Encyclopedia of Dance: Samba


Samba is a colorful mixture of Negro and European rhythms, an incendiary, temperamental, and at the same time sensual dance, a hymn to love, youth and beauty

Samba is now part of the Latin American ballroom dance program. Spectacular and sexy dance did not immediately win the favor of the European public. Only after World War II did it become popular on the European continent. And over the years, the popularity of samba does not decrease, but, on the contrary, only increases.

History of occurrence

Like many Latin American dances, samba has African roots. We owe to Negro culture the appearance of almost the greater part of all the dances that are now widespread throughout the world. Samba is an organic fusion of African rhythms that appeared in Brazil along with slaves from the Black Continent, as well as with Spanish dances brought by the conquerors of South America from Europe.

In the 16th century, the Portuguese conquerors of Brazil brought with them many slaves from the Congo and Angola, who spread dances such as Embolada, Catarete and Batuque to South America. The Inquisition declared these dances to be extremely sinful, since during the dance the performers touched each other with their navels. Indeed, for that time, such a performance was very much out of the moral standards and was very bold.

Embolada — a dance in which a cow was depicted with balls on its horns. Now the word «embolada» in Brazil means the concept of «stupid, stupid.» The Batuque is a circle dance similar to the Charleston, with a dancing couple in the middle. Batuque was so popular in Spain that the king had to issue a special decree forbidding this dance. But art cannot be banned by decrees, and progress cannot be stopped by prohibitions. Two dances, united, contributed to the emergence of the third, adding to the previous oscillatory movements of the body and hips, a new dance was obtained — Lundu.

Gradually, the higher nobility joined the performance of the original dance. True, in order to make it acceptable to high society, changes were made to it. In particular, a closed dance position was introduced, the only one possible at that time.

In this version, the dance became known as Zemba Queca. Under this name, he became known in 1885 as the «graceful Brazilian dance.» So, taking many movements from different dances, uniting with them and modernizing them, Samba was born into the world.

The exact interpretation of the name «Samba» is unknown. The term «Zambo» means «mulatto» — born from a black man and a Brazilian woman. Soon Samba was merged with the Maxixe dance and existed under the new name until 1914. Maxixe became famous in Paris in 1905, and in 1923-1924 attempts were made to introduce Samba into the European dance community. But these attempts were crowned with success only after the Second World War. The birth of Samba in the well-known version is considered to be 1956.


What is samba?

The musical size of the samba is 2/4, the tempo is fast, 48-52 beats per minute. Rhythm plays a big role in Samba, and the hips of the dancers “generate” this rhythm. After all, samba is characterized by springy movements of the hips, which are called «Samba Bounce».

The specific rhythm of Samba distinguishes this dance from all other dances of the Latin American program. For its best transmission in musical accompaniment, Brazilian national musical instruments are often used: tamborim, cabaca, reco-reco and others.

The pulsating, syncopated rhythm of the Samba is accentuated by the bounce – the vertical sway and the work of the hips. Particularly effective are movements in which soft plastic elements are combined with sharp and intermittent ones. This impetuous dance accurately conveys the character of the expressive southern people — sometimes soft and dreamy, sometimes bold and temperamental.

Types of samba

A samba variant from Rio de Janeiro called Carioca appeared in the UK in 1934. In America, this variety of samba appeared in 1938 and reached its peak of popularity in 1941, when Carmen Miranda performed it in feature films.

At carnivals in Rio de Janeiro, various versions of Samba are danced from Bajao to Marcha. Spectacular dance is easily transformed and that is why it formed the basis of many other dances, for example, lambadas and macarenas. But, no matter what version of samba is performed, it must have an element of flirting, light flirting and boundless sensuality.

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