Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Tatjana Lipiäinen (University of Eastern Finland)

Afro-Brazilian Moves in Russian Bodies

What is it like to experience Afro-Brazilian moves in Russian bodies and what can this tell us about Russian society more broadly? Two groups practising an Afro-Brazilian art-form capoeira angola in Samara and Ufa have been studied ethnographically. Based on participant observation, physical aspects of the art-form can be agonising for young office workers. Capoeira angola developed in contexts remote from contemporary global jobholders society. An office worker today must constantly practice the moves of capoeira to be able to perform them at all as they require physical strength that many of the Russian practitioners do not have before getting involved in the art-form. The aesthetics of capoeira angola is difficult to understand for many beginners. The moves are often carried out with hands on the ground, buttocks up in the air, head upside-down. Pairs tend to move slowly in a game of angola, their acrobatics is not visually immediately impressive, often appearing clumsy and strange. The moves are seen as too masculine by some Russian females while they are not masculine enough for some Russian male observers. Capoeira angola's movements in Western categories are a mix of dancing and fighting, hence, an intermarriage of traditional gender roles. The more experienced practitioners in Samara and Ufa are aware of the aesthetic subtleties of capoeira angola that are not visible to a novice. It is often a newfound control of one's body and its diverse engagement in play that enables a practitioner to experience the physical richness of capoeira. One cannot necessarily see it from the outside, particularly if judging the practice by conventional Western aesthetic standards. A class of capoeira angola in Russia thus challenges its participants to develop physically, to reconsider gender roles, to review one's understanding of what is beautiful and how it is experienced - visually or somatically. Such inter-cultural embodied experiences and their wider implications for the Russian society will be discussed in the presentation.