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Developed in Brazil during the 19th century, the Samba is considered the dance of celebration and joy at Carnival celebrations in Rio. Lively and rhythmical, there are many types of Samba dances, just like there are many types of Samba music. Ballroom partner Samba, one of the popular Latin dances in ballroom competitions, is made up of many different South American dances mixed into one. In Brazil, a Samba dancer is known as a Sambista.

Samba Characteristics

Before Samba became a ballroom dance style, there were many styles of partner dances as well as solo Samba dances. As with the solo Samba, partner ballroom Samba has a quick beat that requires fast footwork. Over the years, the Samba has incorporated elaborate tricks, turns, and acrobatic feats into its basic set of figures. The main characteristics of the Samba are rapid steps taken on quarter beats and a rocking, swaying motion of the dancers.

Samba History

Introduced in 1917, the Samba wasn't adopted by Brazil as a ballroom dance until 1930. In Brazil, Samba is mostly danced solo, and remains especially popular during celebrations of Carnival. The festive mood of the dance is responsible for its continued popularity. In International style Latin dancing, the Samba is one of the five Latin competition dances.

Samba Action

The major action of Samba, the "Samba Bounce Action," gives the dance its unique look and feel. The Samba Bounce Action is a gentle, rhythmic action felt through the knees and ankles. Samba dancers must strive to make this action appear effortless and carefree...it should never be exaggerated. This bounce action is quite difficult to master, but really adds to the overall character of the Samba.

Distinctive Samba Steps

The basic footwork of the Samba includes fast, three-step weight changes with a slight knee lift, led with alternating feet. The basic rhythm is "quick, quick, slow, and." Distinctive Samba steps include the following:
  • Voltas
  • Bota Fogos
  • Kick Change
  • Samba Side Steps
  • Samba Strut
The Samba also has a distinctive, dramatic climax...it concludes with dancers throwing back their heads and extending their arms out to the sides.

Samba Rhythm and Music

Samba music, with its distinctive rhythm, is highlighted by original Brazilian musical instruments, including the tamborim, chocalho, reco-reco and cabaca. Samba is danced to music with a tempo of about 100 beats per minute. The fast and energetic rhythm of Samba music encourages spontaneous dancing, such as in the streets during a Carnival celebration.
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