Oh gosh, I haven't bored you with talk of capoeira in a while. I better fix that.
Practice is paying off. I can now sing and play the pandeiro simultaneously, at least most of the time, and in the roda I maybe use the right defense for the attack at least half of the time. (The rest of the time I either react with the wrong instinct, or I just don't know how to counter the attack.)
One thing I started doing that helped was I decided that every time we played, I would pick out three attacks in advance and be sure to use them. I figured, if I went in knowing I was going to do a bensao instead of having to pick from the total array of possible moves, I wouldn't be overwhelmed. Clearly that's not a technique a mestre would use to kick butt, but it's better than just reacting the whole time.
(For the record, I don't think "kick butt" is a sanctioned capoeira term.)
So that, plus of course practice, is paying off - one of our teachers told me my roda play was much improved. Sweet. That doesn't mean I'm actually good, of course. It just means I can move on to worrying about new things.
Like, when I don't know how to counter the attack - often these are sweeps, which baffle me. Or moving beyond one-attack-move, one-defense-move rhythm, to trying more complex things. Or playing the berimbau.
Playing it? I can barely hold it. After a five- or ten-minute lesson, my left pinky will be slightly number for close to a week. I need to get a berimbau and just practice holding it first.