Description of the Latin Samba Dance

by Joshua Liu
Samba is a popular Brazilian dance.

Samba is a popular Brazilian dance.

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The samba is a lively Brazilian dance that has many variations. It has been popular in Brazil since its creation in the late 19th century and is performed in carnivals and street parades. Since the 1900s, the samba has been internationally recognized and is now performed in many countries throughout the world.


Before 1914 the samba was known as "maxixe," an earlier Brazilian dance. It was a popular dance for street carnival, especially in Rio de Janeiro. In 1928 a French dance book included samba instructions, and in 1933 Fred Astaire and Dolores del Rio danced a form of the samba in "That Night in Rio." International interest began to grow in 1939, when Brazil's Pavilion in the World Fair in New York showcased the samba. Although the samba is still performed in street carnivals, many modern variations have sprung forth as a result of its popularity.

Samba no pé

Samba no pé is a mostly solo dance performed in carnival parades. It follows a 2/4 rhythm with three steps a measure. The basic movement involves a straight body with one knee bent at a time. Men and women dance differently, with men putting the whole foot on the ground and often doing acrobatic tricks and women dancing on the balls of their feet and using quick symmetrical foot movements. Although men and women may dance together, they do not touch.

Samba de Gafieira

Samba de Gafieira is a partner dance, although it is very different from ballroom samba. Many see it as a combination of the waltz and tango, as elements of both are used to teach it. The steps of samba de gafieira are done on a short-short-long tempo, although modern forms incorporate many acrobatic movements. Today it is one of the most complex styles of samba in Brazil and is present in dance academies worldwide.

Ballroom Samba

Ballroom samba is a partner dance that differs greatly from traditional Brazilian styles. Although it retains the 2/4 time of samba, it is somewhat disconnected from its origins, like other ballroom dances are. Most steps are danced with a slight downward bouncing created through the bending and straightening of the knees. Bending occurs on beats 1 and 2 and straightening happens between these beats. Unlike other ballroom Latin dances, ballroom samba has a specific hip action.

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