Marcia Treidler (Mestre Cigarra), the founding artistic director of ABADA Capoeira San Francisco, began learning the art of capoeira from her mentor, the famous Mestre Camisa starting in 1982.
A few years later she began teaching the art to others in her home country, Brazil. From there, Treidler fought hard to get her work visa so that she could begin teaching in the United States and founded a new branch of ABADA in San Francisco.
Since then, Treidler has brought Afro-Brazilian culture to the Mission district by teaching capoeira, percussion, Brazilian dance and the Portuguese language. She has demonstrated her abilities as a natural leader and role model to students in San Francisco and around the world.
Thirty Years of
ABADA Capoeira SF
An Interview with Marcia Treidler
by Silvia Rodriguez
In celebration of ABADA’s thirty-year anniversary, I spoke to Marcia Treidler, the organization's president and artistic director, to reflect on the most memorable accomplishments and struggles she has had inaugurating a Bay Area branch of the renowned worldwide cultural family. As Treidler prepares to perform with ABADA at SFIAF's outdoor program, she hopes to bring the community together through the intricate art of capoeira and later celebrate the 30th anniversary (and her birthday) with an after-party.
At its most basic, capoeira is a martial arts practice focused heavily on footwork, but it’s much more than that. Because capoeira is so diverse, anyone learning about the craft can find one aspect they connect to. Whether it be the music, the art, literature, dance or Afro-Brazilian culture, capoeira has a place for anyone and everyone. But the whole is more than the sum of the parts and that is one of the things that makes ABADA's interpretation of the form special. There is a whole philosophical dimension to the practice as well.
As Treidler explains, "At ABADA, we work to develop the person as a whole." It is not just the physical aspects that are important. "As one tries to master the art, we ask them to focus on what they can contribute to the world."
This philosophy is integral to Treidler's own personal narrative as well. After traveling to the United States two or three times to teach, she made the giant leap of starting her own San Francisco based capoeira organization in 1991. She still remembers and acknowledges the encouragement of many of her friends in supporting her bold venture. However, it was not an easy journey. Living in this country undocumented and going through the process of receiving her green card was difficult, but Treidler's training, teaching and craft motivated her to keep pushing through those first tenuous years. Although she admits there were moments where she thought it might be easier to give up and move back to Brazil, capoeira gave her faith to continue.
Once Treidler became established in the United States, she had another hurdle to face. Capoeira was a very male-dominated art form back in the 1990s. It was hard enough for any woman trying to make a mark in the field, but for an openly Lesbian immigrant it was seen as impossible. Treidler was constantly being put into a box by other practitioners in her own art form. Nevertheless, she broke many boundaries regarding what women can achieve in capoeira. She believes this resulted in one of her greatest accomplishments: breaking the stereotypical mold and advancing capoeira to a more advanced place of acceptance and diversity.
But she did not make the breakthrough entirely on her own. One of Treidler’s biggest supporters was Mestra Camisa who never treated her any differently for being a woman. He expected the same from the young Marcia as he did from her male counterparts and held her to the same strict standards. Treidler takes that same approach now that she is a mestra herself in her organization stating, “Many men can learn just as much from me as women can.”
Now, 30 years later, ABADA is an ongoing success story and Treidler balances the artistic and educational missions of the organization. When teaching the beginners, many don’t know about the various aspects─the traditions, language, history, music, dance─that comprise the martial art therefore capoeira naturally teaches those about the culture surrounding it. Those who are in more advanced levels are able to perform for large audiences because they learned how to in the early stages of their capoeira journey.
Looking in the future, Treidler dreams of contemplating a landmark production in the next few years that honors all the female influencers who made an impact to the art of capoeira dating back to its African roots. She imagines this production will consist of a documentary, a book, and to top it off: a large scale live performance showcasing female leaders.
ABADA Capoeira will present the opening concert of the Festival’s outdoor program at Fort Mason on Saturday, October 23 at noon