Little-known and holding their own

Chris Pizana, a member of Capoeira Nago, kicks over instuctor Marc Adesso in the dance-style martial art.
Chris Pizana, a member of Capoeira Nago, kicks over instuctor Marc Adesso in the dance-style martial art.

There are about 200 registered student organizations on campus, from fraternities and sororities, to club sports teams, to community service organizations, with new ones formed every year.

With so many organizations vying for membership, it’s not surprising that some of the little ones get ignored. For them, the struggle is not just to thrive, but to survive.

Capoeira kicks it up

Step aside, break-dance fighting. There’s a new dance-style martial art on campus, and it’s called Capoeira Nago.

According to group president Ben Self, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, Capoeira Nago is an Afro-Brazilian art form invented by African slaves brought to Brazil. Once in the Americas, their need to learn self-defense forced them to find a creative method of education that wouldn’t raise the suspicions of slave masters.

The result: a unique blend of folk dance, entertainment and combat that evolved into Capoeira as it is known today.

“It’s very light-hearted, very loose, very playful,” Self said. “There’s nothing like it.”

While the Marquette group has about five or six regular members, Self said he’s not especially worried about the club’s future. He said it tends to get a lot of signatures at O-Fest, but not a lot of those signatures translate into actual participants.

He does say those members who do show up are very committed.

“There’s lots of family atmosphere in Capoeira Nago,” Self said.

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Because of its small size, the Marquette capoeira group is affiliated with other groups in the Milwaukee area, Self said. This allows members to attend either the two practices offered weekly on Marquette’s campus or any of the others offered around the city.

The ability to practice when and where it’s convenient is a major benefit for Marquette members, Self said.

Capoeira “games” are initiated by the formation of the roda (pronounced “hoda”), a circle created by the participants. Two competitors then step into the middle of the circle and begin their match.

During the match, the members of the roda clap or sing along with the music, adding to the overall ambiance. Dancers then rotate in and out of the center, pairs “battling” each other one by one.

The moves used by the dancers are varied, ranging from simple sweep kicks and sidesteps to cartwheels, flips and various other acrobatic feats.

Unlike many other martial arts, the point of capoeira is not to actually strike the opponent, so most “attacks” are started but not completed. This emphasizes the skill of dancers over their ability to physically defeat the opponent.

While Self said the group is always looking for new members, he said he’s content to stick with word of mouth and the occasional demonstration to advertise Capoeira Nago. His philosophy on the matter is as casual and light-hearted as capoeira itself.

“People always seem to find us,” Self said.

Film Society fades in

This next society is relatively unknown at Marquette — a side effect of the fact that it’s only been around since September.

It’s called Fade In: Film Society, and it’s the first organization of its kind at Marquette. The group’s focus is on viewing and discussing films from multiple time periods and genres.

Current President Alex Gelhar, a junior in the College of Communication, said he thought of the organization last year, after realizing there was nothing comparable on campus. This realization and his love for film gave him the motivation to start the group.

“I’ve had a big interest in film my whole life,” Gelhar said.

Gelhar said his major concern, and the concern of his faculty advisors, is that the organization might not survive past his tenure as president. He said he’ll have two years with the organization, but after that, it’s up to the rest of the members to carry it on.

“I hope it becomes a staple on campus,” Gelhar said.

After filling out the paperwork last year and establishing an executive board, Gelhar and Fade In were ready to go by the beginning of this year. Gelhar said the group had a booth at O-Fest and now has 90 people on its mailing list.

While this only translated into 30 to 40 regular members, he said he’s glad to see this much interest in the organization so early on. He envisioned a few more members, but added that this would be enough for right now.

“I’d love to see it grow more, though,” Gelhar said.

Since it has only just started, Gelhar said the film society hasn’t held any major events yet. Group members currently meet about twice a month to discuss their plans for the year.

“We’re not really an organization that hinges on having meetings every week,” Gelhar said.

Gelhar added he likes to add a fun aspect to the meeting, such as a game or movie trivia.

At the most recent meeting, Gelhar said they discussed an upcoming movie screening, tentatively scheduled for mid-October. He said the movie shown would be the Coen Brothers’ “The Hudsucker Proxy,” a dark comedy in which a lowly mailroom clerk is chosen to become the head of a corporation to topple it.

Gelhar explained his rationale for selecting the film as a mix of the unknown and the familiar.

“Not a lot of people had seen it,” he said, “but a lot of people love the Coen Brothers.”

Making democracy matter

In our modern political climate, forming a bipartisan political organization can seem impossible, even oxymoronic. So can achieving fairer elections through campaign reform.

But these goals don’t seem so lofty to Democracy Matters President Eric Pond, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“There’s all this talk about big business, big money and big politics,” Pond said. “If we want to get rid of it, why not target elections?”

Pond said Democracy Matters is a national organization founded at Colgate University determined to clean up elections through a nationwide grassroots campaign. He runs Marquette’s chapter, which has 15 members.

Pond said the low number of members is mostly because of a large turnover last semester, when many of the seniors in Democracy Matters graduated. This has forced Pond to allocate a lot of his time to recruitment, mostly through indirect means.

“We’re always looking for more members,” Pond said. “With the turnover, though, we’re just trying to get the message out.”

On the other hand, Pond said the organization’s size does have its upsides. He said they now have a strong core group of older and younger members very devoted to the cause.

“Because we only have a few members, everyone is very involved with the issue,” Pond said.

Pond said Democracy Matters meets every two weeks to plan for upcoming events and discuss current events. He said the group plans to focus on campus awareness of campaign finance reform and corruption in politics.

“Our goal is making people aware of the money in politics,” he said.

Pond said he also hopes to get some speakers to come to campus and discuss key issues in either a question-and-answer or forum-style event. He hasn’t formalized any events yet.

One potential speaker would be Bob Edgar, the CEO of Common Cause, a nonprofit progressive organization intended to make politics more accountable to the common people.

Pond said another would be U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-W.I., who, along with Sen. John McCain, R-A.Z., is one of the major supporters of campaign finance reform in Congress.

McCain and Feingold co-sponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which amended the financing of political campaigns. The bill addressed two issues: prohibiting candidates from raising or spending funds not subject to federal limits and limiting issue advocacy ads in which third parties, like corporations, support candidates indirectly.

The group has more immediate plans, however. Pond said a small group of members are going to Franklin, Wis., Wednesday to testify before state Rep. Jeff Smith about statewide campaign finance reform, and the group as a whole will be hosting a promotional event Friday.

“Dogs for Democracy,” taking place in Central Mall from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Friday, will give Marquette students a chance to buy hot dogs on the go, and Democracy Matters a chance to spread their message.

“We want people to look where the money’s going,” Pond said.