Samba Lessons


    Lively and joyous, the Samba is the Brazilian "Carnival" dance and the official native dance of Brazil. Like many Latin dances, it's origins are many and varied. The first forms of Samba originated in Africa and were taken to Bahia, the northeastern region of Brazil, by slaves sent to work the sugar plantations.

    After slavery was abolished in the 1880's, there was a mass migration to the cities and this ritualistic dance soon found it's way to the capital of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. From there Samba was on it's way -- with perhaps a few bumps in the road.

    The word "Samba" is likely derived from the word "Semba", which in the African Bantu language means "naval bump," and depicts the intimacy and "invitation" to dance that is common to many Afro Latin dances.

    As might be imagined, these first forms of Samba were considered obscene and in bad taste by Brazil's upper classes, and for a time the dance was prohibited and practiced only in lower class neighborhoods and even in secret societies.

    Around the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of Samba increased and it began to establish itself as a favorite form of expression in the Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. In time, dance groups would parade the streets during Carnival time, dazzling the crowds and even competing with one another with their animated steps and elaborate costumes. As the Samba became associated with the "Carnival Brasileiro", it became a means of instilling national pride in the masses and Samba music and dance were officially recognized and sanctioned.

    Samba was first danced as a street dance, and Samba today, in many forms, is still danced mainly as a solo dance in Brazil. So where did our ballroom Samba come from? As the stigma of the Samba's impropriety dissolved, members of high society in Rio gradually embraced the dance, but they modified it to be danced in the more "proper" closed ballroom dance position. It was also combined with elements of another Brazilian dance called the Maxixe, resembling a two-step. And Samba began to migrate to Europe and the United States.

    The Maxixe form of the Samba was introduced in both Europe and the United States around the beginning of the 20th century. Another form of the Samba called Carioca (which means "from Rio de Janeiro") was popularized by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first film together, "Flying Down to Rio," in 1939. Many credit Carmen Miranda with helping to popularized the Samba in the US with her films, particularly "That Night in Rio" (1941).

    In the 1950's Princess Margaret of England help further popularized the Samba in Europe and consequently, in America, and in 1956 Samba was formalized as an International ballroom dance. Animated, fun and infinitely expressive, the Samba is the ultimate "party" dance. It's taught as an Intermediate level dance at TC Dance Club Kansas City.