2 beats/measure; 48-56 meas/min
The samba was born among the slaves on Brazilian sugar
plantations. One mythical story (from Barbara Browning, Samba,
p., 16) tells of an escaped Black slave who encountered an Indian woman
in the bush. They set up housekeeping there in the wild, and their
children began a mixed race. The only difficulty was the parents'
inability to communicate in each other's language, so their arguments
took place in stomps, shakes, and shudders: the samba.
It grew out of the tango, maxixe, and many other musical
influences. It was a dance of lowlife rascals in Rio de Janeiro, danced
in the slums by the poorest classes. It was an activity looked down
upon, repudiated, scorned, ridiculed, and even persecuted by the
police. Samba was prohibited; even tambourines were prohibited.
The first radio station appeared in Brazil in 1923 but reached
a mass audience only in the 1930s. Casé Program broadcast popular music
in 1932 from Rio throughout the country. Several recording studios
formed at the same time. Early in the twentieth century, popular music
and even Carnival music included many styles in different regions of
the country: polka, waltz, mazurka, schottische, maxixe, tango, samba,
even charleston and foxtrot. In the 1930s samba came to dominate all
others and become a truly national, government-sanctioned rhythm. State
sponsored samba schools became the center of the Rio carnival. "Nobody
wants to think or do anything else. Now samba is the study of literati,
poets, playwrights, and even some immortals of the Academy of Letters."
(from a memoir of 1933, quoted in Vianna, 1999, p. 114)
Carman Miranda (1909–1955) was Portuguese by birth, but in the
1920s, she came to embody both Brazil and the samba, later perhaps more
as a caricature. In the 1940s, she was "the Brazilian Bombshell" and
danced "The Lady in the Tutti-Fruitti Hat."
Samba reached Paris in the 1920s. It was introduced into the
U. S. in 1939, at the New York World's Fair, and it saw a marked boom
throughout Europe and America in the 1950s.
The characteristic 2/4 count is 1/a, 2; or "quick/a, quick;"
but in round dancing, we choreograph and dance as though the music were
4/4. One dancer described the
feel of samba music as "a-pic, a-poc, a-pic, a-poc." The two common
patterns are the "basic" or "bota fogo" timing, with 1a, 2, 3a, 4; and
the "volta" timing, with 1a, 2a, 3a, 4; In these figures, the "a" is a
quarter beat (remember that the "&" in cha is longer—a half beat). In
samba, the "a" step is a quick step, and really, only partial weight is
taken. Instead of "cha-cha-cha," it feels more like "bum-ba-bum." Step
with the left, ball-flat, quickly press with the ball of the right, and
step again with the left, ball-flat. On side steps, lead with the
inside edge of the foot: edge-flat. As in other Latin rhythms, delaying
the taking of weight, ball-flat or edge-flat, shifts the hips to the
side of the stepping foot, giving a "latin" hip action.
A second signature feature is the "samba bounce." The upper torso is
kept relatively quiet, but the mid-torso is supple and the hips and
pelvis move slightly. (At one time, samba was danced with a big rolling
bounce. Now, the samba bounce is much more understated.) Step on count
one with flexed knee, pelvis forward, hips tucked under; press behind
on the "a" count, straighten the knees, and lifting the pelvis back and
up; then step on beat two and flex again, and straighten before the
first step of the next measure. This flexing and straightening, with a
little lift at the end of each beat will put that bounce in the pelvis.
Add a forward and back swaying of the upper bodies, and you get a
controlled rocking motion, a pendulum swinging forward and back, the two bodies in unison.
Together, the latin hip and the bounce give a soft
figure-eight motion. Keep your footwork small and light. There is rise
and fall, always turning, sway to right and left, and the back and
forth bounce. It seems like a lot to fit in, but stay loose. Think gay,
lighthearted, dancing in the streets; think carnival time in Rio. Now
and then, add some tight conflict-between-the-sexes for spice.
Figure Name, Roundalab Phase
Level, & Timing
q=quick, 1 beat
s=slow, 2 beats
&=1/2 beat; a=1/4 beat
(In round dancing, we are used to
thinking in groups of four beats, so the figures below are described
that way, but each group of four counts is really two measures.)
Steps and Actions That Make Up
Each description focuses on the man,
with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not
given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance
positions and steps,
actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a
comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a
measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring
in a single beat.
