Capoeira Mandinga is the name of a capoeira group that has existed in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1984, when Mestre Marcelo Pereira started it under the name of Senzala Grande.
Different than the literal translation given by the Brazilian Portuguese dictionary, the word Mandinga has its own meaning in the capoeira world. The Aurelio dictionary translates the word mandinga as a “magic” or “spell.” In some senses that meaning applies to capoeira, but in a different context.
Mandinga in the capoeira environment means, amongst many things, the hidden power that one has to disguise their real intention and to trick the opponent. It is a way to invoke some forces to blur the opponent’s vision of reality almost like hypnotizing him/her into a trance-like state so that they can’t see what is coming. It can also be magic like a trick that confuses and distracts the opponent. However, much more than any of the above meanings the word mandinga have a very special meaning as a way of referring to capoeiristas that are very expressive in their game and know how to embellish their jogo with beautiful and impressive gestures. These gestures are sometimes very theatrical, sometimes like a primitive dance, and sometimes imitating all kinds of animals (e.g. monkey, jaguar, snake, eagle, bull, and many others).