When you start to read up on what to expect on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, you’ll often start to see things about nightlife and dancing. Indeed the city is known for its nightlife, and for plenty of people that means going out and dancing – or watching others dance – late into the night. And in particular, it’s the samba that people identify with Rio.
That doesn’t mean going out in Rio automatically means you’ll come face to face with this popular Brazilian dance. There are more ordinary nights out also. If you’re hoping to soak up the local culture however, here’s a little bit of an overview of what to expect from the samba scene.
History Of Samba
The origin and history of samba in Brazil is actually fascinating. Its roots lie in the history of colonialism and slavery, and more specifically with West Africans who were brought to South America in the 1500s as slaves. The Portuguese who controlled the area attempted to stamp out any cultural celebrations and found the early forms of samba vulgar, but the custom endured privately and evolved into what we now know as samba.
What It Is
To be clear for anyone who might be less familiar with this topic, samba is both a musical genre and a dance style. The musical style is believed to have originated in Rio to pair with the dances that were handed down as just described above. Today, samba is essentially a high-energy combination of this music and dance, and has become one of Brazil’s greatest cultural exports, so to speak.
Association With Carnival
As mentioned, samba is a cultural export of Rio. Accordingly it’s appeared in films and on television and even in video games – though often specifically in association with the famous Carnival festival. Indeed, a whole game dedicated to the dance, called “Dancing In Rio” defines its challenge as finding out how to become the king or queen of Carnival. The connection runs deep, so while Carnival is not all about samba and samba is not only applied to Carnival, you’re likely to read and hear about connections if you’re doing research on the subject.
While a good dancer with a natural sense of rhythm and a willingness to dive right in can pick up samba to some extent, most people will need lessons before actually participating at a samba club or anything similar. For this reason it’s great that Rio now has plenty of samba schools for visitors to try. Naturally the intensity levels of different courses vary, but the point is you can make an effort to learn samba while in Rio.
When you look into where to find samba in Rio, you’ll find lots of options – not just at the schools but at various clubs devoted to the dance and music. For the most part, these clubs actually tend to involve watching samba as opposed to participating in it. Just know that finding a club to see people from Rio dancing samba as beautifully as anyone can is not difficult!