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!

 

General

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)

Music

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.

Closing

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.

On a Close Encounter of …

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I recall hearing and reading about the hub-bub between John Hurley and Kelly Monaco in Season 1 of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) – but I didn’t watch. As a sports fan, having ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne in the Season 2 cast caught my attention – so my wife and I watched DWTS for the first time on January 5, 2006.

We watched the entire show. The next day was the results show, and my wife asked, “Don’t you want to see what happens?” I had seen the first night with Kenny, and that was good enough, but she was curious – so we watched the elimination of Kenny Mayne.

Season 22 (of the 2 seasons per year) starts later this month. Since that first episode we watched, DWTS was the first domino that led us into the world of ballroom dance. We’re still watching the show and still dancing. Who knows how much money we’ve spent on lessons, dances, and shoes – at least I can blame Kenny Mayne.

Long-time watchers may remember Season 2 as it included guests Drew Lachey (a Cincinnatian who won), Stacey Keibler, Jerry Rice, Lisa Rinna, Tia Carrere, George Hamilton, Tatum O’Neill, Giselle Fernandez, and Master P, It also introduced us to professional dancers Tony Dovolani, Maksim Chmerkovsky, Louis Van Amstel, Cheryl Burke, Anna Trebunskaya, and Edyta Śliwińska – the Polish-born dancer who easily catches the eye. Besides, many of us would love an opportunity to dance with the partner of our choice …. Just once! Did you hear that Edyta? Anna? Sharna? Peta?

To those of us old enough to remember the variety shows on television, DWTS is a blend of a reality show of today and the variety shows of yesteryear – especially on the Results Show when top artists perform – such as this appearance by Michael Bublé in Season 9.

Like any business, dance studios aim at making a profit. Every studio has their way of increasing sales, which may include providing coaching sessions. The “coach” is usually an experienced dancer/teacher from out-of-town who is part of a normal lesson – of course with an extra fee. Yes, coaches are an outside perspective providing a new set of eyes for suggestions, but it’s never interested us – after all, we are social dancers who don’t compete.

As part of one of the sales promotions are our current studio, we earned the right for a drawing – and what did my wife select? … a free coaching session. We talked with our regular instructor about the upcoming coaching possibilities, so we selected Agnes. Plus, I took a group class with her last year, so I knew she had a pleasant demeanor … as well as being an attractive woman. (At least I’m honest.) 😉

Early this past February, we had our coaching with Agnes. A wonderful lesson – and I had a few steps with her. In our chit-chat time, I discovered that she’s Polish and now lives in Los Angeles … but why I didn’t wonder if she knew Edyta is beyond me! After all, look at the connections – Polish, dancer, Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, my wife was gone on her girls’ cruise – which meant too much time on my hands – so I searched Agnes. On her website I discovered her personal story of dance and journey to the USA – her dance accomplished as a winner or finalist in the most prestigious dance competitions, and her appearances on Dancing With The Stars.

WHAT? I had in my arms and danced a few steps with someone who has been on the show! My wife and I had a coaching lesson with someone who probably knows cast members – including Edyta! … and yes … in the video above, that was Agnes and her partner dancing to Michael Bublé … and odds are, we watched that episode!

With YouTube doing what it does, I saw other videos, of Agnes and her partner Urs … including the entertaining, unique dance video below that demonstrates grace, variety, speed, strength, versatility, control, and probably more. TIP: After watching up to 2:50, save yourself time by forwarding to 4:50 … and enjoy watching the lady I think of as my Close Encounter of the Dance Kind.

On Grace and Elegance

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Ballroom dance has taught me many things. It’s not easy, it can be graceful, but leads must be subtle.  We’ve also met many wonderful people, thus have our dance friends.

Ballroom dance is a niche, thus there is a ballroom community. Although we know only a small portion, we recognize many faces because we attend the same functions. Dancers are at all levels, yet we note differences. Many know numerous steps, but the don’t look good doing them because they’ve primarily (or only) learned from group classes – but they enjoy themselves, which is important. Others look better, but don’t know as many steps – those are the ones who take private lessons.

Their timid and stiff nature identifies the beginners, but hey – all of us were there once. A handful have danced for more than 20 years, and let’s just say that some of them are very good .. the few that stand out. Even on a large floor with two hundred people, those that are trained, experienced, and/or competed at a high level are easy to identify – after all, they probably practiced, too! Reality is that most of us are between those two extremes.

