What is the Samba?

Many people call Samba the “soundtrack of Brazil”. In the same way Brazilians practice Samba to let go of everyday hardships and seize the joys of life, you too can feel the vibrant beat in your feet, hips, and heart. The rhythm feels like a pulse and the beat really makes you want to move. It is light, upbeat, and fun.

Samba’s lengthy history generated the dance’s many variations, including Sambolero, Samba de Breqe, Samba-coro, Samba-cancao, Samba-enredo and Samba de morro. Arthur Murray dance instructors can teach them all, depending on the student’s goals, but focus on the partnered ballroom dance variation, often called the “Brazilian waltz.”

The History of Samba

Samba is an old style of Brazilian dance. Before 1914 it was more commonly known by the Brazilian predecessor name “Maxixe.” As it gained influence from the Cuban Habanera and the German Polka, Samba earned the reputation it has today. For over 100 years, it has filled the street parades at the Rio Carnival and nightclubs in Rio de Janeiro. Popularity took off worldwide when a 1928 French dance publication included instructions for learning Samba. It was introduced to audiences in the United States through on-screen films: Flying Down to Rio in 1933 and That Night in Rio several years later. At the 1938 New York Society of Teachers of Dancing, Samba was an exhibition and was highlighted again at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939. The classic Samba song, “Brazil,” written by Brazilian composer Ary Barroso was a hit and inspired the musical “Brazil” in 1944.

The word “samba” stems from semba, which refers to an “invitation to dance.” Over time, it gained influence and evolved into Samba-cancao, or a slower, more romantic version. Samba de morro, a more percussive and funkier style, is the most widely danced style today. The primary inspiration for the Samba de morro were the “escolas de samba,” or samba schools, who play and dance for the annual Rio Carnival, the largest carnival festival in the world. Rio Carnival is filled with elaborate costumes, floats, singing and dancing, bringing in half a million tourists each year to share in the celebration.

How to Dance the Samba

Samba is a spot dance, meaning you can learn how to dance Samba by learning the basic one-and-two steps first and then building upon those steps. Arthur Murray teaches Samba danced in 2/4 time. In the basic moves, leaders step forward with their left foot on step “one,” while followers step back with their right foot. On the “and-two” both dancers close their feet and collect them underneath their body, switching weight with every count. Then the leader steps back on the right foot, and followers step forward on the left foot. The rhythm reflects “boom-da-doom, boom-da-doom” and your feet imitate the same pulse.

The most important and unique aspect of Samba is the bounce. When you step, you emphasize a bounce with an upswing motion. Another important feature of Samba to learn is the motion of stepping over a log between partners. Your legs will soften and straighten, soften and straighten. To embrace and execute the true appeal of the Samba, dancers learn how to incorporate happy, often flirtatious and energetic interpretation. Many steps require pelvic tilts. This action takes practice to accomplish at first, but dancers at Arthur Murray find ease with their expert teacher’s instruction.