Secret Lives: Dabney P. Evans 98MPH

Kay Hinton

Day Job

Assistant professor of global health in the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health

Secret Life: Avid practitioner of the Brazilian martial art of capoeira 

From the moment Dabney Evans saw capoeira masters perform the graceful, powerful movements of the “game” during an exhibition, she knew she wanted to learn the martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. 

A self-described “type-A” personality, Evans admits that repetitive classes such as step aerobics or spin class couldn’t command her attention for long, and the ever-adaptive nature of capoeira, as well as its international origins, appealed to her. Unlike most other martial arts, there is very little contact in capoeira. Instead, it involves a graceful, fluid give-and-take—or “question and answer,” according to Evans—between capoeiristas, in which each move can be anticipated and countered in numerous ways. Capoeira combines dance, acrobatics, music, and a variety of kicks and spins. Matches between participants are referred to as “games.” There is no winner or loser and no way to keep score; capoeira is focused on each participant reaching his or her own personal best in the practice. After eight years, Evans has reached the sixth of fifteen levels of capoeira mastery, each represented by a single- or multicolored braided cord worn around the waist. 

Evans began studying capoeira in 2007, as well as setting out to learn Portuguese with the goal of visiting Brazil. She traveled there for the first time in 2008, already conversant with the sport and the language. She returned to the country in 2009, meeting and training with contra mestre, or capoeira master, David de Lima. The two quickly became friends, and eventually more; they were married in 2010, and de Lima moved to Atlanta, where the couple opened a studio called Dance, Fight, Play in east Atlanta where they offer classes in capoeira, Portuguese, and other cultural arts. 

Her Words

“There are no strikes or punches; if I kick at you, I am asking you a question. How you get away from that is your answer,” Evans says. “There is a flow that happens that is really beautiful. People have one of two reactions when they see capoeira—either ‘I could never do that,’ or ‘I’m going to do that.’”

“Capoeira is not just a physical activity. It creates a sense of community, like a family. It is so much more than a bunch of people in a room kicking,” she says. “Part of the philosophy of capoeira is that there is a place for everyone. It is not necessarily about who is the strongest or the buffest. Everyone has qualities they bring to the game.”—M.M.L.

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