So Much Samba Fun!

Okay, it’s official.  I believe that Samba is currently my favorite dance.  I say “currently” because, if you dance ballroom, you will know, there are seasons to the dancing…dances you love one moment and hate the next, or, vice versa.  Well, my journey with Samba is a classic “B” rated romance starring no-name actors….starts with passionate hate, and develops into the best kind of love imaginable.

It all started on my last lesson.  Well, let me amend that.  I hated Samba  when I first started it.  Why?  Because of the dumb (I mean awesome?) bouncing action.  You know, that action that looks unbelievable on Julienne Hough but that when you see it you say to yourself, “How does a body actually do that?”

Well, I don’t know about you, but initially, I was stumped.  Over time, and with a lot of lessons and practice, I figured out some things and now feel better about my Samba action, both hip and bounce-related.  In any case, that was very important.  There was a long period of time where I never felt the dance in Samba, but it was necessary to just plug away at the technique of it.  Well, I did, and it has improved, and that set me up to begin to appreciate the dance (as it is danced in ballroom – this is just to acknowledge that it is a “ballroomized” version of the dance, not the authentic dance as found in Rio…but I digress…) – and now I am appreciating it more than ever before.

Okay, back to my long story, long (ha ha).  At the very end of my lesson with Ivan, after we had run our Rumba and Cha Cha, we began to play around with Samba.

“We have to be very delicate with the Samba.  We have to choosing the right moves for it.”

Well, no complaint here.  Look, I have lots of work to do on it, for sure, but the feeling inside…well, that’s the part I’m in love with.

So we began simply working on the beginning steps.  A back step, hit a line, repeat, batucadas, and then….magic!

Why was it magic?  Well, it’s not the actual steps.  That much is clear.  All it is, is two steps backwards and a pose.  What makes it magic is the energy behind it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun on a lesson.

Before I say more, I want to acknowledge this nagging thought that if this opportunity to dance this way had occurred a year ago, or even a month ago, I do not believe that I would have been ready or that I could have embraced the expression of it with the open arms as I was able to do this week.  Upon reflection (you see, I actually do contemplate my blog posts before I write them….usually in fleeting thoughts during the day, thinking to myself, ‘Oh! I need to put that in the blog!’) well, anyways, upon reflection, I can see that I am in a different place.  A more confident, more accepting, more joyful place.  More open to actually acting out on the outside what I feel on the inside, even if it doesn’t match what I think it could/should look like in a slimmer body.  Well, whatever.  Life is too short….

Okay, diatribe complete.  Here’s why I had so much fun:

If you have dogs, then you know what pure, loving, fun, happy, upbeat energy they have when you walk in the door (and for non-dog lovers, can you imagine that greeting you when you walk in the door?).  Either way, it’s an awesome feeling.  Their cute little faces staring up at you, their tails wagging as fast as a helicopter blade….no matter how bad a day you’ve had, they are there to love you and just be happy that you exist, that you walked in the door (what an accomplishment!).  Well, it kinda felt like that.   That, plus the tension/attraction-type energy between a man and woman that should be exemplified by the Latin dances.

Okay well, we began learning the moves then ba ba ba ba BAH!  And by ba ba ba BAH I mean something.  I may not really be sure how to put this experience into words but I’ll do my best.  Actually, I suggest you attempt to experience it for yourself.  But word-wise, here goes.  It was a building energy.

Imagine you can’t wait to dance with a partner and they are near.  Imagine you are looking toward them and they are kind of looking toward you but yet still in an aloof manner.  But then that person turns towards you.  You get a little jolt inside that it is possible to dance with this amazing person that seemed out of your league just a second ago.  But not yet!  Instead, you walk around each other sizing one another up for a few more seconds.  But then, then the unthinkable happens!  He extends a hand!  An invitation!  Yes!  You get to dance!  You want to dance!  But hey – let’s be real.  You still want to seem under control, cool, regal.  So you, unhurriedly, and centered and on balance, accept the invitation.  Yeah, it’s like that.

I’m totally lying.  It’s like that in the build up, but I always screw it up!  It’s totally not like that (yet)…but it should be…it could be….and with practice it WILL be!  Eh, and for now it totally isn’t.  I have to laugh because when Ivan says “Follow me.  Be the mirror image,” I take him literally.  So when he walks left, I walk right.  I’m “dyslexic” according to the crazy Bulgarian.  Yes, I’m in tune enough now to finally react, but, frustratingly, I’m not connected enough to react appropriately.  Ugh!  Grr. Grr.

