Samba (ballroom dance)

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For the Brazilian Ballroom Samba, see Samba de Gafieira.

The international Ballroom version of samba is a lively, rhythmical dance with elements from Brazilian samba. It has recently been exposed to the American public in television programmes such as Strictly come dancing and Dancing with the stars. It differs considerably from the original samba styles of Brazil, in particular it differs from Ballroom Samba in Brazil itself. It is often not always danced to music with a samba rhythm and often danced to music with less complex 2/4 and 4/4 time. In particular in the popular television programmes Strictly come dancing and Dancing with the stars it almost never danced to samba music or a samba rhythm. Moreover its performance does not necessarily include the characteristic steps from Samba no Pé. In many other ways it though been influenced by the Brazilian version of samba, in particular maxixe, and subsequently developed independently from samba in Brazil.


The ballroom samba has its origins in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. Many steps can be traced back to the Maxixe danced in the 1910s. A book published in France in 1928 described how to perform the samba.[1]


As a ballroom dance, the samba is a partner dance. Ballroom samba, even more than other ballroom dances, is very disconnected from the origins and evolution of the music and dance that gives it its name.

Most steps are danced with a slight downward bouncing or dropping action. This action is created through the bending and straightening of the knees, with bending occurring on the beats of 1 and 2, and the straightening occurring between. However, unlike the bouncing of, e.g., Polka, there is no considerable bobbing. Also, Samba has a specific hip action, different from that in ballroom Latin dances (Rumba and Cha-Cha-Cha).

The ballroom samba is danced to music in 2/4 or 4/4 time. It uses several different rhythmic patterns in its figures, with cross-rhythms being a common feature. Thus, for three-step patterns, common step values (in beats) are:

3/4 1/4 1  
3/4 1/4 3/4 1/4
1   1/2 1/2
3/4 1/2 3/4  

Naming controversy[edit]

Samba usually refers to the typical Brazilian dance and rhythm. As is typical of many Brazilian cultural manifestations, samba is the result of the fusion of european and african influence (in particular rhythms such as batuque and lundu).

It sometimes seen as controversial, calling a dance samba (a word, which in international popular culture is intimately connected to the very cultural essence of Brazil), that is so disconnected from any dance or music, which would be called samba in Brazil itself.


The ballroom samba is danced under several different rhythms, including the original Samba (music). It is also possible to dance ballroom samba with flamenco, zouk, and other South American rhythms.


  1. ^ The history of the samba