Dance Steps for the Samba

by Sandra Johnson
Samba dance steps for carnivals differ from ballroom samba steps.

Samba dance steps for carnivals differ from ballroom samba steps.

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The samba is an immensely popular Brazilian dance first popularized in the United States in the 1940s, though its roots can be traced to 19th-century Brazil. Numerous variations include the Samba de umbigada, the Samba no Pe, the Pagode and others. Each variation is intended for a different venue and includes slightly different steps. For example, the Samba no Pe is typically performed as a solo dance during carnival walks, while the Pagode is a samba meant for partners. Aside from subtle differences, basic samba steps and the associated roll and sway of the hips are a part of each variation.

Basic Solo Samba Steps

The basic steps of solo samba, like the Samba no Pe, are identical to other sambas. A simple box step on a 1-2 count is repeated to the front or back, known as basic and reverse steps. For example, counting "one-uh-two," step forward on the left foot at the count of "one." Lift up the right foot on "uh," and place it next to the left on "two." Going back, the same step is repeated, placing the right foot back on "one," left foot up at "uh," and placed next to the right on "two."

Men's and Ladies' Basic Steps

Partner samba dances have parts distinctly for men and for women. The basic step, just as with solo sambas, starts with the left foot forward for the man, but the right foot back for the woman. In short, the man leads while the woman mirrors his steps. Whether basic or reverse, the couple should appear to move as one mirrored image. The "one-uh-two" count is the same for partner sambas as it is for solo sambas, as is the normal hip sway known as the samba bounce.

Side Steps and Whisks

There are two types of side samba steps. The first is a basic side step, performed exactly like a forward basic step. On the count of "one," take one step to the side rather than front or back. Lift the right foot on "uh" and place beside the left on "two." Alternately, the whisk is different in that the second foot crosses behind the first. Leading with the left foot, take one step to the left on "one," lift the right foot on "uh," and place it behind the left foot on "two."

Voltas and Traveling Voltas

Voltas are steps that involve crossing one foot in front of the other in a quick, repeated side-stepping motion. Voltas are separated based on three concepts: spot, circling or traveling. Spot voltas involve dancers stepping in place, whereas circling and traveling voltas move in a circular or straight line, respectively. To complete a traveling volta, for example, step to the right by crossing the left foot over the right on the count of "one," step to the side with the right foot on "uh," and the left foot crossed again on "two." Repeat.

All About Bota Fogas

Bota Fogas are advanced samba steps that combine certain basic steps and diagonal pressure steps. As with Voltas, there are many variations on Bota Fogas, including shadow, traveling and others. Steps are complex, feature a forward step on "one," a pressure step horizontally to one side on "uh," and an opposite cross step to the other side on "two." To the observer, traveling Bota Fogas allow partners to glide across the dance floor in a zigzag pattern with footwork that appears elaborate and graceful.

Additional Steps and Variations

As a passionate, fun Brazilian dance, samba has numerous steps and variations to suit different venues. Additional advanced steps include Corta Jaca, Closed and Open Rocks, various foot changes, turns and samba walks. Regional and venue differences allow for much creativity and blending of different steps so that including every samba step is nearly impossible. When learning the samba, the most important things to remember are the hip sway and the "one-uh-two" meter.

About the Author

Sandra Johnson is a freelance writer, ghostwriting for private clients since 2006, and writing for print and online publications such as Sashay Magazine. She has studied with both Kaplan and Colorado Technical universities for bachelor's degrees in both human resources and accounting. In addition to writing, Johnson also operates a small family farm in rural Georgia.

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