Here are some sequences to help
you visualize the figure in context.
|Basic Forward and Back
(or 1a2; 1a2;)
|In closed position, step forward L on "1"
(woman back R) as if stepping over a stick on the floor, drawing trail
foot toward lead (but not sliding the foot on the floor—no shuffling
noise). Close R on "a" on ball of foot, just partial weight. Step L on
"2." Step over/step, step,
The back basic mirrors the forward basic and can be
abbreviated: bk/cl, stp;
|In Laughing Samba by Cibula, the dance begins with a rhythm bounce; basic fwd & bk; whisk L&R; travelling locks;
|In closed position facing wall, step
forward L (woman bk R), press R to L, back R, press L to R;
||In Lamberty & Halbert's Whisper,
part A begins with an alternative basic; lazy samba turns to face LOD;
to progressive whisks;,,
CP fwd L (W bk R)/sd R on inside edge of ball of foot and w/ slight L
sway, cl L, bk R (W fwd L)/sd L on inside edge of ball of foot and w/
slight R sway, cl R;
|A box can be substituted for a basic in
|In closed or bfly, step side on the lead
foot on "1." Cross trail foot behind on the "a" with partial weight and
samba bounce. On "2" recover on the lead foot in the same spot. The
second whisk is: sd/xib, rec;
||In the Kincaids' Under the Sea,
part C begins with a sd, cl, sd, cl; lazy samba turns;;;; twirl 2 sd
cl; twirl 2 sd cl; whisk L & R; to criss cross voltas;;
|In closed position with lead hands joined
below waist level, man's palm up and woman's palm down, press left heel
forward and take weight (woman's right heel back). Recover on right.
Press L toe back and take weight/recover on R. Keep the upper bodies
upright and let the legs move forward and back beneath, pendulum-like.
We have danced the first two counts of this figure.
During counts 3 and 4, dance a heel/rec, heel/rec; That
is, press the L heel fwd/rec R, press L heel fwd/rec R;
During the second measure, dance toe bk/rec, heel
fwd/rec, toe bk/rec, toe bk/rec;
The heel is always pressed forward, and the toe is
always pressed back. The figure sequence is: heel, toe, heel, heel;
toe, heel, toe, toe;
|In Axel 5 by the Cunninghams,
there are criss cross voltas twice;; maypole to butterfly wall; curving
volta to CP LOD; marchessi;; to a merengue 2 & cucaracha both ways;;
|In closed position, step fwd R (woman bk
L), fwd & sd L heel (woman bk & sd R toe)/slide R leftward
& step (woman slide L rightward and step), bk & sd L toe/ slide
R leftward & step, fwd sd L heel/slide R leftward & step;
|This is the figure where the samba bounce
can best be used. In semi-closed position, lead foot free, step forward
on "1," knees soft, pelvis forward, drawing trail foot toward lead.
Step back on "a" on ball of foot, just partial weight, knees straight,
pelvis back. Draw lead foot back and step on "2," pelvis neutral.
Note the drawing of the lead foot back on count 2 (and
4). Samba walks are sometimes called "pullies," referring to this
pulling of the foot. Below, we'll see the Bota Fogos referred to as
|Side Samba Walk
|You might precede this with a single samba
walk, giving your trail foot free. In semi step forward on trail foot
on the "1" count. On the "a" step to the side, on the inside edge of
the ball of the foot, partial weight. On "2" pull trail toward lead and
recover. You can end in open or semi to continue to progress. An
alternative is to turn toward partner on "a" and "2" and end in closed
wall or open facing wall.
||Samba walk, side samba walk, spot voltas
both ways, criss cross voltas both ways.
|This is a very simple "resting measure"
and a smooth way to move from semi to closed line of dance. In semi,
step forward on your lead feet. On "2" man steps small forward, and
woman steps forward and swivels left face to end in closed position,
line of dance.
||Do two samba walks to line, walk, pickup,
whisk left and right, two left turns to reverse, whisk left and right,
left turns back to line.
|In loose closed position or in left open
facing with trail hands extended to side, close instep of L to toe of R
(woman opposite). Step small back R with partial weight. Draw L to R
and take weight. May start with trail feet. May be repeated.
||In Bailamos by the Cantrells,
there is a left turning box;; left turning box with barrel roll
action;; 4 stationary samba walks;; closed basics;; 1/4 left turning
box plait twice to 2 rhythm bounces;;; face side close and 2 rhythm
|In half open position, step thru with
trail feet looking over trail shoulder (man's right and woman's left),
-, forward L turning in front of woman (she steps fwd R between his
feet), step fwd to left half open; This figure is like in and out runs
in the smooth rhythms and may be repeated any number of times.
