To properly dance Bossa nova, you must first understand the history behind this style of music and dance, and then learn where to study this unique and gorgeous Latin dance genre.
The Roots of Bossa Nova
Made popular by various musicians in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bossa nova literally means "new trend" in Portuguese. It is credited as a genre of Brazilian music, and was a hit with college-aged youth during its 6-year reign. Many songs can still be found on the roster of modern jazz bands, and its accompanying dances are still performed in studios and competitons all over the United States and abroad.
Both the music and movement finds their roots in the samba, however it relies less on percussion for its beat. The movements within the choreography are soft and flowing, with plenty of side steps and hip sways. Able to be danced both as a solo or couples' dance, the dance is one of the less popular forms of international dance taught today, quite possibly because the music lacks the typical "excitement" found with social dance accompaniment.
How to Dance Bossa Nova
The dance is made up out of an eight-beat pattern that would vary depending upon the music and choreography preferences. One example would be a step forward, a tap, and then a step back, followed by a step together. This would be repeated on the opposite side to account for the 4 extra beats. It has been referred to as a slow samba walk, and you may notice the style of Bossa nova dance to be similar to the box step found in waltz, rumba, and nightclub partner steps.
In the late 50s and early 60s, about 10 step patterns were published for the public, and then it faded significantly from the scene. You can still take lessons of this dance form today, however they are not as common as other ballroom dance styles such as the Cha Cha or the Rumba.
Here is a more detailed layout of how to dance Bossa nova, as you would in partner style:
- Partners should face each other in parallel alignment and stand no more than two feet apart from one another.
- Step forward with the left foot. The male leads this dance, as with most social dances, and he will step forward with his left with a bent knee and straight upper torso. Bring in the right foot to meet the left. At the same time, the female does the mirror image of the male's role. Step backward with your right foot and then bring in your left foot so your feet are back together.
- Next, reverse this so the woman steps forward and the man steps back.
- Throw in a hip sway whenever possible. Professional Bossa nova dancers will know how to sway seductively in rhythm to the music, adding an alluring aspect to the dance performance. Keep your knees bent and faces focused on each other as you move.
Where to Learn
The best way to learn any dance for the first time is to take a class at a reputable studio. Check the yellow pages or do an Internet search of your area to find classes. If you do not find a class you like, or there aren't any available, you can also learn the basics of this dance style through a website such as AniDance.com, which provides instructions and animations as examples of many styles of dancing.