By Jennifer Thompson
When you walk into Passo a Frente, found in the space in Ormewood Square shopping center above Spoon, you feel welcome. It’s not just the space itself; though it is warm with wood floors and natural light allowed entry through windows on three sides of the long room. It’s the call of welcome from Dabney de Lima; the smile of her husband David; and the enthusiasm of the students.
The meaning of capoeira is intriguing: the art of fighting with a smile. History provides the substance behind the phrase. Slaves brought this martial arts form to Brazil disguised as dance, so slave owners would not recognize the martial arts skill practiced and handed down though generations. There is no contact; the goal is when your opponent strikes, you don’t block by accompany it by avoiding the movement. It is not called a fight; it is a game with two people in a circle. “The game is question and answer. You have to use strategy to trick your opponent, think ahead of what they might do and think of ways to anticipate their next move,” Dabney explains.
Capoeira is music and community. Dabney continues, “There is no capoeira without music. There is a call and response in the music and if you are not playing the game you are clapping and singing.” Participants not within the circle form a chorus and sing songs handed down through generations, each with secondary meanings that can give insight to the dancers. Participants also learn how to play the traditional instruments: the, pandeiro, which is like a tambourine; the atabaque, which is a drum that looks a conga; and the main instrument, a single-stringed instrument called a berimbau.
Capoeira is not just exercise and music; it is reclamation, it is tradition. With music and tradition comes language, as the songs are handed down in the Portuguese tongues. “This is my dream,” David de Lima says: to preserve Brazilian tradition, to bring Capoeira to other people. At first meeting, he seems shy and his wife translates his answers into English. But with the children, any language barrier is erased and there is mutual trust and joy. His voice is strong and melodic as he calls out instructions and his young students leap and turn cartwheels for the sheer joy of movement and approval from their instructor, whom each clearly adore. Dabney is the perfect partner, nurturing and guiding, bringing a sense of order to the near chaos. It is clear why these students’ parents were so eager to help the studio find its new home. Lillian Miller’s daughter Ellie invited the couple to her birthday party. “My daughter LOVES them. I love that they learn Portuegese, the instruments, and that they learn capoeira since it is unlike anything else. It’s like three classes in one.”
“I think pets have been named after them,” Sharon Yarborough adds. With Miller, Yarborough was instrumental in bring Passo a Frente to Ormewood Square. Her child Sagan has been taking classes at Passo a Frente for a year and a half and Sharon attends the adult class. There are some differences in the approach but the classes are essentially the same. When asked what makes the class special, Yarborough thinks about it. “It’s a supportive atmosphere, it feels like you’re in a support group at the same time you are in an exercise class. It makes you feel like you want to try it.”
Through a partnership with the dance company I am Movement, Passo a Frente was able to move from its prior Kirkwood location to its new 1800 square feet home, sub-leasing the space from Absolute Body Symmetry. The studio is one of several Passo a Frente locations throughout Atlanta offering both children and adult classes in Brazilian martial arts.
Current class offerings at the Ormewood location are: Monday 5:00pm-6:00pm, kids 5 to 15 and from 6:00pm-7:00pm adults 15 and up. Adult classes are held Monday and Wednesdays from 6:00pm-7:00pm. On Fridays, class is from 5:00pm-6:00pm and is for kids 3-15. Two additional classes are being added in August. All are welcome to attend and the first class is always free. “Just show up and wear comfortable clothes,” Dabney says with a smile.
Passo a Frente is located at 749 Moreland Avenue, Suite C-201 (2nd floor studio). To find out more, go to .