Parading in Rio's Carnaval is the most exhilarating rush of good energy and bliss I have ever experienced. I knew it would be powerful, however I didn't know how much I would be overcome with emotion. I was so excited and happy when we entered the stadium that was jam packed with people singing our school's samba, that I felt my eyes water and I paused for a moment as we made our way into the parade and just let myself breathe it all in.
The energy in the stadium is like nothing I ever felt before. A wave of vibrant carnaval spirit is contagious and once you enter into the parade you become part of a communal spirit and are riding that wave of positive light energy. The energy washes over you, and you have no choice but to be present.
All worries and troubles disappear.
Monday Feb. 16th I paraded with Samba School: União da Ilha do Governador, around 2am in the Sambadromo/Sapucai (Samba stadium) in Rio's Carnaval along with about nine ladies from SambAZ team from Arizona, and a few ladies from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The lovely Ana Laidley invited us all to be part of the parade this year, and it is an invitation that nobody can refuse.
It was one of the markers of this year for me as I start this new chapter in my life as an empowered woman going for my dreams.
I'm blessed that Ana Laidley invited me to be part of the parade this year and I am so glad I decided to make it happen. I am also so grateful to my mom and grandmother for giving me a ticket to Rio for my 28th birthday, as I had recently put all my savings into finishing my first Samba instructional DVD, Brazilian Samba Basics.
Everyone asks, "Is it all you imagined it would be?" And my answer is " YES! It's pure magic! Hands down the best party I have ever been to." It truly is the most powerful sense of joyful energy I have ever experienced.
It was the best experience I have had as a Samba dancer. I felt so honored and lucky to be there, experiencing the Carnaval spirit like never before.
I have been a part of Carnaval in Salvador Bahia before, and that was an incredible experience, however this was truly unique and completely different...the two really can't be compared.
Carnaval's parade is a "sambista's dream come true" as there is nothing greater for the Sambista than performing with a bateria (band) of several hundred musicians and hundreds of other dancers and carnaval artists all singing and dancing to your school's Samba Enredo (Samba theme song).
The schools all have their own theme for the parade and a story they are telling about the history of the world through Samba. It is like watching a moving opera, every section of the parade tells part of the story. As you watch you see a whole theatrical performance performed in the form of the parade.
I have watched Carnaval on TV for years, and even more recently streaming on my laptop, but never had I understood the magnitude of the artistry, hard work and beauty that transcends all obstacles in the way that I learned to appreciate it being there in the Sapucai.
Before we entered the parade we waited on the streets of down town Rio, which at night are notoriously dangerous and impoverished. As we waited I watched as several groups of young boys, 6 years and up "played" and ran the streets pick pocketing and taking anything they could from bystanders, many people would be taking pictures with their phones of the floats that had not yet entered the parade, and the kids would snatch the phone out of their hands. It was hard to watch, as the kids were working so hard, stealing and running as fast as their little feet could carry them, and though it looked as if they were enjoying the thrill, I couldn't help but feel their sadness, as they feel pushed to steal as their means of support and take because they do not have. As I watched over and over, the kids pretend to play hide and go seek, and then spread out and take all that they could, I took it as a reminder of where all the energy of Carnaval comes from, and that is from the not having, from the place of being disenfranchised and disadvantaged, and it reminded me to be grateful for all that I have and to dance and let go of all that I could in Carnaval, transforming the negative into positive, dancing letting go, dancing allowing joy to come in it's place.
You see the Joy of Carnaval is a beauty that transcends the reality of every day life. Carnaval is a time to transform the darkness into the light, the negative into the positive.
Before the parade Ana informed us that Adriana Van Lima a beautiful Samba dancer we had met early in the week had gotten word that her cancer had returned, this time to her brain and she would not be dancing or attending the parade. She had been helping prepare our school to parade but recently had not been feeling well. Ana told us to dance for her, and with much respect and love, we did. I overheard some of the Samba leaders talking before the parade and their spirits were low, they were all so sad to hear the news. And yet again I saw everyone light up as we entered the gates of the Sambadromo and started to dance. Samba and Carnaval is healing energy, it brings you up if you are down and allows you to connect into a collective pure joy. It's not about the individual, but about being a part of a community and bringing everyone’s spirit together.
