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South Salt Lake Journal

From Brazil to South Salt Lake capoeira inspires fluidity and movement in life

Sep 08, 2022 02:02PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

By Jesse M. Gonzalez | [email protected]

Although birthed in Brazil in the early 16th century, a martial art form known as capoeira has been sweeping the interest of many South Salt Lake locals with its engaging acrobatic, dance-like style. Carla Locatelli, founder of the Brazilian Arts Center, has been instructing a capoeira class at The HERC (Hip-Hop Education and Resource Center) with as much zeal and care as any student would hope to find in an instructor.

“The way that we play capoeira, we are connecting through movement, so I see capoeira as a language, that is a movement, that has a rhythm, and the rhythm follows the capoeira instruments that are leading in talking about the Afro-Brazilian history, about nature. I think that can be an initial observation of what capoeira is,” said Locatelli, after teaching a class on Aug. 9.

Locatelli was born and partly raised in Brazil before moving to Utah, where she had only been a student of capoeira. Locatelli eventually moved her way up in the knowledge of capoeira, and decided to teach others what she has been taught over the last 17 years.

“I have been interested in sports, team sports, like soccer, basketball, volleyball. I’ve always been in love with sports,” Locatelli said. “When I started capoeira, it was in the attempt of doing something different. What truly attracted me to capoeira was the music. When I saw capoeira, I said, ‘What is this thing that sounds so beautiful?’ and it was the berimbau.”

The berimbau is a single-string instrument that looks like a bow and arrow, and it leads participants through the movements—the faster the berimbau is played, the faster the students must move.

“I started teaching about eight years ago. I was actually leading a school in Ogden. I was part of a group—the school was here in Salt Lake, but they attempted to branch out. During the pandemic, I left the group, as I wanted to teach close to home, and now I’m here,” Locatelli said.

Training capoeira has enabled students to improve their own personal lives, with a sense of more awareness and even creativity.

Another South Salt Lake resident, Emerson Andrews, has been training capoeira for the last 15 years. “I’ve always been interested in martial arts, but honestly, it was the video game, Tekken, and the movie, ‘Only the Strong,’” Andrews said. “I play a lot of Tekken and I thought that capoeira would be fun and so I was like, ‘I’m going to go do cartwheels in the front yard.’”

Since training, Andrews has felt more focus and love for himself as he has taught himself how to play music, learn different languages and to appreciate his body. “Just having a lot of body issues growing up. I was always a bigger dude, and capoeira really empowered me in that way. It’s a space to really immerse yourself in the moment. It’s a place of a lot of joy and evolution.”

Andrews had even been inspired to travel and backpack through Brazil to train where roots in capoeira sprouted. “I want to stay healthy and keep in moving. Capoeira is a really powerful thing. It’s a space where a lot of people come to cultivate joy.”

“I just love the fluidness of the movement,” said Tyson Hake, who had wrestled throughout high school and college. “There were a lot of specific rules, like weight classes.  Capoeira is almost the complete opposite of that—much more loose, much more free. I still love wrestling very much; the contrast is comforting.”

Anyone can learn and train in capoeira, regardless of age or gender. Like any martial art form, it takes a good amount of patience to learn the technique and style, and it seems to be worth it as it incorporates many aspects of life, from focusing and drawing motivation to self-defense and improving skills on the dance floor. Classes are held Tuesdays at The HERC, 2505 S. State Street. Visit for more information.