When Mago and Anne Lauritzen moved to Colorado Springs to start a capoeira school in 2003, their challenge wasn’t creating a new business. It was educating the public on what capoeira is: A combination of acrobatics, dance and martial arts movements performed to live Brazilian music.
The school, called Brazilian Capoeira, has 60 students and a separate dance school component called Springs Dance, which opened in 2007 and has 250 students. Two years ago, aerial silk acrobatics also became part of the business and has 60 students.
Previously, Mago worked as a plant geneticist and Anne was a radio announcer for a classical music station. But both wanted to be more involved with the community.
After training in capoeira in the late 1990s and working as part-time instructors in the U.S., the Lauritzens and 10 of their students were invited to teach workshops at Colorado College in 2002.
“It was really successful,” said Anne. “We weren’t going to drop everything we had to come out here and teach … but we came home from that experience and said, ‘You know, this part-time capoeira thing we’ve been doing for about five or six years — we’ve seen how it transforms people’s lives, how it provides them with a really strong community.’”
Before they brought the first full-time capoeira studio to Colorado, Mago and Anne lived in Brazil from 2002 to 2003. Knowing they wanted to start a capoeira studio in the U.S., the two were considering Colorado and Washington, but decided Colorado Springs would be the best fit.
“The number of people interested in fitness [here] is higher here than it is in many other places,” said Mago, who is ranked as a master in capoeira. “Capoeira is funny because it’s this extremely odd thing that sort of fits in anywhere. You can look at it and appreciate it no matter who you are.”
From 1994 to 1996, Mago also lived in Brazil, where he ran a separate business for three years and trained in capoeira and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Mago and Anne live in the Springs with their two kids, who also participate and train in the Brazilian art.
Both were aware they knew little about running a small business and spent a year reading about how to make their idea a success before opening the studio. It was a big leap of faith, Anne said.
“It’s not like we knew exactly what we were doing,” he said. “Naiveté played a big part in our decisions at that time in our life.”
The two decided to add the dance studio to help market the capoeira side of the business — and it’s worked, said Anne.
“From a business standpoint, running a small business means you’re creating a system, creating a program,” Anne said. “So many small business owners are actually self-employed. … Part of the reason we’ve been more successful in dance is [because] it’s not as weird [as capoeira], but the real benefit is Mago and I don’t teach dance, so we created [the dance] program.”
The capoeira and dance studios have succeeded since opening, Mago said, but their family had to reduce its involvement this past year after Anne received news that she has breast and thyroid cancer.
With dance instructors and some full-time staff members, the dance studio wasn’t affected by the couple’s absence, but the capoeira school has suffered, they said.
“We just went over our numbers and it’s the lowest it’s ever been,” Mago said. “We’re blaming cancer, because we are really spending half of our life at the doctor’s office right now.”
Mago and Anne were not willing to disclose the school’s revenue, but their goal is to bring in $15,000 in profit every month and recruit 120 total capoeira students once Anne is fully recovered.
Within the next two years, Mago and Anne hope to open two more similarly conceived locations in Colorado Springs.
And the studio and school are about more than just dance, martial arts or fitness, they say.
“We don’t consider ourselves a martial arts or dance studio,” Mago said. “We’re a leadership training facility and we’re a character development facility. … We use dance, martial arts, aerial silks and everything else to deliver that.”