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What is ballroom Samba? (Free dance tutorial)

Updated: Feb 13

History and Origin of Samba

Originating in Brazil in the 19th century, this style of dance has multiple variations. Samba is African in origin and owes its rhythm and moves to the African slave dances on Brazilian plantations. The traditional African dance is performed in a circle where a lone central dancer is relied on weight shift and sudden rapid steps.

Once slavery ended, the dancers migrated outside of cities, where freed slaves put together dance troupes for carnival and its been performed there for almost 100 years. During carnival time there are “Samba schools” that include thousands of colorfully costumed dancers presenting this dance in the streets of Brazil and Rio in particular.


The specific Samba rhythm is highlighted to it’s best by characteristic Brazilian musical instruments: originally called tamborim, chocalho, reco-reco and cabaca.

In order to accomplish and capture the real spirit of the Samba a dancer must give it a happy, flirtatious and exuberant interpretation.

The rhythm is performed to a 2/4 percussive beat with a good isolation and almost still upper body. Arms and hands are related to the hip ,leg and knee movements and the bounce action. Most steps, used in the Samba today, require a pelvic action (Samba tic or Samba pendulum) action. This actions are difficult to accomplish, but without them the dance loses much of its essence. Typical characteristics of the Samba are the sudden steps taken on a quarter of a beat and the pronounced bouncy and rocking motion and sway of the dancing couple.

Ballroom Samba As We Know It Today

The ballroom version of the samba is different from the Brazilian Samba. It is called Carioca Samba and it is derived from the rural "Rocking Samba" and has been known for many years from the people living in Rio and specifically around the Carioca river area. The samba in ballroom dancing did not originate in Brazil, the music is still samba music, but the style is more Latin ballroom.

There's no doubt the samba is high energy and excitement , not only to to watch but to dance also. Ballroom Latin Samba brings many fast rhythms, rhinestoned costumes, and fun steps to ballroom dancers, which is probably why so many of them get involved traditional ballroom dance competitions.

The first time the Samba was introduced to North America and The United States was thought the movie audiences in 1933 when Fred Astaire and Dolores Del Rio danced the Carioca in Flying Down to Rio. Few years later, Carmen Miranda danced the Samba in That Night in Rio.

Basic Ballroom Samba Step

  1. Begin with your feet together. Relax your knees and keep them soft and bouncy throughout.

  2. Step forward onto the ball of the left foot, shifting your weight to that foot.

  3. Take a small-step under your body onto the ball of the right foot and finish shifting your weight to the right stepping foot with a ball flat action.

  4. Step back onto the the right foot, shifting weight again , take a small step in with the left foot coming under your body and finish with the last and third step with your right foot in place. Repeat the sequence.

  5. You don't "travel" very much as you step forward and back. As you repeat this action and pick up the pace to match the tempo of the music, your relaxed knees will give you the samba bounce and your hips will start to move to match the weight shifts.

  6. Allow your arms to swing naturally next to your body as you repeat the pattern to the beat of the music.


Image Ballroom Dance Academy's instructors are passionate about dance and helping people learn how to enjoy partner dancing more. We offer ballroom dance lessons, wedding dance instruction and private dance parties. Dance styles we teach include Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Swing, Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango. Sign Up Today for your first dance class with us.

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