There are a few good schools in Pelourinho where you can either watch or learn capoeira. Mestre Bimba's academy, located on the Rua das Laranjeiras 1, Pelourinho (tel. 071/3492-3197; www.capoeiramestrebimba.com.br), is the best known and is well set up to receive foreign students of all levels of experience, even those who want to try it for the first time. Visitors are welcome to have a look during lessons, but to see some good capoeira it is best to visit during the demonstrations Tuesday through Saturday, from 7 to 8pm. In high season there is a second demonstration at 8pm. The school asks for a small contribution to take pictures and to support the school, which offers free classes to children from low-income communities. For those interested in taking a lesson, the academy offers 1-hour lessons for R$15 per person, no experience required (wear long comfortable pants and a T-shirt or tank top). If you buy a package of 5 or 10 lessons the price drops to R$10 per lesson. The groups are very small, never more than three or four students per teacher. Contact the academy to schedule a lesson.
Another popular school is the Associação Brasileira de Capoeira Angola, Rua Gregorio de Matos 38, Pelourinho (tel. 071/3321-3087). This school also holds lessons and regular demonstrations. Each class costs R$20 or you can purchase a package of six lessons for R$75. Contact the office for more details.
Many of the "spontaneous" capoeira demonstrations that take place around Pelourinho and the Mercado de Modelo are held for the benefit of tourists. They're fun to watch, but keep in mind that if you look on for a while and especially if you take pictures, you're expected to contribute some money to the group. Depending on how good the show is and how long I watch, I usually give between R$5 and R$10.
To watch a more authentic presentation, visit the Forte de Santo Antonio Alem do Carmo, aka the Capoeira Fort. Located at the very end of the Rua Direita de Santo Antonio, the fort is home to the capoeira academy of Mestre João Pequeno de Pastinha (tel. 071/3321-7587). Events here take place on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 7:30 to 9:30pm and on Sunday from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
The Ever-Present Capoeira
In Salvador, it is physically impossible not to witness the Brazilian martial art known as capoeira. Particularly around Pelourinho, you're bound to hear the sounds of the drums and the metallic drone of the berimbau (a banjolike instrument) as you walk around and catch a glimpse of two opponents spinning and kicking in a graceful half-fight, half-dance.
Though its origins are somewhat murky, most agree that capoeira evolved from rituals brought to Brazil by slaves from what is now Angola. The story goes that the slave owners were intimidated by the martial-arts rituals practiced by these tribes, and so tried to ban capoeira outright. The Africans then came up with a less-threatening form of the martial art, with a lot of moves that are more dance and acrobatics than martial arts. Capoeira was eventually outlawed anyway and its practitioners forced underground.
The practice never really went away, however, and with the changing times the public became more tolerant of capoeira. Finally in the '50s, capoeira received the establishment seal of approval when President Getulio Vargas referred to it as the only "true Brazilian sport."
The most popular spectator sport in town is soccer. The Otavio Mangabeira Stadium, built in the '50s, holds 80,000 people and hosts many important games. The big local teams are Esporte Clube Bahia and Esporte Clube Vitória. Contact the tourist information for details on upcoming games or contact the stadium at tel. 071/3243-3322.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.