|In left open position, facing partner and
line of dance, step forward R turning RF (woman fwd L turning LF)/lock
LIB of R, fwd R, fwd L turning LF/lock RIB of L, fwd L; repeat;
||Chico's Manana begins with
traveling locks starting with the lead feet;; to an open basic (in
which the woman steps forward with the man).
|In left open position, facing partner and
line of dance, turn 1/2 RF and step back L/back R (woman 1/2 LF and
back R/back L), both lock lead foot in front of trail, back R turning
LF (woman back L turning RF)/back L, lock RIF of L; repeat;
|In open position, no hands joined, step
forward L turning 1/4 LF (woman fwd R turning 1/4 RF). On the "a"
count, place trail foot behind the lead on the inside edge of toe. On
count 2, pull the lead foot back about 3 inches and take weight. You
are back to back. On counts 3 and 4, step forward turning to left open
position/back, and pull back; During the second measure, repeat these
steps, first to face each other and finally to regain open position
again. Each dancer dances a square pattern away from partner and back
together again. May also begin in left open position.
Typical armwork involves rotating the left arm
counterclockwise and up at the elbow and placing the right hand under
the left elbow, as you step with the left foot, and similarly rotating
the right arm clockwise and up and placing the left hand under that
elbow, as you step with the right foot.
Copas are also done in a progressive manner, without
tracing out the box described above. You would dance 1a2 with a little
LF rotation (woman RF) and then 3a4 with a little RF rotation,
progressing down line. "Progressing" Copas are little more than Samba
Walks with Copa arms.
|The Moores' Hot Hot Samba begins
with progressing Copas;; back to back traveling voltas; face to face
traveling voltas; into whisks left & right;
|Side, close, side, close; May be done
facing partner, or from open position, you might merengue apart and
||Box toward wall, merengue down line, left
turn to face line, whisk right.
|In closed position, forward on the lead foot
(woman back), turning a quarter left face. On the "a," step side on the
inside edge of the trail foot and with slight L sway, ball, partial weight. On the "2" close
lead to trail foot. The second turn is: bk turn quarter LF/sd w/ slight R sway, cl to
||In closed position, line, left turn to
face center, whisk right, left turn to reverse, whisk right, left turns
back to line again.
|In closed, line, step forward turning left
face. On the "a" count, step side, continuing to turn to face reverse.
On "2," cross lead in front of trail (woman simply closes). In second
half: bk trn/sd, cl (woman xif); End facing line again. Notice that
left turns rotate only a half, and the reverse turn rotates full.
||In Help Yourself by Cunningham we dance bota fogo to SCP & thru fc cl; basic; u/arm trn & basic endBFLY; samba away & tog 2X;;
|Lazy Samba Turns
|In closed position, step forward L turning
1/8 LF (woman back R)/close R, step in place L, back R turning 1/8
LF/close L, step R;
This figure is a forward and back basic, turning a total
of 1/4 LF.
|In the Fishers' Bring It All Back,
the dance begins in closed position, facing the wall, with four
measures of Lazy Samba Turns (a full turn);;;; Then part A begins with
a whisk left and right to semi-closed position; samba walk down line
and side samba walk;
|Reverse Barrel Roll
|In closed position, step forward L turning
LF and rolling body fwd and to right (woman bk R turning LF and rolling
body bk and to left), sd & bk R turning and rolling body fwd and to
left/ cross L in front of R rolling body to left, bk R turning and
rolling body bk and to left, sd L turning and rolling body back and to
right/ close R rolling body to right; Makes one full turn.
|In a loose closed position, step back L
(woman fwd R outside partner), cross RIB of L (woman LIF of R) in loose
Latin Cross and turn 1/4 LF/sd & fwd L, fwd R outside partner, XLIF
of R turning 1/4 LF/sd & bk R; bk L (woman fwd R outside partner),
cross RIB of L (woman LIF of R) and turn 1/4 LF/sd & fwd L, fwd R
outside partner, XLIF of R turning 1/4 LF/sd & bk R;
|In closed position, step fwd R leaning
slightly back (woman bk L leaning fwd) with a rolling action and
turning RF, sd L leaning right turning/close R, bk L leaning fwd and
turning, sd R leaning left turning/close R; Makes up to one full turn.
