Do Justice to the Culture Whose Dance You Are Borrowing


Jacqui Barnes

Jacqui Barnes dancing in Carnival

Dance teachers in my present

I wrote a post a while ago about dance teachers in my past who influenced me.  I’d like to write now about teachers who are influencing me now.  Yes, dance teachers do still study.  It never ends!

Brazilian Samba

I am lucky enough to be able to study Brazilian Samba with the great Jacque Barnes.  Just getting the footwork is challenging enough in this beautiful dance, but that’s not enough.  “Don’t just go through the movements,” Jacque tells us.  “Do justice to the Brazilian people and their culture.  Put your soul into it and make it your own.”  


What I love about working with Jacque is her passion for the music and the culture that created the dance.  You can’t help but pick up that passion and feel inspired to let the music move you.


When I was in Europe studying the delightful European swing dance they call Boogie Woogie, one of my favorite teachers once said, as if she was eating chocolate, “I just LOVE every step!”  That’s the spirit of Jacqui’s Samba classes.


Everyone learns differently and some people get the feel and style before they get the footwork.  But most people first have to learn the mechanics and then can put their attention to the styling.  I’m like that, but I’m constantly inspired by the effortless grace of Jacqui and her advanced students, so that as I learn the footwork, I also get the feel of how the movement relates to the music and can throw myself into the spirit of it all.

Ballroom vs. Street Dance

If you don’t understand the difference between Ballroom  Samba and Street Samba, it is this.  Ballroom dance has a styling that infuses every dance in it’s genre.  Even though there are many different Ballroom dances, they all look kind of similar.  They no longer have the feel of the original culture and have often, as in the case of Samba, morphed into a dance that bears little resemblance to the original.  There is a unique styling to the genre of Ballroom Dance and it infuses every dance in that category.  


Street Samba is unique to the Brazilian culture.  It’s not a partner dance and I don’t teach it.  I just do it for fun and to broaden my skills to keep myself sharp.  If you are intrigued by the dances of Carnival, and are lucky enough to be in the bay area, I encourage you to take advantage of Jacqui’s expertise and supportive teaching style.  Maybe I’ll see you in class!


by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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