Capoeira, Darts and Fireworks: Berkeley on July 4th

I had been along to Mestre Acordeon's capoeira classes on Wednesday night, was aching badly from that, which didn't stop me from going back on Friday 4th for more great capoeira. I met some ghosts from the past there - several people who I vaguely recognised but couldn't quite place until I realised we'd met in Arrial do Cabo, Rio de Janeiro in 2003/4. I also ran into a familiar face from Cambridge - a Russian Israeli called Victor, who kindly offered to put me up in his house. 
The training was hard, enjoyable and informative, and unsurprisingly there are some very good capoeiras there. I had a great time playing in the rodas, particularly with Grilo, a professor who was visiting from Denver. I discovered that explaining my nickname was a great way to break the ice, and got several laughs from slightly stunned people!
So on the 4th July I returned to Acordeon's academy, aching, but keen to get training. So it was that I came to meet Wellington Lima (Palhaço) who aside from capoeira is a trampoline champion and 10-year veteran of Cirque de Soleil. (Check out some of his videos on YouTube - he's the one in red in the show) He took the class for the night, teaching acrobatics. It was honestly the first time I had done acrobatics and not felt overwhelmingly inadequate, scared and unable to achieve. It was amazing - a real breakthrough. Palhaço's style of teaching was very relaxed, without the usual dose of testosterone. He kept saying, "It's simple, so don't make it complicated!". He clearly had an exceptional acrobatic ability: lithe, flexible smooth movement that made anything look effortless. His movement has a real grace. One great tip (for the capoeiras out there) was how many acrobatic moves begin and end in esquiva lateral (like au sem mao, au batido, etc.). The other great thing was that he not only knew the difference between making a movement easy and making it difficult, he could explain and demonstrate those differences - brilliant!

After the class we all headed off to the marina to watch the fireworks, which were blighted by a shroud of the famous fog. We made our own fireworks though: me being a Brit in a group largely made up of Americans, patriotic banter was being fired back and forth, which was great fun. I am sure that you wouldn't find such a sense of humour elsewhere in the country. After the fireworks (which are illegal for an individual to possess - but guns are fine) we went to the Albatross pub (est. 1964, congratulations!) where I was surprised to say the least to find Belhaven Ale on the menu (it is our local brew in Haddington). I was duly challenged to a darts match by Eric, a joyful guy who had lived through the LA riots (yikes!) who said, "Hey limey! You want a game of darts?". How could I say no, especially as the pride of my nation was at stake? At the test though, I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and that in observance of the date the Brit lost and the Yank won. Despite the sore blow to my national pride, I had a great laugh that evening. 

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