Sino West Performing Arts serves as the meeting place of two disciplines: dance and kung fu. Under the tutelage of four experienced instructors, kids and adults learn, hone, and perfect skills in a variety of art forms. Atop sprung floors of recycled rubber and beneath ceilings of repurposed clouds, they practice in one of two airy, well-lit studios. Curricula under the dance umbrella include Chinese dance, tai chi, ballet, Zumba, and yoga, while martial-arts practitioners take classes in Shaolin kung fu, MMA, and weaponry, among others. The class selection is diverse, but no matter the chosen course, enrollees report increased levels of confidence, self-discipline, and bragging rights.
A typical workout at SB Krav Maga can look intimidating at first??chokeholds, plastic training handguns, lightning-fast kicks in the gut??but after closer examination, the images lose their menace. Krav maga, a fighting technique designed by the Israeli army to transform civilians into soldiers as quickly and effectively as possible, focuses on learning self-defense against armed and unarmed assailants. Students jump right into learning the basics, working in small groups to refine techniques such as escaping from chokeholds, fending off multiple attackers, and women's self-defense techniques. High-intensity cardio drills are sprinkled throughout the classes that focus mostly on performing drills with a partner decked in pads.
Mestre Mariano Silva, a dancer and student of the Brazilian martial art capoeira, has always believed that "if you can walk, then you can dance." This positivity permeates everything he does, from his work with underprivileged youth to his time professionally dancing. It was this contagious optimism that caught the attention of master Amen Santo in Brazil, who invited him to tour globally with the renowned Ballet Folclorico do Brasil. As it turned out, Mariano was a huge hit, playing to sold-out crowds all over the world. His skill and popularity on the stage led Amen to convince him to relocate to Southern California and bring his passion for Afro-Brazilian dance to the States. Today, Mariano owns Capoeira Batuque Santa Barbara along with the Brazilian Cultural Arts Center of Santa Barbara, sharing his talents and affirmative worldview with adults and children through a slew of classes and community-outreach programs.
Each of mestre Mariano's fast-paced classes introduces pupils to the rhythmic techniques and cultural significance of traditional Afro-Brazilian dance forms. Capoeira—considered Brazil's second national sport—fuses martial-arts techniques with the rhythmic and collaborative elements of dance. He teaches stylistic combat maneuvers, which weave in aerial acrobatics and various instruments. During his Afro-Brazilian dance class, he'll calibrate students' hips to swivel to movements that fuse traditional African dance with Brazilian moves, and in his Samba classes, he introduces students to the history, culture, and traditions inextricably linked to each movement. He also lets dancers try their hand or fourth toe at banging timbaus, repiniques, and other Brazilian drums in the Brazilian batucada drumming course.