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!
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