However, there is a silver lining.  This is that we practiced eye leads (I made this term up just in case you were wondering).

What are “eye leads” you may ask?  Well, most of us students/beginner/bronze dancers get let with a hand/arm lead.  The deal is, that it isn’t/shouldn’t be the arm/hand/any-kind-of-contact.  At higher levels, like I’ve experienced for minutes out of the thousands of hours I’ve had dance lessons, a person will get a body lead, like a hand on the back or hip or shoulder, but not in the arm – the usual place to look to connect.

All you get in an “eye lead” is connection via the eyes – Awesome yet scary and also revealing of your dependencies/weaknesses/where-you-rely-on-your-partner.  But, overall, very awesome.  I actually prefer it and wish we did more of it.  It’s all about the energy.  You can’t do an eye lead unless you are tuned into the energy and connection.  It’s just not possible.

Well, anyways that was what made the lesson so awesome and fun.  That and on the beginning steps Ivan and I totally get in each other’s faces and it is so funny!  I love it!

So anyways, that’s my story for now…

Creolé Show - Samba dancer 4

By Sérgio Savarese (originally posted to Flickr as Girl) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

7 thoughts on “So Much Samba Fun!

  1. seejendance says:

    I use eye leads all the time. I usually just creep out my dance teacher. (Jen… is there something in your eye? No – it’s bolero, damnit!)

    I used to lurve samba. But as you said, we have preferences that last as quick as flea’s knees, so I usually sit those out. Unless I can west coast swing to it instead…

    • loveablestef says:

      Ha ha! I love it…that’s like something Ivan would say to me “Is there something in your eye?” Kind of like when he told me only my face looked stupid, or that he liked my dancing for one second, or that I am about as hot as Mocha. No, damnit! I’m being sexy/emotional/feeling-it/whatever! Can’t you see, Ivan?! lol.

  2. Love this! I have, what I like to call… A samba-split-personality. Sometimes it feels and looks great. Sometimes it feels and looks awful. But when it goes well, it is such a great dance 🙂

    • loveablestef says:

      Thanks happyrainyday! Yeah, funny how a dance can feel awful and look great, or it can feel great and look awful. It’s a special kind of torture when it looks and feels awful, but it’s a special kind of magic when it looks and feels great! I’m addicted to those special moments of perfection…they are so fleeting and far-between, but still, so worth it!

  3. bgballroom says:

    This almost makes me want to take up Latin;-) Those 4 or 5 newcomer lessons we had in Samba were SO hard for me! I think my aductors are still aching from trying to learn botafogos. But it is such a happy dance that when the music comes on it kinda makes me want to get out on the floor and just do it!

  4. Vikki Liles says:

    So glad you found love for the samba, which is the dance I wandered into my studio to learn. But I wasn’t “allowed” to even begin it for more than a year. “You’re not ready,” said my teacher. But I want to learn samba-rolls in shadow position, I whined, and made him watch a Youtube video of Yulia and Ricardo doing the samba at a comp, where they started out with him in back and ended up with her in back and I thought I would swoon with the sexiness and heat of it. “You’re not ready,” was the response, only this time with the eyebrow lifted and an explanation of what they did was not even in the gold syllabus it was so hard. But the magic day came when he said I was ready and I was full of joy. Of course, once the real lessons began, and I saw how hard the dance really is, the joy was suddenly sucked from it and I began to believe it is the hardest Latin dance, as so many have told me. But persistence has brought better movement and I would rather samba than anything, except maybe fox trot. Would rather listen to samba music than any other, although I must have the whistles. Oh, how I love the samba! Even the names of the steps are awesome – corta jaca, botofogo, volta. Welcome to the club, Stef!

    • loveablestef says:

      Thanks! It’s be a long time coming. When I first started lessons with Ivan and he told me Samba was his favorite danced, I sighed in dismay. I just didn’t get it. I mean, I always loved watching the pros do it, but I didn’t enjoy dancing it myself, especially since I couldn’t figure out how to make my body do what it was supposed to do. But I think it helped me to find the love for it since Ivan enjoyed it so much…and the puppy dog energy of joy that he can bring to it. That makes it fun too. We should totally start an official Samba lovers club, with cards and pins and events, just like the plus size dancewear company we’re going to create 🙂 hee hee

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