Mestre Jelon Vieira, founder of Capoeira Luanda, is a world-renowned master and teacher of Capoeira. Born in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, Brazil, in 1953, he started at the age of ten training with at Capoeira Angola with Mestre Emerito and later with Mestre Bobô. In 1969, he met Mestre Eziquiel with whom he studied Capoeira Regional. He also had the honor of attending classes at Mestre Bimba’s academy.
In 1977, Vieira and the late Loremil Machado formed The Capoeiras of Bahia (later changed to DanceBrazil at the suggestion of the late Alvin Ailey) and became the first to bring traditional Afro-Brazilian dance and capoeira to the United States. As artistic director of The Capoeira Foundation and of DanceBrazil, Vieira has devoted more than thirty years to bringing electrifying performances of capoeira and Afro-Brazilian music and dance to audiences in the United States, Brazil, Asia, and Europe.
In September 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts award Vieira a National Heritage Fellowship in recognition of his artistic excellence and his contributions to the nation’s traditional arts heritage.
Mr. Vieira teaches capoeira to people of all ages and from all walks of life in both Brazil and the United States. He has taught the soccer great Pele and American movie stars Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy. Although he resides in New York, Mr. Vieira spends several months a year in Brazil. One of his long term goals is to open a center for underprivileged children, using capoeira to build self-esteem and self-discipline and to begin moving these children off the streets and into the educational system and mainstream society.
In the United States, Mr. Vieira has taught in many residency workshops and has been a guest instructor at Yale University’s African-American Studies Department since 1982. He has also taught at many other universities and colleges including Oberlin College, Columbia University, Stanford University, Duke University, and the University of Nebraska. He has worked with several American dance companies including Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. He has also worked closely with other cultural institutes in the United States such as the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York and the Carver Community Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas. In 1993, after a decade of collaboration between DanceBrazil and the Carver Cultural Community Center, Mr. Vieira and Carver Center Director Jo Long decided to create Ilê Bahia de San Antonio, the House of African-Brazilian Arts. The organization was incorporated in 1993 to establish a professional level instruction and training center in the African-Brazilian performing arts. Special emphasis is placed on training at-risk, minority youth in a positive and culturally affirming activity.
When at home in Brazil, he teaches children and young adults in his home community of Boca do Rio, using Capoeira to build self-esteem, instill self-discipline and to raise social consciousness while helping his students become a vital part of their own community.