Samba: The New Love in My Life

People tend to give me the side eye lately when I ramble on and on about how much I’ve fallen in love with samba. I stumbled upon samba a few years back when I was looking for an alternative workout. See, I’m the type of person who loves a good workout without feeling like I’m working out. That’s the biggest reason why I hate gyms – because when I’m on the treadmill or stair climber, as I watch the timer slowly countdown, I’m always well aware that I’m working out. And then my workouts feel like a chore. Instead, I like workouts where I’m outdoors hiking, jogging at the park, playing soccer, or something of that nature. I have to trick myself into thinking that I’m just having a good time instead of focusing on burning calories.

So, in my quest for an alternative workout, I took a capoeira class at the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center here in Los Angeles, and it was way too strenuous for me. When I discovered that the center also offers samba classes, I decided to give it a try instead because I’ve loved and have been involved in dance since I was a young girl.  Plus, I’ve been a longtime fan of samba music.

When I danced samba that first time, sparks instantly flew. Even though my movements were so muddled, I felt so connected to samba – the rhythm, the music, the African influences. It just resonated with me. And while I fell in love with samba instantly, I didn’t attend classes regularly after that first class because I had a lot of other stuff on my plate at the time and couldn’t quite commit.

But since late last year, I’ve made a point of attending classes regularly, and samba classes have become the highlight of my week. It’s what I look forward to, and it’s really annoying when I have to miss class. Even when I’m at work, I swing my hips in my chair as some of my favorite samba tunes on my Spotify playlist blast through my earphones. My co-workers have caught me chair dancing a few times, but I don’t care!

My dance teacher Gisella radiates such positive light and energy, and she always reminds us to smile and to let go of our inhibitions when we samba. Sometimes, she even has us samba facing away from the mirror with our eyes closed so that we’ll stop being so self-conscious and just free ourselves. I have a Type-A personality, and I often struggle with letting go. I’m not at the point where I dance without feeling self-conscious, but samba is slowly teaching me how.

Quick Facts about Samba:

  • Samba is both a musical genre and a dance.
  • Samba has its roots in batuque, a music and dance form that originated in Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa.
  • Samba was introduced to Brazil by African slaves in Bahia, Brazil. Slaves would practice capoeira, a martial art form, in a roda (“circle”), and in order to disguise it from the slave masters, they’d often incorporate samba which is how samba de roda came about.
  • “Samba” refers to prayer as slaves also danced samba to invoke their personal gods and as a means of expressive freedom.
  • Former slaves who migrated from Bahia introduced samba to Rio de Janeiro where it was then tweaked with indigenous and European dance forms.
  • “Pelo Telefone” (“By Phone”) was recorded in 1917 and it’s considered the first true samba song.
  • In Rio, there are many samba schools with thousands of people that compete annually in Carnival.
  • Samba is Brazil’s national dance, and it’s celebrated there on December 2 which is Samba National Day.

So now that you’ve learned a bit about the dance I’ve fallen head-over-heels for, here’s a short clip from my samba class. In case you can’t tell, I’m the sweaty chick behind Gisella in the navy blue leggings. 😉

For more great samba clips and other dance videos, check out Gisella’s YouTube channel.

Have you ever tried samba?

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16 Responses to “Samba: The New Love in My Life”

  1. Arianwen
    Twitter: BeyondBlighty
    July 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Good for you! I loved Brazil but sadly didn’t have the coordination for samba! I’m better off dancing like my dad to cheese!
    Arianwen recently posted…Diving with sharks in AucklandMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel July 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      Yeah – samba does take quite some coordination. Hopefully you’ll try it someday!

  2. Marcia June 24, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Like you, I love to dance because it’s a fun way to exercise and I love samba though I’m not sure why I haven’t been a more diligent student. Since I’m still recovering from a fractured ankle, I look wistfully at the video and keep my fingers crossed that I can make moves like that again. Thanks for the chance to move my hips and imagine my feet moving to the rhythm, even if it’s only in my mind.
    Marcia recently posted…The Breadfruit, Bligh’s Gift to Jamaica and the Mutiny it CausedMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 24, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      I hope your ankle gets better so that you can get back to samba. I feel for you. But I’m glad that this video has sparked your imagination! 😉

  3. TammyOnTheMove
    Twitter: tammyonthemove
    June 24, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    Love Samba. My stiff European genes make it impossible for me to look any good whilst dancing it though. I went to Brazil for the carnival once and I could have watched the girls dancing samba all day long.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted…Flashback Friday: The time my bum went numbMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 24, 2013 at 6:53 am #

      I hope to go to Carnival in 2015. Shoot, I would love to samba with a samba school at Carnival one of these days!

  4. budget jan
    Twitter: BudgetTrvlTalk
    June 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    That is an interesting tip from your dance instructor to close your eyes in an effort to be less self-conscious. Probably would work too, except you might run into other couples :)
    budget jan recently posted…Essaouira: A working fishing port.My Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Lol – well, she spaces us out and keeps an eye on us to make sure that we don’t crash into each other.

  5. Leigh June 23, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    I have zero rhythm and would feel quite self-conscious in a class like this. I admire people like you that can swing their hips so well. Even my son said I need a year of dance lessons before showing up at his wedding.
    Leigh recently posted…Beautiful Blue Rocks, Nova ScotiaMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 23, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Haha – your son is funny! I’m still working on not feeling self-conscious. I want to get to the point where I feel completely comfortable with jumping into a samba de roda. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Sista Voyage June 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    Wow, you looked great samba dancing! And I thought I was doing something special with the basic steps of salsa, lol. I am kinda stiff, but for some reason, I believe this style of dance would give me a flow to my moves.
    Sista Voyage recently posted…Comment on Enjoy Sweet Parisian Sounds, Just By Walking Around!!! by Dana Carmel @ Time Travel PlansMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 23, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Thanks for your comment! Samba is definitely all about being fluid and free with your movements – the ultimate cure to stiffness! 😉

  7. Salika Jay
    Twitter: gawaya
    June 20, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    I see why one would fall in love with it. Watched the video clip and it’s fantastic! Now, gotta learn how to samba :)
    Salika Jay recently posted…Washington DC: Make The Most of Your VisitMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 21, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      Absolutely, Salika. You’ve gotta learn – it’s hard not to love it!

  8. Jess
    June 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    You all look great in that video! I started doing dance classes for exercise about a year ago, and it’s turned into something of an addiction – the more I practice, the better I want to be.
    Jess recently posted…Little Things I Love About: ChicagoMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel June 20, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks, Jess! I totally understand how you feel about wanting to get better. Watching this video helps me to see where I have room for improvement. I learn something new about samba each time I go to class.

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