In a Los Angeles classroom, Amen Santo teaches students the rhythmic martial arts technique known as capoeria .
Santo, founder of the dance company Ballet Folclorico do Brasil, shares his love of the art with fifth- and sixth-grade students at Hyde Park Elementary School in Los Angeles. In a program sponsored by the Los Angeles Music Center’s education division, about 150 students attend classes and learn about Brazilian history, language, dance and music.
During the 12-week program, Santo tries to instill confidence and build self-esteem. The lessons, the artist believes, are invaluable.
“There is a need for kids to see a black role model,” said the 28-year-old Santa Monica resident. “I teach (the students to) respect and learn from other cultures.”
Santo also coordinates and performs in festivals, educational shows and events throughout Los Angeles. He hopes the shows exemplify some of Brazil’s rich culture. Part of the reason for his efforts is to show American audiences that there is more to Brazil than the stereotypes typically associated with the country.
“What we try and show people is that (Brazil) has more to offer than Carnival, sex, beautiful men and women,” he said. “We try to preserve our culture by combining traditional and contemporary dances.”
Recently, Santo showcased his talent in the feature film “Only the Strong.” He not only served as choreographer, but also made his acting debut. The film deals with violence and drugs in high schools and introduces audiences to capoeria .
“It was good for the art,” he said. “Not many people know about capoeria even thought it’s over 300 years old.”
Born in Bahia, Brazil, Santo first saw capoeria performed when he was a youngster on a street corner near his parent’s home. Then, he enrolled in a series of martial art and dance classes. When he was 17, he was asked to audition for a position with the national dance company “Viva Bahia.” Shortly after joining the company, he started performing in cities around the world, and his career flourished.
In 1985, he performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He remained in the United States to work at the Zumbi Cultural Center, where he taught classes to adults and children. He went on to establish the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Washington before creating a center four years ago in Santa Monica.
Clark Gross has been named the 1992-93 Alumnus of the Year by the Whittier College School of Law.
The Culver City resident received the award at the school’s annual awards dinner last month at the Biltmore hotel in Los Angeles. He was recognized for his service to the school and for providing counsel to students.
Gross is an attorney with the Los Angeles law firm Robbins, Berliner & Carson.
Leonard Apt has received the first Distinguished Professor Award given by the ophthalmology department at the UCLA School of Medicine.
Apt is a professor at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute in Westwood. He was honored for establishing the UCLA School of Medicine’s division of pediatric ophthalmology more than 30 years ago.
A graduate of Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, he is a resident of Bel-Air.
Los Angeles resident Genevieve Kelly has been awarded a 1993-94 Fulbright Scholarship to study European community law in Belgium.
Kelly holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a master’s degree in European studies from the Katholieke Universiteit in Belgium and a law degree from Georgetown University.
One of 2,000 students selected to study abroad, Kelly plans to complete a research project on “Human Rights in the European Community.”
The Airport Marina Counseling Service has elected Inglewood police Sgt. Alex Perez to serve on its board of directors.
Other board members include Gregory Soukup, Lois Becker, Adelle Wexler, Jill Marcellus, William Hatton and Polly Garstka.
Mail items to People Column, Suite 200, 1717 4th St., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.