Originally created by African slaves in Portguese-controlled Brazil, capoeira (pronounced capo-AYE-rah) is a ritualistic, multi-disciplined art form marked by graceful kicks, sweeps, dodges, handstands, cartwheels, flips and other acrobatic movements. Outlawed in the late 19th century because of its association with radicals and criminal gangs, today capoeira is practiced freely all over the world. Much like the Eastern martial arts, capoeira isn't merely a physical skill, but also a mental exercise and a cultural and spiritual discipline. During the roda (HOA-da)—when students form a circle, sing, clap their hands and ''play'' capoeira with one another—music is integral, with the rhythm of the berimbau (an ancient stringed instrument), drums, tambourine and other percussion pieces accompanying practice.
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