Home » Dance troupe brings international culture to Webutuck

Dance troupe brings international culture to Webutuck

WEBUTUCK — Odds are that most students in the Webutuck Central School District weren’t up on their capoeira before Nego Gato performed for grades seven to 12 during a special assembly sponsored by the arts and education department.

Nego Gato is a traveling musical troupe that specializes in Afro-Brazilian music and dance, specifically the aforementioned capoeira, which mixes martial arts, music and dance.

The ensemble group, led by performer Nego Gato himself, worked with Webutuck’s students all day Tuesday, Nov. 16, and all morning on Nov. 17 during their physical education classes, teaching them some moves.

“They said we were learning the ABCs of their dance,” said senior Adam Jasmin, laughing.

“The real basics,” added senior Jenifer Dean, who said the best part of the experience was the opportunity to learn about a different culture.

As the group explained, capoeira was developed by African slaves who were brought to Brazil, and, not being able to continue to practice martial arts in the open, incorporated the moves into song and dance routines. It has grown into the second most popular sport in Brazil. The first?

“Soccer!” the students in the audience called out correctly (or futbol, to get technical).

Webutuck art teacher Samuel FitzGerald, who was responsible for organizing the event, explained in an interview after the performance that the troupe has visited Webutuck before, nearly a decade ago. FitzGerald said the idea was to bring different cultures and experiences to the students in an effort to bolster a positive school climate. He said he was inspired to bring back the group through discussions with the previous interim superintendent, Lee Bordick.

The cost to bring the program to the school was raised completely through a variety of fundraisers including chicken barbecues, private donations and assistance from the Webutuck Teacher’s Association, FitzGerald said, because funding wasn’t available in the school’s budget.

“It really was so well received,” he said. “Tuesday they worked all day with the gym classes, and the kids really got a feel for what the troupe does. The performance itself was so musical and dance oriented and the historical component came out as well. It was very educational and hopefully will become an annual fixture of our school culture.”

FitzGerald said he was hoping to bring Nego Gato back next year and a similar program highlighting Native American culture will be held on Dec. 3.

“Are there any more questions?” the troupe asked the audience near the end of the performance, after dozens of students had joined the dancers and musicians on stage.

“Can we do this again?” was called out, to applause from the audience.

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