Samba Dance

SambaThe samba dance is arguably one of the most popular latin dances. It originated out of Brazil in the 19th century. It is well known for its vibrancy and sensuality. It is an integral part of the Rio Carnival Celebrations where samba dancers display their skill, beauty and technique. Samba is also an official ballroom dance. It is accompanied by the unique, upbeat, percussive samba music.

What is Samba Dance

Samba is a form of Latin dance that developed in Brazil, South America. It is a dance of one of the many types of ballroom dances. Samba can either be danced solo or with a partner.  In Brazil, a Samba dancer is known as a Sambista.

The Origin and History of Samba Dance

Samba originated in Brazil. The original style of this dance is a lot different from the modern techniques of samba. Samba became popular in Brazil in the 19th century. It formally became a type of ballroom dance in 1930. The word samba is believed to have stem from the Kimbundu (Angola) term “semba”, which referred to an "invitation to dance". It was also used to label the dance parties held by slaves and former slaves in the rural areas of Rio. These dances involved gyrating hip movements (called umbigada). The roots of this can be traced to the circle dances seen in the Congo and Angola, where many slaves came from. The dance evolved overtime and adopted steps and techniques from other dance types such as the Cuban habanera and German polka as well.

Types of Samba

People tend to be surprised that there are varieties of the samba dance. The following are the different types of samba:
1)    Solo Samba
2)    Partner Samba - This type of samba is used in ballroom dancing.

Additionally partner and solo samba can be further broken down into types depending on location and occasion:
-       Carnival samba is a type of solo samba performed during the carnival celebrations in the Sambadrome.
-       Social samba is another partner samba, popular in North America. This type of samba is usually performed in small spaces such as night clubs. The steps are smaller, the style more relaxed and less dramatic. It is more of on the spot dance.
-       Samba Gafieira is a club samba involving partners or couples. It is popular in Brazil. Samba Gafieira is sometimes called the Brazilian Tango.
-       Forro samba is another partner dance from Brazil.

Samba Techniques

The hallmark feature of Samba is the quick footwork, the swaying motion of the dancers and the “Samba Bounce”. The samba rhythm follows a pattern of quick, quick, slow. It has two quick steps, then a small knee lift. The unique samba steps are: the voltas, the bota fogos, the kick change, the samba strut, and the samba side step. At the end of the dance, the dancers throw back their heads, with arms extended to the sides.

The samba moves and steps are described below:

  • The basic step - The basic step starts with the lead dancer of the pair, stepping forward or backward with either the left or right foot. The partner (follower) mirrors the steps of the leader. Let’s say the leader started forward on the left foot. The step step will be for him to take the next step by bringing the right foot to the left foot. Then, the dancer will place weight on the left foot. The follower steps back with the right foot as the leader had stepped forward. Then the follower brings the left foot to the right and places her weight on the right foot.

-       The count is 1a2. A and 2 are steps that are danced on the balls of the leader’s feet.
-       The basic samba step is completed when the leader steps back and the follower steps forward. The count is 3a4

  • The box basic step - This is similar to the basic step described above. The difference between the two is that in the second step, the leader steps a bit to the right and the follower to her left. Like the basic, the step is completed when the leader steps back and the follower steps forward. The count s 1a2, 3a4.
  • The turning basic step - this the box basic that has an anti-clockwise quarter turn. This turn is executed on the second and third steps and on the fifth and sixth steps. Both persons complete the turn. By the end of the sixth steps, the dancing partners would have completed a 180 degrees turn on the same spot. In social samba, using this turning step, couples avoid travelling and moving around a large space. The count is 1a2, 3a4.
  • Merengue or Chasse Basic - With this step the “a” in the count (the cut) is left out. Steps are danced at the beat of 1,2,3,4. This step is used with quick paced music.
  • The tap step - Once again with very fast music, the a2 and a4 steps in the basics above can be replaced with a tap step to give a 1 tap, 2 tap count.

Samba and Rio Carnival

Samba is an integral part of the annual Rio carnival celebrations. It reflects the African heritage blended with its Portuguese colonial history. It is the official dance of what makes Brazilian carnival, carnival.

Samba Music

Samba music is very upbeat, rhythmic, and energetic. The music encourages people to get up and dance. The music is accompanied by traditional Brazilian instruments such as the  tamborim, chocalho, reco-reco and cabaca. As a song and music, samba was extremely popular during the turn of the twentieth century. Some of the first official recordings were done as early as 1911. Among the early pioneers of samba songs  was Alfredo da Rocha Vianna Jr., known as Pixinguinha, who helped to mainstream samba music, and develop its rich harmony. From the 1920s and in the 1930s, sambas that were slower and more romantic with lyrics that were more sentimental and often moody, became very popular. Carmen Miranda became the face of samba. She gained much popularity in Brazil, and the United States, and around the world. By the 1950s, the romantic samba started to loose some of its popularity. In its place, a more upbeat and funk samba emerged. It was very popular in the favelas of Rio. At first called samba de morro, because of its development in the morros (hills), the style came to be known as samba-de-batucada. This samba utilises the beats of multiple percussive instruments. It has become the popular form of samba music heard, and danced to, during the carnival festivities in Rio. The samba schools practice this all year round in preparation.

Samba schools

Samba schools are integral in the Rio Carnival, in creating the festive atmosphere of the carnival celebrations. The samba schools are responsible to putting on the show. Not only the costumes and music, but the dances. It is an honour to dance for a samba school. Sambistas practice relentlessly leading up to the carnival festivities, perfecting their samba dance.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 2581x
Added: 22-02-2017 20:05
Last modified: 18-06-2017 22:21

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