It didn’t take long for us to identify Madam M. As she danced down and around the floor with her competitive partner, her movements defined elegance and grace as her smile beamed joy. Madam M is a relatively tall, attractive woman, and her firmly anchored partner knew how to display her. While watching them dance, I would think – Someday – maybe someday – I will join her for a smooth dance – a foxtrot or a waltz. Keep in mind, this is 4-5 years ago, which was early in our dance experience.

Over time, we’ve had several encounters with Madam M, and most importantly, she’s very pleasant. Maybe a year or so ago we were talking and she suggested we dance. Although it was a west coast swing – not my best dance – of course I accepted, … but that didn’t count as that dream dance. Later, there would be times when I would step toward her direction, but only to be intercepted by another invitation.

Image from Microsoft Office

Image from Microsoft Office

At a recent small ballroom gathering, there was Madam M sitting alone at a table. The DJ played a Foxtrot, so I asked her to dance. We went to the floor where I offered my left hand as a starting position, she took her place then arched back into my right hand after I lightly placed it on her back. I straightened my frame, and in no time, long strides were gracefully gliding us around the floor (at least to me).

I kept the patterns simple because my Foxtrot timing has gone in the toilet the past few months. The dance was wonderful, and afterwards, I told her how I just accomplished one of my goals. Her laugh and words conveyed both, That’s silly and Thank you … but my soul was beaming.

A short time later, it was a waltz, thus I couldn’t resist. Again, we glided and I followed various shaping that she led with subtle precision. We were both casually dressed and in a less-than elegant venue, but it was easy for me to envision my tux with tails and her flowing gown in a grand ballroom. At the end she told me that I dance well, which I found reassuring as I checked the box on my personal bucket list … even better, I checked it twice.

On an Extra-Special Event

BallroomDecor

Decorations in the ballroom’s corner

We arrived at the suburban convention center, then followed the red carpet to the upstairs ballroom where we found soft lighting, decorations, and plenty of tables surrounding a large temporary dance floor. At one end and above the floor, on the platform the DJ was checking his equipment from his seat beside the emcee’s podium. The judges’ area was to the left of the platform with forms ready for their completion. The people arriving were nicely dressed … some to compete and others as members of the audience.

The event was a very special sanctioned dance competition with over 30 dancers competing in foxtrot, waltz, rumba, cha cha, salsa, tango, and swing. On this day, the competitors were adults with disabilities – primarily Down Syndrome.

Several weeks ago my wife and I asked the organizer if she needed more volunteers – and she quickly said, “two males to compete” because two contestants needed partners for several dances. I checked our schedule and then accepted … plus my wife volunteered to be on the makeup and hair-styling team …. and the next day I secured a second male.

I only had two short sessions to practice with my partners, but that was enough because the steps were simple and we were not to exceed outside the listed steps. At the competition, organizers placed in heats of 6-7 dancers that allowed plenty of room for both the dancers and the judges on the floor … just like in typical dance competition.

My partners and I competed in four of the seven dances, making the semifinals and finals on three … and even winning third place in one .. but this day was more than that. Yes, it was a competition … yes, there were medals … but everyone one of the dancers were big winners. They loved dressing up, they loved dancing, they encouraged each other, and they appreciated others who smiled, said hello, or shook their hand with a smile … and we support dancers made sure the day was about our partners.

The day was about the contestants, not the dancing pair. The emcee announced each contestant for every dance, but he never mentioned their partner. We were in the program, but after the contestants name. During the awards, contestants received the medals with great joy as the never-mentioned support partner proudly stood by them … and every support partner loved playing second fiddle on a day meant for others.

The story about the organizer and how this group of people came to be is a post in itself, but on this day, my wife and I were very happy that we asked that question several weeks ago about the need for extra help. We smiled a lot on this day and left with a warmer heart, plus I know some tears leaked out of my eyes when the organizer took the time to dance with each contestant.

The next step for me seems logical … that I continue participating as a partner at their weekly gatherings … after all, it’s about them. Through the magic of dance, they see themselves on an elegant ballroom floor … but they probably don’t know or realize what they give to the volunteers.

(Note: It isn’t my place to post a video on the dances, but if the organizer releases them for public viewing, I will share.)

Flashbacks: On Ballroom

Watching Dancing with the Stars got us into ballroom dancing. It’s been fun and challenging. Below are some past posts that you may not know about ballroom. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.