Born in Bahia, Brazil, Mestre Jelon Vieira studied the Afro-Brazilian art form capoeira with tradition-bearers Mestres Bimba, Eziquiel, and Bobo, as well as Afro-Brazilian dance at the Escola de Ballet Teatro Castro Alves. Since his arrival in the United States in the 1970s, Vieira has been at the forefront of promoting and presenting traditional capoeira through performing, teaching, and providing a wealth of knowledge and expertise on Brazilian culture to scholars and historians. In 1977, he founded DanceBrazil, a professional company of contemporary and traditional dancers and musicians that has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad, including performances at the Festival of Vienna, Austria; Spoleto USA in South Carolina; South Bank Theatre in London, England; the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC; and Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. Vieira also founded the Capoeira Foundation in the 1980s to promote Afro-Brazilian cultural forms —-- particularly dance and music -- through educational, presenting, and producing activities. Inherent in capoeira is the music that accompanies the movement. A gifted mover in his day, Vieira still performs the berimbau on stage. A single-stringed instrument that is an integral part of the art form, the berimbau is often referred to as the soul of capoeira. In 2000, Vieira was recognized by the Brazilian Cultural Center in New York City for being the "Pioneer of Capoeira in the United States."
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