Ballroom Samba: A Global Dance with Brazilian Roots

Samba is a lively and rhythmic dance with a fascinating history that can be traced back to its Brazilian ancestor, the original samba. The original Brazilian samba is a melting pot of various dance and music styles, rich with the spirit of celebration. Let’s take a journey through time to discover the evolution of ballroom samba.

African Roots

The word «samba» is believed to have African origins, particularly from the Kimbundu language spoken by the Bantu people who were brought to Brazil as slaves during the colonial period. «Samba» is thought to be derived from «semba,» an Angolan term that signified an «invitation to dance» – a rhythmic, dancing motion and was associated with dance parties held in rural areas of Rio.

The Bantu people, had various musical and dance traditions that influenced the development of samba in Brazil. These rhythms, dances, and melodies mixed with indigenous Brazilian music and European influences, created a unique and captivating fusion.

Early Days

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, samba started gaining recognition and popularity in the streets and neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro. It was associated with lively celebrations, especially during Carnival, the grandest party in Brazil. In the 1920s, the concept of «samba schools» emerged. These were not traditional educational institutions but rather neighbourhood groups that practiced and performed samba during Carnival. Each school had its own distinct style, music, and costumes, creating a beautiful mosaic of samba traditions.

Samba’s Transformation

In the early 20th century, samba made its way to the dance floors of Europe and the United States. However, it underwent some changes to suit the tastes and preferences of the Western world. It adopted a slower tempo and a more structured form. This transformation marked the birth of what we now know as ballroom samba. Dancers and choreographers were looking for ways to spice up their routines, and samba’s lively and energetic nature made it a natural choice.

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, played a significant role in popularizing samba worldwide. The dazzling costumes, infectious rhythms, and lively parades introduced the world to the spirit of samba. Ballroom samba incorporates some of these elements, making it a thrilling dance that’s both a feast for the eyes and a great workout.

Characteristics of Ballroom Samba

Samba is one of the five dances that make up the dynamic Latin group, which also includes cha-cha-cha, rumba, paso doble, and jive. Ballroom samba has a distinct character. It’s known for its energetic and playful movements, featuring quick footwork, hip action, and a unique bounce – “samba bounce”. This dance retains the essence of the original Brazilian samba but adapts it to a more formal ballroom setting, which is structured and precise.

So, when you’re happily bouncing to your favourite samba song on the dance floor in Oslo, you’re also sharing the captivating history of ballroom samba 🙂

Ewa Trela
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