I plan to parade again next year, and to learn more about what Carnaval means, it's history and see how it changes. After all, Samba & Carnaval is more than just a dance & parade...it's a way of life! Samba! Just do it!
Watch the parade:
Our theme was Beleza Pura, Pure Beauty from the inside out. This Year União da Ilha won for best Samba enredo theme song!
Sapatos Plataforma! The one stop Samba shoe shop!
Today was a Samba Shoe Mission! 100 degrees outside and the streets are packed! I head out in search of shoes for some of my long time Samba friends and students and much to my relief, I was able to find great shoes for them! Mission accomplished!
Ladies if you need Samba shoes this is the place. It's where I bought my first real samba shoes a few years ago, that I still have and enjoy dancing in and where you can find high quality!
The store is a little hidden gem, as it's in the Centro in Rio, which is jam packed during Carnaval. It's upstairs. From the street it does not look fancy, and is easy to walk by and miss, but once you get up the stairs you find incredible shoes, a true Samba passista spot!
What is a passista? A Passista is samba dancer who dances in Carnaval in the parade, showing the footwork and hips, and art of samba dance. Basically a pro Sambista!
Janete and her husband run the shop together and are super helpful.
check out her facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sapatos.plataforma.3?fref=ts
I found this shoe here! Can you imagine dancing in this? I started laughing when I saw it. Janete told me it's for theatrical comedy and drama performances. I would be hilarious dancing in this!
Check out this flyer for more info and address.
Today I went to take a private samba class with Samba Queen Mayara Lima in Cidade de Deus. Yes, Cidade de Deus in the movie...but no it was not guns, blood and drugs, nor did I ever feel in danger, it was calm and quiet.
It took 3 hours for me to get there, 3 buses, in 100 degree weather...not easy. However, the lesson with Mayara was worth it. She is a Samba queen that I really admire and am inspired by here in Rio. She is 18 years old and a Samba Queen and Princess of Salgueiro and Mocidade Samba Schools. She radiates confidence and her samba is fiercely beautiful. I have not seen anyone dance the way she does, she has her own style and character. I hope to train more with her in the years to come and to watch her grow into the amazing Rainha/Queen sambista (Samba dancer) that she is destined to be.
It was difficult leaving my grandparents house today. I am staying with them while I'm here in Rio, which is wonderful. They are very loving and kind and take good care of me. The only difficulty is that they feel every where I want to go Samba is not safe, and that it would be much more safe for me to stay at home...and well, every samba school is in a favela (slum) or poor area...so I go anyways.
Today was particularly hard though, when I said I was going to "Cidade de Deus".
When I was leaving the house I got the disapproving stare down from my grandmother, and the "You are being foolish" lecture. She was super worried about me going to Cidade de Deus, she said, "You already know how to samba. Why are you going to risk your life?" I laughed and said, "Relax. I'm just going for 1 hour in the day time to work on my samba with a dancer that really inspires me. I hope you can understand." She was not convinced at all. I kissed her on the forehead and whispered, "I'll be back in a few hours, before it's dark. It will be okay." She didn't respond.
Thus far all the samba schools I have been to have felt safe to me, much more safe than being in Copacabana where my family lives and I see police running after kids all the time. Yes, the Cidade de Deus movie was terrifying, but it was about another time, and it is a movie. From what I see, people are kind there, helpful, hardworking and are just doing their best to live as we all are. Samba comes out of the poorest communities where life is not always easy. From the hardship and the sadness comes the energy transformative dance: Samba!
Seeing where Mayara lives is inspiring, it's a few hours away from the Sambódromo (samba stadium) and very far away from the post card idea of Rio. She lives in what would be considered "one of the roughest places in Rio" up on a hill, yet there she is, shining, this amazing, elegant samba queen of the drums, radiating good energy and transcending above all the odds.
Connecting with her today was a delightful step on this Samba Journey that started 28 years ago. Having the chance to take class with one of my Samba idols was a dream come true. Today I learned much more than steps, I learned the resilience of the human spirit and where that Samba Carnaval spirit comes from and where it can rise to energetically.
I'm Looking forward to sharing my samba joy this Carnaval 2015 at the parade! I will be parading this Monday night! Just a few more days to get ready!
