On Samba

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For some background music, click the video. This Jennifer Lopez song has a wonderful Samba beat. Listen to the  rhythms.

Besides, Carnival 2019 in Rio de Janeiro has started!



Samba – some say SAM-ba, others say SOM-ba … I say the latter

Samba – a fun, lively dance to music of a distinct rhythm

Samba – a popular dance associated with Brazil; especially Rio’s Carnival

Samba – the fast dance associated with rocking, sexy motions

Samba – whose distinctive, energetic rhythm encourages people to move

History: Music and Dance

Samba – the dance and music rooted in the African people who came to Brazil

Samba – a dance done by Brazilians since the late 19th century to music rooted in the 16th century

Samba – a ballroom dance since 1930, today it is one of the five Latin competition dances

Carmen Miranda helped popularize Samba in That Night in Rio (1941)


Donga & Mauro Almeida’s Pelo Telefone popularized Samba music in 1917 (click here for the recording)

Samba’s grew through the 1920s into the 1930s, eventually leading to the formation of Samba schools

Not all Samba music and rhythm is created equal – that is, there are different musical styles

In general, Samba music as a distinctive rhythm with pronounced percussion and played at a tempo of about 100 beats per minute

Different styles of Samba music include Samba Reggae, Samba Rock, and Samba de roda

Ballroom Samba music uses 2/4 timing with three weighted steps in two beats of music (more about that later)

Dance Styles

Samba is not one dance, but a set of dances – yet no one dance is definitely known as the “original” Samba

Types vary in movements, solo vs partner, musical rhythms, formality, influence by other dances, geographic region, occasion, acrobaticness, intimacy, and steps/patterns

Different Samba styles/dances are Samba de Gafieira (partners), Samba Pagode (partners), Samba Axé (solo), Samba Forró (partners), Samba no pé (solo dance typically done at Carnival by sambistas), and Ballroom Samba (partners)

Ballroom Samba includes American style and International style – both of which are different from the original Brazilian variations

Because of the competition nature of Ballroom Samba, standards and commonalities are established

Ballroom Samba

Ballroom Samba is a dance that can travel around the room (not staying in one spot/location), although some dance it as a spot dance

Ballroom Samba uses music with 2/4 timing, dancers use three weighted steps in two beats of music (for the musically inclined, the count is “one a-two”)

Ballroom Samba has one set (2 measures totally 4 counts) of 3 steps forward, then one set of 3 steps backward

The Leader steps forward on the left foot (that’s the 1 count), then the right foot forward to beside the left (that’s the “a” count), then changing the weight to the left in place (that’s the 2 count). (The Follower does the mirror opposite, starting with the right foot going backwards.) Then, both repeat the pattern in reverse and starting on the opposite foot.

Go back to the opening song to check if you can hear Samba’s feet rhythm.

The basic pattern can be done side-to-side (instead of forward then back) and in a box (forward, then to the side, together & weight shirt – back then to the side, together and weight shift). Also as a turning box.

In time, shifting weight and bending-straightening knees/legs create the body action while the upper body remains relatively still (except for arm movements)


Besides the Samba Basic, other common steps include Voltas, Bota fogos, Kick change, Runs, Promenade, Whisks, Struts, Taps, Locks, Rolls, Crosses, Step-ball-change, Under-arm turns, and more.

Here’s a very polished couple doing a routine with mostly basic moves. They are very good – although I’ve never seen anyone in my social ballroom world dancing Samba this well.


I’ll admit to several points:

  • I enjoy Samba music because it’s fun.
  • I enjoy watching people who dance Samba well at a social level.
  • I can’t do Samba very well.

Below are three different Sambas for you to enjoy. The first (from Dancing With the Stars) is well done, and highly choreographed. The second is competition level Samba. Choreographed as well, but done at a high level. The last (and not to leave the Brazilians out) are solo Sambas for Carnival. Let me know the ones you watched.

53 thoughts on “On Samba

  1. Did someone say SAMBA AND BRAZIL?!!!! Ya know that samba music lured me over here! Wonderful info about the dance. No worries, I can’t samba either. I do know the lundu dance though! How have you been my friend?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amanda!
      LOL … I had to laugh for several reasons … a Brazilian not knowing samba PLUS the lunda/launda dance? Don’t know that one – but I did look around because I’m curious.

      All is well here and hope all is well in C-Springs. Cincinnati is getting a blast of frigid air – oh boy – I’m ready for spring.


  2. It’s lovely to see a dance post again Frank, even if it is Samba! It’s not my favourite dance I find it quite heavy on the posturing especially as it goes up in ability. Can I tell you how relieved I was to hear you say you not that good at it – it’s very athletic! I couldn’t watch the first video (J-Lo) but all the rest were able to be viewed here. (Had you done some modifying between the earlier comments and my arrival?) I kind of wish I hadn’t watched the last one though – all those butt cheeks y’know…… but enjoyed to see the DWtS couple again and the second basic samba 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline,
      Glad you enjoyed this one. When I put these together, I always want a instructional video of the basics because I know you may try it.:) … Thanks for the influence!

      Thanks for letting me know about the videos because I am confused because I see them at this end. The Jo Lo video opener is just the music (no visual) because it has a good samba beat. You may want to search for it. OH … I just noticed it didn’t open … so will correct that asap!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Im feeling ridiculously happy and carefree.
    Im taking this lunchbreak as a mental interlude OUT of the office.
    I have learned the Salsa.
    Alas, I have no one to practice with, but I know it and that’s all that matters.
    Thank you for a lesson here Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kavitha,
    Happy and carefree … oh yes – that’s samba! Perfect descriptors. .. and I’m happy this was good for your lunchbreak. Cheers to you learning salsa. Now that dance is fast – but for me, easier than samba.


  5. Strange thing Frank. My wifi here is very inconsistent and weak. Every video played without a hitch.

    I love samba and enjoy watching people dance it. Plenty of fun. And the music is wonderful. You have a great selection of songs here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tim,
      Listen to the opening song … especially the drum beat …. quarter followed by 2 syncopated beats.

      As for as the steps, well … rhythms are different – although some patterns could be the same but done to different rhythms and tempos. Easier to explain in person with music.


  6. With my limited dance instruction a few years I learned a few basic steps, and although I probably couldn’t perform them well today, I do remember how fun it was. For me, it’s the music that accompanies this dance. I have long thought that despite the results from my DNA testing, there just must be some Brazilian in there somewhere. 🙂


  7. Such a FUN post I almost missed. The title drew me in … but you know it would, aFrank. : )
    Quick note: i can see all of the video’s here in my paradise called Florida. (wasn’t sure if you needed that info)
    YUP … it’s Som – Ba not Sam – Ba. I LOVE the samba. Bad hips because of it. All those gyrations can ware down those joints. Without them the dance doesn’t have the look. It’s the movement of the hips along with coordinating your feet at the right beat that can make it difficult to master. Many men can’t move or feel awkward moving their hips.The basic samba video made me laugh. It’s so simple. LOL Anyway … it’s one of the hardest dances … I think.
    Loved the JLo video. She looks like my #2 daughter so I always enjoy watching her video’s.
    Great post.
    Isadora 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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