|In closed position, facing line of dance,
step forward on the lead foot (woman back). On the "a" count, step side
R turning LF 1/8, take partial weight, and push back onto the lead
foot. On "2," actually recover onto that lead foot again. Second half
of figure: fwd/sd trn, rec; Instead of a forward step, you may cross in
front (woman behind); end facing line with slight progression over the
Notice the characteristic action on each "a" count. You
are stepping to the side and pushing back onto the previous foot. Bota
Fogos are sometimes referred to as "pushies."
|In semi, walk, pick up, bota fogo, reverse
turn to line, traveling bota fogos, criss cross volta both ways to half
open, merengue apart, and point at each other (ending a dance).
|Bota Fogo to Semi-Closed & Reverse
|In closed position, step forward L (woman
back R)/ sd R on inside edge of toe turning LF (woman sd L turning RF),
recover L to SCP, thru R (woman thru L)/sd L turning RF (woman sd R
turning LF), recover R to reverse semi-closed position; thru L/sd R
turning LF (woman RF), recover L to SCP,
|In closed position or more easily in
butterfly with right foot free for both, step fwd R outside partner/
side and back L on inside edge of toe turning 1/4 RF, close R near L to
contra sidecar, fwd L outside partner/ sd & bk R turning 1/4 LF,
close L near R to contra banjo;
May begin with left feet to sidecar.
|Shadow Bota Fogos
|In a very loose semi-closed position,
woman a little in front of the man, lead feet free and lead hands
joined, step forward L crossing behind woman (woman fwd R crossing in
front of man)/sd & fwd R on inside edge of toe turning 1/4 LF and
pushing with toe (woman turns RF), recover L, fwd R crossing behind
woman/sd & fwd L with push and turning 1/4 RF (woman LF), rec R;
Keep lead hands joined throughout. On the first step,
you blend to a sort-of shadow and step across to kind-of left shadow.
You can start the figure from this position with the trail feet and
move to shadow and then back to left shadow.
|Traveling Bota Fogos
|Perhaps in butterfly position LOD, do two
sets of bota fogos, but progress more on each "a" count: fwd/sd &
fwd trn push, rec, fwd/sd & fwd trn push, rec; fwd/sd & fwd trn
push, rec, fwd/sd & fwd trn push, rec;
|Back Traveling Bota Fogos
|Perhaps in butterfly position RLOD, do two
sets of bota fogos, but progress in a backing direction toward line: bk
L (W fwd R)/sd & bk R turning RF push, recover, bk/sd & bk
turning LF push, rec; bk/sd & bk trn push, rec, bk/sd & bk trn
As mentioned above, Bota Fogos can be done with a little
more body action if you make the first step of each "triple" a crossing
step. In this figure, if the man crosses behind on the first step, it
will turn him a little LF. Then the side pushing step turns him RF, and
|In Rum & Coca Cola by the
Shibatas, part B starts with samba away and togethere to a spin
maneuver;; plait;; back traveling bota fogos;; to a natural roll to
face wall; and a curving chasse side close [1&2&34;] to face
Off the Arm
|This is not the jive figure, but a sort of
man's whisk and a woman's unwrap and rewrap. In wrapped position, step
side L and release lead hands (woman fwd R turning RF beginning to roll
to man's right)/XRIB of L (woman sd L turning), recover L (woman sd R
to open position), sd R (woman fwd L turning LF)/XLIB of R (woman sd
R), rec R (woman sd L back to wrapped position);
Woman rolls a full turn out and back; no turn for the
man. Figure can end in closed position if the woman rolls 1 & 1/2
back to end facing the man, or if the woman rolls 1 & 1/4 back and
the man turns 1/4 RF to end facing.
|Both the man and the woman dances XIF/sd
& bk, XIF/sd & bk, XIF/sd & bk, XIF; Each cross in front is
a Latin Cross, that is the body is first turned toward the free foot
crossing the thighs. Then the free toe is turned out and the heel is
crossed in front of the toe of the supporting foot. When turning LF,
start with the left foot. When turning RF, start with the R. When
traveling left, start with the R, and when traveling right, start with
If the walks are "pullies" and the bota fogos "pushies,"
then the voltas are "crossies."
|A volta that curves 1/4 LF or RF.
|A volta that starts with the left foot and
travels to the right or visa versa. No turn.
|Turning Traveling Volta
|Start with the left foot. Turn 1/2 LF on
the first step, and then travel to the right. Or visa versa—start with
the right foot, turn 1/2 RF and travel to the left.
|Criss Cross Volta
|In butterfly position, holding lead hands
cross the lead heel in front of the trail foot and begin to cross
behind the woman, leading her toward the center of the circle. On the
"a" step side and back, continuing across. On "2" cross in front again.
