Brazilian Samba with its 2/4 rhythm arose from a mixture of African and European influences in the 1500s.
Brazilian Samba with its 2/4 rhythm arose from a mixture of African and European influences in the 1500s. The Brazilian Samba dance is one the most popular dances in the world from South America. The dance has evolved over time to become a cultural identity for Brazilians. Tracing its influence from native Angolan and Congo genres, the modern dance is a testament to different cultures.
Originating in 19th century Brazil, the samba is found all over the world in a staggering number of different styles. While most famous in places like Rio de Janeiro, one might just as easily see these steps performed in a street parade in Finland or a dinner club in Chicago. Part of its appeal is the simplicity of learning the basic steps of the samba, making it easy to spice it up later with the intricacies of choreography.
Establish Your Spin Samba Rhythm
Regardless of the style, the rhythm of the samba is the secret to its appeal. While the music is in 2/4 time, there are three steps in each measure. More simply put, every two beats has three steps. It goes long quick, short quick, and then slow.
The Two Basic Spin Samba Dance Steps
To dance the samba you only need two actual steps, and they are mirrors of each other. Actually, the word “step” is a little misleading, as most expert dancers will point out that it’s more of a weight shift (or, to use a choreographic term, a “ball change”) from foot to foot. Traditionally, men will start with a Forward Basic, which the woman mirrors with a Backward Basic. Each will then reverse direction for the next two measures and repeat, going back and forth.
Download this printable illustration to help you learn these basic samba steps. Simply click on the thumbnail below to open the Adobe document and print it.
Now, use the printable to practice the following samba steps. Both partners face each other to start.
Forward Basic (Leader)
- On the first beat of the music, slide the left foot forward very slightly and put the body’s full weight on it.
- Sliding the right foot forward, let the body shift subtly onto the ball of the left foot. The right heel shouldn’t touch the floor.
- After the left leg lifts as the weight shifts, place it back on the floor, flat and ready to go into the complementary back basic.
Back Basic (Follower)
- On the first beat of the music, slide the right foot back very slightly and put the body’s full weight on it.
- Sliding the left foot back, let the weight shift subtly onto the ball of the left foot. This move is also subtle, with the left heel never even making it to the floor.
- After the right leg rises because of the ball change, let it come back fully to the floor, with the full weight coming back.
Turn the Samba Square
If you want to go further with learning the samba, try the samba square. Like the rhythm of the basic samba steps, it goes long quick, short quick, and then slow. The leader starts the samba square forward and does the second half backward. The follower starts the samba square backward and does the second half forward.
Once again, both partners should be facing each other.
Forward Samba Square (Leader)
- Bend the left knee as you step forward with your left foot.
- Straighten your right knee as you step to the right with the right foot.
- Bend both knees as you bring the left foot to the right foot.
- Straighten your knees.