The samba dance style has come to epitomize urban music and dance in Brazil. Samba originated here, and has both Brazilian and West African influences. It is largely tied to the maxixe dance style, which is also known as the Brazilian tango, but whereas the maxixe style came onto the scene in the 1860s, it wasn’t until 1917 that the first true samba music was introduced, when the song “Pelo Telefone” was recorded. Ever since, the samba has been the main music dance associated with Carnival celebrations in Brazil, and therein lies much of its fame.
Early on, the samba was primarily a solo dance style and something for couples, but eventually a ballroom style emerged. This addition occurred in the 1930's, and it didn’t take long for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to introduce it to the United States; the dancing duo performed the samba in the 1933 movie Flying Down to Rio. Subsequent to that, Carmen Miranda did her part to make the samba dance popular in the United States by performing it in the 1941 film That Night in Rio. These days, samba and its various styles remain as popular as ever. Samba even features among the five main dances that are judged in most international Latin dancing competitions.
The Brazilian samba is a very rhythmical dance that is usually based on a 2/4 tempo. It is mostly danced solo, and as has always been the case, it is especially popular at carnival time. Rio de Janeiro gets the most attention for its samba dancing, though Sao Paulo isn’t very far behind, and Sao Paulo carnival pictures of the samba are equally as striking. Regardless of where it is danced, the Brazilian samba can feature many different steps, and as is true of many other dances, there are various styles. The type of samba that is most commonly seen during the Brazilian Carnival season is the Samba no pé. This is a solo style, and it tends to be impromptu. Examples of other Brazilian samba styles include the partner dance that is known as Samba de Gafieira (which is significantly different from the ballroom samba style) and the solo Samba Axé style.
The samba dance style is so important in Brazil that there are special buildings that are primarily used to host exhibitions from the different samba schools in Brazil—these buildings are appropriately known as Sambadromes. The two most famous are the Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai in Rio de Janeiro and the Anhembi Sambadrome in Sao Paulo. Both are major Carnival gathering places, and the parades that they host produce some of the most iconic images of the Brazilian Carnival in general. When sambadromes aren’t being used for carnival samba competitions, they often find themselves hosting technical samba rehearsals. It is also common for other events to be held at these venues. The Anhembi Sambadrome in Sao Paulo hosts an annual IndyCar Series race every year, for example, and the Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai in Rio is set to be used for various events relating to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Samba parades are among the most colorful and lively celebrations that are associated with the carnival in Brazil. In addition to samba dancers, they usually feature plenty of musicians and a collection of colorful floats. Once again, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are the two main destinations that are associated with such parades. The parades in both cities see competitions among different samba schools, which represent either a certain neighborhood or social club. Thousands of participants are on hand to make the samba parades of Rio and Sao Paulo especially spectacular. In addition to their dancing, schools that compete in samba parades are also judged on such things as their costumes and the execution of the plot or theme that they are trying to share. Tickets for the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo samba parades are very hot commodities, so it is a good idea to get them in advance. As for other Brazil samba parades, both Salvador and Recife are examples of cities that are known to host them. These are smaller parades than those that are held in Rio and Sao Paulo, but no less worthwhile, and they are referred to locally as "blocos."
Image: sfmission.com (flickr)