"When I first arrived here in New York I did a lot of work at the public schools. I frequently went to the Bronx and before break dancing was considered a style of dancing, or was successful, there wasn’t even music involved at that time. I used to see boys break dancing their breaks at school, in the streets and on the street corners, mainly during the summer. This was in 1975 and these boys, from the public schools, sometimes participated and began to be introduced to capoeira....

It was like a show, a lecture. At that time, we did not speak English, so there was a person who translated everything for us. Loremil and I, both with our berimbau, would put a vinyl record on because there was no one to play for us while we were showing the boys capoeira. They were crazy about it. After each show, everybody wanted to talk to us and invited us to their break dancing circles. At that time, break dancing was totally different than it is today. It was more of a cultural movement than a commercial thing, and it also had identification and styles within each neighborhood."

-Jelon Vieira

Monday, October 14, 2019

Capoeira at the Disco: Cachaca and Hippopotamus

In previous posts, we've seen that Jelon Vieira and Loremil Machado performed capoeira and other Brazilian dances in settings as varied as street corners in the Bronx, to Central Park, to community centers, dance schools and off-Broadway stages.  Add to the list, upscale nightclub/discos.  Olivier Coquelin, nicknamed "Disco Daddy," opened the first discotheque in New York with Le Club, in 1960, and achieved further notoriety in 1966 with Cheetah.  Vieira and Machado found work performing at his upstairs/downstairs clubs, Cachaca and Hippopotamus.  The Brazilian-themed Cachaca opened in March 1977, one month before Studio 54.

To make money to survive, I did shows in a club called “Cachaça and Hippopotamus” For a long time, in the late 70s and early 80s it was a famous New York club. It was a way for me to cover my expenses, the income from teaching was not enough. I didn’t have many students and I did not want to be find a job where I would be underemployed.... [Loremil Machado and I] put on shows at Cachaça every Wednesday for four to five years and that helped us pay for rent, buy groceries and live.
-Jelon Vieira, in his 2007 interview with Mauricio Barros de Castro

The following video is from the latter half of a ten minute feature aired in 1979 on WPVI Philadelphia's videomagazine show "The Speed of Thought."  In it, Loremil Machado (longer hair) and Jelon Vieira perform capoeira in a nightclub in 1979. This was probably at Cachaca. Note the live jazz accompaniment, the playful style, the solo turns, the show-off attitude. I see some elements of breaking, and some of Loft style. Click on image to play.

From WPVI Philadelphia's "Speed of Thought (1979)"

Cachaca matchbook
Hippopotamus matchbook

Eye, Feb. 16, 1977

Larry Peabody on the bar at Cachaca, WWD March 17, 1977

New York Magazine, April 2, 1979

Ad in Interview Magazine , June 1977

Olivier Coquelin talked about his new club in the June 1977 issue of Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine.

Interview Magazine June 1977

Coquelin apparently changed his mind about the entertainment by 1980, as evidenced by the following clippings from Variety and Back Stage in 1980.

Variety, March 12, 1980

Variety, March 12, 1980

Back Stage, February 29, 1980

"Daddy Disco" Olivier Coquelin in front of his club "Cachaca." date unknown