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For many people, the idea of Samba relates to colorful and flashy outfits, party rhythms and exuberant movements, and acrobatics. TV programs like Dancing With the Stars also have popularized this idea, similar to what we expect to find at the Carnaval in Rio. However, Samba is a much more diverse genre that offers several styles you can learn right now with, or without a partner.
At the Brazilian Arts Foundation, a style we teach is called Samba de Gafieira, often referred to as ‘’Brazilian Tango’’’. Samba de Gafieira is a subtle combination of ballroom style movements like the ones seen in Tango, with some of the best of Samba music styles and gestures originated in Brazil and different Afro-Brazilian sounds. The similitude to other traditional ballroom dances, like lambada and forró, and their origin are the reason this dance style is often called Salon Samba.
… So, what does “Gafieira” mean? Let’s go back in time for a bit!
We’re in the 1930’s Rio de Janeiro. With an explosion of culture in bloom, big cities like ‘’The Magnificent Rio’’ are flooding with new artistic expressions inspired by other cultures. Some clubs in particular become popular exponentially within a fast-growing working class; the Gafieiras! They were some of the best urban nightclubs you could visit to show your dance moves; for some, the Gafieiras were suited for poor people due to its honky-tonk, gaff style; but this movement became essential to the evolution of Samba in the following decades. Mixing the sounds of Chorinho, Pagode, Bossa and many others, people started to adapt the Maxixe dance style to perform in a more salon-like environment, introducing graceful and smooth movements that resulted in the creation of a brand new dance genre similar to International Ballroom Samba.
Samba de Gafieira, born in nightclubs between the streets of Botafogo, Centro, and Catete districts of beautiful Rio de Janeiro, became more popular in the 40’s, slowly absorbing other dance styles to that make it an even richer experience. It is the perfect mix between the spice of Salsa, the sophistication of Argentinian Tango and the elegance and delicacy of Ballroom dance styles across the world. Some even describe it as the ‘’Brazilian union of Tango and Waltz’’… we think they might be just right!
Can you feel the beat?
As the music starts and you bring in your first steps and your partner joins you, a beautiful waltzy rhythm creates a moment frozen in time, while together you dance to the ‘short-short-long’ movements of samba de gafieira. It’s about balancing each other, feeling the percussion and swaying softly as if you were in a boat on calm waters.
There’s enough room for you to be creative to find a turn, extend your arms, playing with beautiful moves and shines you will find with some practice. Samba de Gafieira definitely lets you speak a different language with your dancing body!
Do you want to lead the way? Or use elaborated shines and turns? Perhaps to a very slow and soothing rhythm? You get to decide the style of your steps and the tone of your dance; whether it is playful or smooth, sharp or acrobatic, the space is there for you to enjoy in whichever way you decide!
This refined dance style is a great choice for new dancers looking for an open way to enjoy music without getting too technical to begin with. The rules are very flexible compared to other dance styles, making it a great way for first-timers and couples to try their moves and to have an awesome workout!
Samba de Gafieira classes are uncommon in the U.S. making it a unique opportunity to learn new moves, enhance your style in other popular dances and meet new people who love Brazilian music and rhythms too! The BAF offers classes for all levels, a perfect excuse for you to indulge in this delightful ballroom style.
If you’re curious about Samba, we suggest you to try out our program! Click here for more info on our classes.