancer. I went to Taiwan to dance at a Disneyworld there. Dance of Maculelé .. Brazilian folk dances. Me plus fifty other people, I had just suffered a great disappointment in love, and I decided to change my life. Capoeira helps me in these moments, but the dance helps me even more.
I took part in an audition in São Paolo with a large number of people, I got selected, and went travelling with a group. In this group, there were a number of capoeiristas, when they found out that I also did Capoeira, we decided to do a Capoeira show together. It was me and another girl who did capoeira with eight boys. Capoeira came later, but I never went to Europe for Capoeira.
You live in Bregenz, Austria. How is it to teach a Capoeira class, something Brazilian, or Samba, for foreigners who do not have this latin heat in their blood?
They may not have this heat culturally, but they have something very interesting and very Brazilian that is the desire to conquer something. I have a student who dances Samba like me, she dances like crazy, and she is Austrian. It’s not that there is no Brazilian that does not samba, that’s a lie, I have a sister who does not samba.
The work of dance and Capoeira in Austria was not difficult. I was well received, my group gained many students, I think because of how I speak about my culture; for me, sometimes a great capoeirista is not a great teacher. There are people who think that in order to be a good teacher, you need to do amazing acrobatics, I never did flips, teaching is very different from doing what you do in the Roda.
People have embraced our culture because it is so easy to embrace. Capoeira itself is very beautiful, very open, people who enter know that no one will demand anything from them. So I think separating because it’s different, it’s Europe, no, I think they still give more value than many Brazilians.
Returning to the topic of women in Capoeira, you mentioned it was difficult at first and sometimes it still is, what would be your advice for woman who is in Capoeira?
I don’t think there’s a problem at all, or if there is, I think it’s in the woman herself. She believes she is seen as a problem in Capoeira, she says that she is excluded. I was never excluded, it was difficult for me at the beginning because there were few women, but today there are many women, without any problems. They are received in various events, every event has a Mestra, a Profesora…
What I would recommend to the students of today is not to believe that they have problems. Because life is so easy, I think we complicate life a lot, it does not have any problem. If a woman believes she is important, she becomes important. I don’t even like to talk about this, because women have to get it out of their heads because they have no problems.
Do you have any advice for a new capoeirista?
A capoeirista has to have determination, do not give up, because each body is a body, there are movements that will work for you easily, other movements that will be more difficult … the tip would be to not give up, because Capoeira is very easy, if you start training Capoeira from the heart and forget a little the side of what it “is supposed to look like”, it gets easier.
Capoeira is for everyone, I think people have to have determination and desire. Of course, everyone can have problems, not everyone is perfect, not everyone is very good at playing, at singing; I sing, but in the Roda I do not like to sing because my voice does not carry, I have a very hoarse voice, as you can hear!
But each one has their brightness, their importance in Capoeira. If you can not do floreios, but you can do a beautiful ginga, you always have the movements that are right, firm movements, beautiful movements … I think people have to be determined and willing.
How long have you known Mestre Boca Rica?
I think I’ve known him for about twenty-five years, because I’ve been in Capoeira for 32 years, and I’ve known him since entering Capoeira.
You said that initially your family didn’t approve of you training Capoeira?
Yes I started in Capoeira when I was ten, then I returned to Capoeira when I was 12 years old when I already had a job, my mother said now you already have some money and can start over.
I fought a lot with my family, until today I fight for Capoeira. Because they do not accept her as I want.
Is your family more accepting of Capoeira now?
Yes, my parents do, because when they need something it is with the Capoeira money that I can offer them better food, or to buy a medicine … so with the money I make from Capoeira, today I can offer a better life for my parents.