Brazilian Dance Steps

Tamara Warta
Brazilian flag
Brazil is home to many famous dances.

Brazilian dance steps are fun to learn, and are often used in social dance. The Samba is perhaps the most famous of Brazilian dances, and its choreography can range from simple to complex. If you have never danced before, or if you are a social dance enthusiast looking to try something new, Brazilian steps may be just the thing to spice up your weekends.

About Brazilian Dance

Brazilian dance steps are lively and upbeat, usually following a 2/4 rhythm. For Brazilian Samba, there is special music to go along with the diverse choreography. The Brazilian Samba should not be confused with Ballroom Samba, which is more mainstream Latin dance and very different in its form.

Another older form of Brazilian dance is the Maxixe, which has also been called the Brazilian Tango. This dance, which originated in Brazil in the 1860s, also has a 2/4 rhythm and is quite rapid in its movements. The Maxixe is known for its novice steps that become difficult to execute due to the quickness required by the music and dramatic presentation that is expected.

Various Brazilian Dance Steps

There are many variations of Brazilian Samba and Maxixe. All are played to official music, and are unique to Brazil.

Brazilian Samba

Several different types of Samba, both solo and in pairs, stem from Brazil.

Samba no pé

This is a solo dance that everyone in Brazil knows as soon as the Samba music begins. Bending one knee at a time, the upper body remains straight. There are three steps per measure of music, and experienced dancers will recognize the sequence as resembling a step-ball-change. The important rule to the Samba no pé is to follow the pace of the music. It can start out at a reasonable speed, and quickly change to a faster pace. Professional performers often add arm movements and an extra fourth step to each measure of music, but none of this is necessary to perform the dance correctly. Proper Samba no pé form calls for men to dance with the entire foot on the ground, while women remain on the balls of the feet.

Samba no pé is most recognized by the world as the genre of Samba seen at Carnival time.

Samba Pagode

Unlike the Samba no pé, the Samba Pagode is a partner dance. It involves intimate choreography and was created in the city of Sao Paulo. The three steps in each measure are quick-quick-slow, and the dance is performed according to the tempo of the music.

Samba de Gafiera

Another highly recognizable form of the Samba is the Samba de Gafiera. This involves a fair bit of acrobatics, including entwined legs and lifts/spins. The pace and measure are similar to the Samba Pagode, but this form is much more stylized. Its roots are found in the waltz and the tango, making it exciting to both observe and learn. The Samba de Gafiera is taught in dance studios across the world. If you ever decide to learn Brazilian dance steps with a partner, chances are that this is the style you will work up to.

Other Sambas

Other forms of Samba that involve dance steps from Brazil include:

  • Samba Axe
  • Samba Reggae
  • Samba-rock
  • Samba de roda

The Maxixe

The dance steps of the Maxixe are very elementary. It is basically the Two-step, which is already found in many modern forms of ballroom dancing. However, while other forms of ballroom social dance require a "touch and turn in" foot movement, the Maxixe has the dancer rest his heel on the floor. The upper body is often bent over, and this unappealing position is what has likely led to the demise of dancing the Maxixe in social clubs and dance competitions.

Learning Brazilian Dances

There are many ways to learn dance steps that originated from Brazil. First, check with your local ballroom dance studio or cultural center. Many cities have Portuguese halls that explore the various cultures of the Portuguese-speaking people, including Brazil. Local festivals may also offer a free dance lesson. Finally, you can learn simply by watching Internet videos, such as those found at DancingForBeginners.com.

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Brazilian Dance Steps