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?