The man is dancing a path that curves left behind the woman and then up
to her right side on the outside of the circle. She is curving right
face in front of him and under joinde lead hands. The full figure is:
xif & trn/sd & bk, xif & trn/sd & bk, xif & trn/sd
& bk, xif;
||Criss Cross Volta back starting with trail
|This is a solo spot turn. Start with the
lead foot, and on count "1" step forward, crossing heel in front of
trail foot, toes turned out, and turn left face (woman RF). On the "a"
step side and back, continuing the turn. On "2" cross the lead in front
again, but it is the heel that moves; the lead toes stay on one spot.
Continue: /sd, xif/sd, xif; You can go around up to two complete turns,
but 360 degrees is more common.
||In Mas Que Nada by the Dois, we
start with spot voltas left and right;; stationary samba; whisk left
lady underarm turn; whisk right;
|A volta that turns left or right one full
|A circular volta done in
BJO or SCAR. In BJO, swivel RF on your L (W same) and XRIF of L curving
RF/sd & bk L, XRIF of L curving RF/sd & bk L, XRIF of L curving
RF/sd & bk L, XRIF of L;
I have seen this figure cued as "roundabout to left," even though we
are turning RF. I think this cue refers to the man's left-shoulder lead
and therefore his progression to his left (lady too), but it's
confusing. The figure turns 1/2 or more. In Iko Iko, by Worlock, the option is 1 1/4 RF rotation.
Often, the RF roundabout ends with a swivel to SCAR and then a LF
roundabout back to the starting point. In this case, the last step
might be a simple recover R swiveling RF to SCAR.
The LF roundabout begins in SCAR with L feet free. the first step is
swivel LF on your R and XLIF of R curving LF. (This has been cued
"roundabout to right.")
The ballroom (ISTD) description is a little more complicated. Beginning
BJO DLW, during the 1a2a3, we turn one full turn. On the "a" of 3, we
point side LOD without weight. Then on 4, we do a little ball/change
turning RF 3/8 to SCAR DRW, ready for our roundabout LF. The last two
weight changes are both done on the 4-count.
|In Cuban Pete Samba
by Hurd, we are in shadow wall with L feet free. We dance a samba walk
lady contra bota fogo to BJO DLW ,; roundabout to SCAR DLC; flick ball
change 2X; roundabout back to BJO DLW; flick ball change 2X; foot
change lady contra bota fogo to SCP, thru face close;
|A figure in which the woman does a spot
volta under joined hands one direction while the man does a circular
volta in the other direction around the woman.
(soft "a" as in "flat")
|In closed position, facing reverse line of
dance, with trail feet free, the man steps back ball-flat. Make it a
little longer first step and so create a little distance between you
and your partner. You will shift to a loose closed position. The woman
swivels 1/8 left face on her right foot and steps forward a small step
onto the ball of her left foot, crossing a bit in front of the right.
On beat 2, step back again; the woman swivels a quarter right face and
steps forward on her right. She swivels in the hips, but her shoulders
remain square to partner. There is no bounce. Then repeat for a total
of ten steps. For the man, the figure is: bk, bk, bk/bk, bk; bk, bk,
bk/bk, bk; For the woman, it is: swvl fwd, swvl fwd, swvl fwd/swvl fwd,
swvl fwd; swvl fwd, swvl fwd, swvl fwd/swvl fwd, swvl fwd;
Although the man's footwork can consist of simple back
walks, he can add a couple of refinements. First, he can split his
ball-flat stepping actions across beats. That is, he can step back on
the ball of the right foot, for instance, on beat one. Then lower onto
the heel of the right and step back on the ball of the left
foot on beat two, and so on. Each step becomes back on the ball, then a
little pause or sharpness, and then down onto the flat of that foot as
he steps back onto the ball of the other foot. Second, he can take each
step with a bent knee and then straighten it at the end of the beat to
move that hip back and to the side creating a merengue hip action.
plait can be danced in other positions, with other facing directions,
and beginning with the lead foot. We recently did it in OP LOD trail
feet free. Here, we both dance forward steps, so the man dances the
woman's swivel styling.
|Do half a reverse turn, plait, and half a
reverse turn back to line. This sequence feels good, because the
reverse turn is fast: three quick steps (1a2) and a big 180 degree
turn. Then the first steps of the plait are slower — 1, 2. It's a nice
In Eso Beso by Shibata, we
dance 2 samba walks in wrapped position; rolling off the arm to open
position and kick ball change; open plait to face; spot volta L&R;;
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