A capoeira test drive

Want to dance, sing and fight with the Brazilian pros? We got a workout at three of Berlin’s many studios.

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Photo by German Palomeque

Want to dance, sing and fight with the Brazilian pros? We got a workout at three of Berlin’s many studios.


Before starting class at her 13-year-old studio, instructor Esmeralda assigns everyone an “incognito” name like Fada (“fairy”) or Canela (“cinnamon”), a nod to the nicknames used by capoeira’s original Angolan slave practitioners in order to protect their identities from Portuguese colonists. Esmeralda herself is a German named Anja Wurth, and her non-profit classes mix Regional and Angola styles with the sole purpose of promoting the art. Pounding a beat on the Atabaque drum, her students strike their legs high in the air, punting inches away from a fatal collision with their partners’ heads – if you’re looking to be thrown into the pit with the pros, then this is the school for you! But what seems like an aggressive Brazilian brawl is in reality surprisingly respectful. These close-knit capoeiristas only “play” at kicking and vaulting over one another, always ensuring their partner knows when to duck, and there to lend a hand to those who don’t.

Urbanstr. 93, €55/month for up to five sessions per week


Beginners who are seeking a gentler introduction to capoeira should check out Rosalvo Dos Santos’ original Capoeira Angola academy. His German-language classes, taught in a 120sqm studio in Prenzlauer Berg’s Kulturbrauerei, ease first-timers into the basic movements of the Angola style, such as the Ginga dance pattern, the Negativa crouching stance and the Chapa de costa kick. Chanting out the steps in the traditional singsong rhythm, Dos Santos guides your intimate group of up to four through a rhythmic dance routine that will have you two-stepping across the floor.

Schönhauser Allee 36, €39/three months for one session per week


If it’s a full-on Brazilian experience you’re after, head to this Portuguese-language mixed-style class in Charlottenburg taught by the Rio-born mestre Bailarino. Here, every step you make is scrutinized and practiced until you’ve mastered the art – the Brazilian way. In a group of mixed abilities, you’re often partnered with a pro to mirror, which can be daunting but ultimately rewarding when you finally get in sync. And after two and half hours of sweat and toil, Bailarino will gather you around the Berimbaus in song, thrust a Pandeiro drum in your hand, and make you play out the beat whilst your fellow capoeiristas “play” in the ring.

Leibnizstr. 102, €22/class