A Brazilian Carnival: The Rhythm of Samba

With the World Cup in full swing we at Karen Hardy Studios thought it is a marvelous opportunity to take a peek at one of the most exuberant Latin American dances on the planet, the Samba.

After all, not only is the Samba a firm favourite here at our Imperial Wharf studios and a regular routine on Strictly Come Dancing, but it is also the beating heart of Brazil, the hosts of this year’s football World Cup.

Originating from Bahia, a city in Northeast Brazil, the Samba has cultural roots in West Africa, in particular through religious traditions and the former slave trade in Angola and the Congo.

The dance, in the forms that we recognize today, emerged at the turn of the 20th century and burst onto the worldwide stage through the films of musical movie legend Carmen Miranda.

The impact and significance of the Samba movement across Brazil is huge.

Bursting with energy and dazzling with colour it is one of the three most recognizable features of Brazil alongside religion and football.

Of course Samba is not just a dance, it heavily influences many facets of entertainment across the nation including fashion, painting and sculpture and it goes hand-in-hand with a music style of the same name.

The uplifting tempo of Samba music lends perfectly to celebration and along with the dancing and fashion, creates the renowned Carnival that is synonymous with Brazil.

Traditionally the music was a composition of just strings and percussion before the post-Second World War influence of America saw trombones, trumpets, flutes and clarinets added to the sound.

As a dance there are at least eight forms of Samba.

1.Samba no pé

Samba no pé is a solo dance that is most often performed impromptu when samba music is played.
The basic movement involves a straight body and a bending of one knee at a time.
The feet move very slightly – only a few inches at a time. It can be thought of as a step-ball-change.
The dance simply follows the beat of the music and can go from average pace to very fast.

2.Samba de Gafieira

Samba de Gafieira is a partner dance. It first appeared in the 1940s and it gets its name from the Gafieira, popular urban nightclubs of Rio de Janeiro at that time.
Many see this form of Samba as a combination of Waltz and Tango and several Brazilian dance studios use elements and techniques from these two dances to teach Samba de Gafieira steps and routines to willing students.
From its inception to nowadays the Samba de Gafieira has incorporated many acrobatic movements and has evolved to become the most complex dancing style of Samba in Brazil.

3.Samba Pagode

Samba Pagode is another Samba partner dance that resembles the Samba de Gafieira but has less acrobatic movements and tends to be more intimate. It started in the city of São Paulo.

4.Samba Axé

Samba Axé is a solo dance that was created in 1992 during the Brazilian Carnival season in Bahia. The dance is completely choreographed and the movements tend to mimic the lyrics. It’s a very energetic kind of dance that mixes elements of Samba no pé and aerobics.

5.Samba Reggae

Also from Bahia, this is a mix of reggae beats with Samba drums.


Samba rock is a playful form of the samba, a Latin nightclub dance from São Paulo.

7.Samba de roda

Samba de roda is a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance performed originally as informal fun after a Candomblé (religious) ceremony, using the same percussion instruments used during the religious ceremony.
The Samba de Roda is a celebratory event incorporating music, choreography and poetry.

8.Ballroom Samba

Inside the ballroom Samba has been performed since the early 20th century and it differs greatly from other styles of the dance.
Ballroom Samba, even more than other ballroom dances, is very disconnected from the origins and evolution of the music and dance that gives it its name.
Most steps are danced with a slight downward bouncing or dropping action. This action is created through the bending and straightening of the knees. Also, Samba has a specific hip action, different from that in ballroom Latin dances (Rumba and Cha-Cha-Cha).

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