Samba originated on Brazilian plantations, where the African rhythms of slaves mixed with European music. This new Samba music served as a kind of oral history, and the dance was a solo art form with rapidly moving hips and quick transfers of weight.

Samba was introduced to the US in the late 1920’s via the Broadway play, Street Carnival, and more widely exposed through films. Fred Astaire and Dolores del Rio danced to a Brazilian beat in Flying Down to Rio, and Carmen Miranda shook her hips in films such as That Night in Rio. In the 1960’s, Brazilian music became widely popular with the rise of bossa-nova, a combination of Samba rhythms and cool jazz.

In the US, Samba evolved into a couples’ dance that was standardized as a ballroom dance in 1956. In Brazil however, Samba remains a solo form, danced at street festivals and other celebrations with nationalistic pride.


Samba is an upbeat, lively dance that progresses counter-clockwise around the floor. It is characterized by its bounce and rolling hip action.