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Ballroom Dancing What Are the Jive and the Samba?

Charly Leetham

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Two of my favourite Ballroom Dances would be The Jive and The Samba.

The Samba is a composition of several different South American dances that were practiced by slaves bought into Portugal in the 16th century, like the Catarete, Embolada and the Batuque. These dances were considered vulgar by the Europeans and one of the dances, the Batuque was so popular that it was outlawed. The Batuque was danced in a circle with steps resembling those of a Charleston with a solo dancer in the center of the circle.

Eventually, carnival steps were added and the dance was modified to use the closed ballroom position and considered a proper dance by the Europeans.

The Samba appears to be a combination of all these dances (and probably others) and is danced to a heavy hitting rhythm and its main moves are walking and side steps and incorporates a lot of hip action. For this reason, it is thought that The Samba a perfect party dance.

In the Samba, Ballroom Dancing Judges look for accuracy and passion in the Volta (crossing in front of the body), the Samba Roll (moving the upper body in a circular motion while going through a six step turn) and the Botafogo (traveling walk that includes a direction change). Judges always look for outstretched arms and the distinctive climax of the Samba where the dancers throw their heads back and their arms are splayed out to the side.

The fastest of the Latin Dances, The Jive is believed to have originated in New York's Harlem area although some believe it originates in the southeast United States.

The Jive is a face paced, rhythmical dance which has been influenced by other styles including Boogie, Rock, African American Swing and the Lindyhop. The Jive is also known as the Cake Walk, because in the late 1800's the Negroes in the south held competitions where the prize for the best Jive was a cake.

Although dancers appear to have their legs and feet flying everywhere when performing The Jive, they're feet are directly under the body with the knees always close together. The woman is twirled a lot and there are a lot of kicks.

The Jive is generally performed to music known as Ragtime. The reason the music is called Ragtime may be because the dancers dressed up in their finest clothes ("rags") or because the syncopation of the music giving it a ragged feel.

Both the Jive and The Samba are wonderful dancers that are a joy to watch.

About the Author

Charly Leetham has an abiding interest in Ballroom Dancing with both of her children undertaking Ballroom Dancing classes and performing exceptionally well.

Learn More About Ballroom Dancing


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