SAMBA SCHOOL IN SESSION!
Last night was full of Samba! We danced and sang our samba enredo (Samba school theme Song for the samba carnaval) until we dropped. I saw some of the most joyful and passionate samba dancers of my life. From the five year old samba princesses to the kings and queens...it was a night of inspiration and fun!
I´m thrilled to be parading with samba school G.R.E.S. União da Ilha do Governador in just one week. Last night was the last rehearsal and it was beautiful to see all the hard work that this community put in all year long all come together into a fantastic show and we are ready!
Samba ensaios (rehearsals) are not how we think of rehearsals in the USA...as in "5, 6, 7,8", over and over...it´s a party! Thousands of people come together from the community and bring the carnaval spirit to life. There is the live Bateria (band), passistas(samba professional dancers), the baianas twirling (women in full dresses and skirts.) beer and caipirinhas (Brazilian lime and Cachaça rum drink) are in hand of almost everyone attending. The objective is to enjoy the moment and let go through samba. It´s about being connected and present to your most joyful self and sharing that energy with the community. It´s about being part of something bigger than the self. It´s a celebration of energy transformation and strength in coming together to share a felizidade (the happiness).
I feel so blessed and excited to be a part of this school this year. Big thanks to Aninha Malandro for inviting me to dance with this school and giving me this special opportunity, so grateful.
This will be my first time parading in Rio´s Carnaval. I have been training hard and getting my samba feet ready. I´m excited to samba in the Sambadromo (Samba stadium), as it has been a dream of mine for many years. I look forward to all that this Carnaval will bring and to the experience of a sambista's dream come true. Feliz Carnaval 2015!
Today February 2nd, is Yemanja day in Brazil. Yemanja is the honored mother Goddess of the sea and all living things. She is Yoruban Orisha and one of the most celebrated deities honored in the African diaspora. She is also one of the main figures we see in Brazilian art, especially in Samba and can often be found in samba music, dance and costumes. Her colors are silver and blue and her number is 7 for the seven seas.
She is one of the main inspirations of Samba de roda songs, as she is the Sereia/Siren or Mermaid, beautiful and inspiring to the fisherman and people working on the docks.
Many Capoeira and Samba songs reference Yemanja, asking her to protect them at sea, to guild them, to let the tide take them home and are a means of serenading her as their muse. It is said that the root of this stems from the journey from Africa to Brazil.
African peoples from Nigeria prayed to Yemanja to help them endure the treacherous journey to Brazil.
In samba dance, she is celebrated as the queen of the sea/Rainha do Mar, and often costumes are made in her likeness as seen in the Carnaval photo above.
Yemanja represents the element of water and is the essence of life.
Today thousands of people in Brazil are taking offerings to the sea of flowers, perfume and letters asking for blessings of love.
Many people also practice Candomblé an Afro-Brazilian religion and will sing and dance in honor of Yemanja today. Today you will hear her salutation: Odoya in Yoruba language, often sung and said as people go visit the sea. Samba de roda, will be happening in many places today, as people will celebrate by singing and dancing together on the beach, streets and terreiros (houses of Candomblé).
Today we can also honor Yemanja by being mindful of our water essence and our connection to nature. We can also honor Yemanja by cleaning the beaches, being mindful of water use and respecting the earth and all living things starting with ourselves and how we treat others. Odoya!
Check out these Yemanja songs!
History of Brazilian Samba Dance
Focus: Samba de Roda
Samba is an Afro-Brazilian dance from Brasil. Samba originated in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The first known form of Samba is called Samba de Roda (Samba in a circle).
Samba de Roda was done informally as a way to socialize after a candomble ceremony, (Candomble is a form Afro Brazilian religion) or after a Roda de Capoeira (Capoeira circle). It was a dance that allowed the Afro-Brazilian people who were enslaved to release and transform their energy and to set their spirit free. It was also often a dance of courtship. As it is a singular dance that people can dance on their own or together as a conversation of movement.
Today Samba de Roda is still danced as an informal social dance of celebration and community often taking place in Carnaval, holiday celebrations, and after a Roda de Capoeira (Capoeira Circle).
Samba de Roda @ Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Los Angeles
The Samba Blog