Last month, CultureALL intern Hannah Cross interviewed Brazilian CultureALL Ambassadors Holly Sells and Julio Arruda dos Santos. Here’s what Hannah has shared from her interview:
Holly Sells and Julio Arruda dos Santos are CultureALL Ambassadors representing the country of Brazil. They teach the art of Capoeira – and will be part of the entertainment at CultureALL’s Brazilian Ball.
What is Capoeira?
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of music, dance, combat, and acrobatics. Developed by African slaves in Brazil during the 16th century, it was first disguised as a dance or game then later used as a tool of survival and revolution. Today, Capoeira is taught and practiced all over the world for both fun and fitness. Holly and Julio not only teach Capoeira workshops for CultureALL, they also provide ongoing classes for people of all ages through their company Fitness Connections.
Holly first got interested in Capoeira when she studied Portuguese at the University of Northern Iowa. When a professor paid for a Capoeira master to come to the college to try and grow the program, Holly was drawn to the art. She left the United States and traveled to Brazil – but not as a tourist. She wanted to really learn the culture.
Holly stayed for eight months in the Brazilian slums learning the Portuguese language and Capoeira. She then moved back to the states and continued her training traveling along the coast to meet teachers and go to Capoeira academies. Following her Capoeira Mestre (master), she moved to Paris to continue training and performing around Europe. She also met Julio, who is now her husband and business partner.
Julio grew up in Brazil. His interest in Capoeira was sparked more than twenty years ago while watching a performance at school. One of the performers – a brother of one of Julio’s friends – was a Capoeira Mestre. After training with him, Julio began teaching Capoeira at schools in Brazil and performed for tourists at a popular Brazilian restaurant. In 2007, he moved to Mexico to teach workshops and travel. In 2008, he moved to Paris to perform and teach where he began working with Holly. The couple moved to Des Moines in 2012 and began teaching Capoeira in Iowa.
Check out this video of Holly and Julio from KCCI TV’s “In The Artist Studio:”
Working as Brazilian CultureALL Ambassadors
Holly had done a few workshops in the schools for CultureALL before moving to Paris. When she moved back to the states, both she and Julio became CultureALL Ambassadors. Their workshops on Capoeria and Brazilian culture are frequently requested and very popular with students – not just because Capoeira is so much fun – but also because of how much they learn about Brazilian culture.
When asked about facts about Brazil that people don’t know or misconceptions we generally have, Julio stated that, “We are not just black people. There are many foreigners residing in the country and it’s a mixed country. Everybody’s Brazilian, no matter where you are from.” Holly agreed and said, “Brazilians are happy despite being poor. They are very resourceful despite not having a lot.” The two stressed that you can now find Capoeira all over the world, not just in Brazil. There are groups in any major city in the U.S. and every country in the world. Capoeira is known to bring all different kinds of people together. It is all-inclusive, everyone can participate, and you’ll make friends through the rhythmic art.
Holly and Julio are part of the entertainment committee for CultureALL’s Brazilian Ball. The two of them – along with some some special guest artists from Kansas City and Michigan – will be performing and dancing at the event, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 13 at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates.. Click the link below to get your tickets: