After warming up with a number of keepie uppies with the football, the performers stripped off to reveal their scarily toned bodies and set about showing me what they could do.
It was obvious this group of athletic Brazilians are an extremely gifted bunch. Some were playing their drums in the rhythmic samba beat; others were doing back flips and practising capoeira– a martial art performed to music. Meanwhile, Brazil’s national football freestyle champion, Arthur Mansilla, was busy juggling the football in all manner of ways.
Brazil! Brazil! explores the link between capoeira, samba, and football. The show also tells the story of how the origins of these cultural obsessions in Brazil stem from slavery – particularly in the north-eastern Bahia region.
The skills needed for capoeira, samba and football are very similar. The word Ginga, which means dodging, is used in all three activities. While capoeira and samba were formed by slaves, Brazilian football was transformed by them into what it is today.
Mickey Beigi, a capoeira artist from Salvador da Bahia told me: “I practised capoeira since I was ten years old and today capoeira and dancing is my job, my work and my life. In Brazil everybody likes capoeira and everybody likes music. My capoeira has taught me a good life; it has shown me different cultures and different people.”
He tells me how excited he is to be in London: “It’s my first time in London but I have [always] intended to come to London because it is so big and so beautiful,” he says. “I haven’t seen much yet but once the show has started I want to see more. I want to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Harrods.”
Beigi also says he is looking forward to watching the World Cup while in London. With Brazil fever surrounding every World Cup, there is no better time to showcase the Brazilian culture. The show forms part of Southbank Centre’s three-month Festival Brazil.