The moves and sounds of Brazil filled the auditorium at Moulton Elementary School on May 13 as students took part in a year-end celebration of a unique after-school program.

The moves and sounds were part of Capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts that incorporates dance, acrobatics and music. Capoeira traces its beginnings back to the 16th century.

Roots Capoeira De Ouro is a new Iowa nonprofit making this opportunity available to students. Founded by Shalina Wallace, the music teacher at Moulton, along with her husband E.J. Wallace and Rebecca Schleuger-Valadao, their group is in its second year of after-school programming at the school. Their goal is to not only teach students Capoeira but to use it as a tool to transcend socio-economic barriers and support students and their families by promoting good health, building community among participants, and sharing cultures.

“It has been exciting to see our students respond to the self-discipline and self-control that Capeoira requires,” says Eric Van Dorin, Principal at Moulton Elementary. “Students from Moulton who have chosen to sign up have benefited from those elements within their classrooms as well. Every time I see them practicing, their smiles, even through their determination, have been infectious.”

Several Capoeira teachers from around the country joined the Wallaces and Schleuger-Valadao at the event. While the adults demonstrated some moves, they were there primarily to support the students as well as provide the musical accompaniment in an ensemble that included drums and other traditional instruments such as the berimbau, a long single-string instrument.

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On stage the students demonstrated the flips, kicks, spins and other moves they acquired as part of their new discipline. Students who have been with the program this past year were then presented with a cordao, a belt similar to what is presented in other martial arts, as a sign of their growth and success in the program.

When all was said and done on stage, the tastes of Brazil came next as students, families and teachers…