Day 10: How To Dance Samba – Men

Brazil's Carnaval kicks off on February 24th, and nowadays, there’s an unending list of online resources for learning to dance Samba, from YouTube to Google to But when Alma Guillermoprieto wrote the book ‘Samba’ in 1990, the resources we take for granted today were in short supply. Her story goes on for some length, so we’ve excerpted parts of it, being careful to capture all of the magic and playfulness of the original text.

It’s sure to bring a smile, and we’d like to thank Alma, and her publisher Vintage Departures for bringing such a wonderful book into the world. You can order a copy here.

How to Dance Samba: Men

1. Find yourself a street corner and pretend it is the edge of the quadra. Practice just standing there. You should feel loose, but pleasantly expectant. Check how much time elapses before you feel the need to look at your watch. When you can complete a two-to-three-hour stint without having to know the time, you are ready to start practice.

2. The first thing is attitude. You should look and feel relaxed, yet vigilant, playful and ready to pounce. A slouching posture is easiest, but some crack sambistas manage a straight-backed nonchalance that is highly prized. Practice both and decide which suits you.

3. Put the music on. Listen to the beat. It is the road you will walk on, but whatever flow develops in your movements will come from the little plinking guitar or banjo pegging away just behind the singer. Your task is to follow the drums with your feet and spell out their rhythm by flinging your legs as far away as possible from your torso on every beat. Master this, then practice the same movement with your torso casually thrown back at a forty-five-degree tilt.

4. As your legs cut circles in the air with your torso planed back away from them, it is critical that your head remain level, as if you were dancing wedged under a shelf. Hopping up and down is tasteless. Also, don't fall down. If you have mastered cakewalking in place, swinging your legs under and over each other as if you were climbing an invisible spiral staircase, and pulling up to a sharp halt after sliding sideways very fast with your feet, you are ready to time your performances. Timing is the difference between dancing to devastating effect and looking like a fool.

5. Remain in your street-corner mode until a woman approaches. Let her walk by. Let a few more women pass. Remember, you're not desperate.

6. Wait until a woman you really like comes along, and let her go just past the point where she can see you out of the corner of her eye. Break into samba. If your energy is strong, she will perceive your movement with her back and turn around. Stop. Smile. (Not at her!) Tug your clothes sharply into place. Wait for another woman. Repeat many times. With luck, a woman will eventually walk by who turns your spinal column to jelly and sets your ears on fire. She will stop and look at you and smile and avert her eyes and look at you again and start to walk away and turn and grin and throw caution to the wind and break into samba …

In her book ‘Samba’, author Alma Guillermoprieto writes: “The magic of Samba lies in the illusion that somebody is moving like crazy from the waist down while an entirely different person is observing the proceedings from the waist up.” She's posted even more Samba secrets - including tips on what to wear!

Congratulations, you've made it through Malandro Basic Training! The final touch comes when all of this comes together in a perfect flow or symmetry and Samba: Let your inner alegria make you smile!

The 12 Days of Samba:

Day 01: An Introduction to The 12 Days of Samba and The Malandro Project
Day 02: Was Joao Gilberto a Malandro?
Day 03: Previewing Miguel de Leon's Annual Christmas Concert In Chicago
Day 04: Winter reading: 'Samba' by Alma Guillermoprieto
Day 05: Famous Malandros In Pop Culture
Day 06: A Cachaça Holiday Cocktail
Day 07: Seven Samba Stocking Stuffers
Day 08: Personal Notes: Samba Snapshots From The Malandro Project
Day 09: How To Dance Samba - Women's Version
Day 10: How To Dance Samba - Men's Version
Day 11: 100 Years of Samba and The Malandro Project
Day 12: The Malandro and 'The Lights of Christmas'

Follow Miguel de Leon and The Malandro Project on Facebook and our mailing list!

The Malandro Project was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with saxophonist Leo Gandelman and MPB’s Leila Pinheiro to celebrate 100 Years of Samba and its iconic character, the charming, roguish bad-boy Malandro. A combination of cultural myth and historic fact, the Malandro’s roots can be traced throughout the history of Samba. The Malandro Project album will be released in early 2017.

Comments are closed.