Depending on the capacity in which you know him, you either call the head instructor at New York Capoeira Center (Capoeira Angola Quintal) “Michael Goldstein” or “Mestre Ombrinho.” No matter which name you use, you should know that he is also a recipient of the Lower East Side Community Leadership Award.
The award was presented to him at a ceremony June 17 that took place during the weekly outdoor theater series, Arts for All/Arte Pa’ Mi Gente, which was put on by Teatro SEA. Capoeira Angola Quintal and Teatro SEA are both located in the Clemente at 107 Suffolk St.
The award presentation directly followed the last class that night, which was an introductory course for adults looking to learn the basics of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art and dance form. A number of the mestre’s students were on hand to watch him accept the award. Among them were Lee-Sean Huang and Hazel Chi, both of whom teach adult classes at the center.
“It’s really exciting for us to be here today,” explained Huang, who has been at CAQ since 2010. “I think this is a tremendous honor. Mestre has been working in capoeira for over 30 years and it’s great that in this building full of artists from different media and cultures, we can acknowledge all of his work from over the decades.”
Chi, too, was excited to watch the mestre receive the award. She’s seen him work so hard for the community and said it was nice to see the community do something similarly nice for him. “He really cares about the community and about his students,” she said, of the man who was the first North American capoeira master.
Both Huang and Chi mentioned that CAQ works in schools and communities beyond the Lower East Side, but it was the mestre himself who was most eager to point out that the center’s mission is to bring fitness and fun to kids and adults all around the state and beyond. Still, the Lower East Side will always be CAQ’s home, especially given how welcoming and accommodating the Clemente has been. Moreover, the mestre himself has lived on the LES since 1981, making him a real product of the neighborhood!
“I feel there’s lots of times people don’t get awards for their service and I’m lucky this time,” he said. “I’ve been doing this work for a long, long time.”
He went on to praise his students, many of whom, like Huang and Chi, are teachers of capoeira themselves. “They represent the best of our community and show what capoeira can do,” he said.
While accepting the award, he played a berimbau, which is an instrument used by capoeiristas to set the tone for jogos, or fights. He even led the audience in a traditional song.
In the true spirit of community, the mestre delivered his remarks in Portuguese, then passed the microphone to Huang and Luis Gonzalez, who translated into English and Spanish. Because Teatro SEA is one of the premiere Latino theaters and specializes in bilingual arts-in-education, the gesture was fitting and representative of the care the mestre takes to honor the differences that make everyone — in the Clemente and outside of it — unique.