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Samba Technique

Samba Timing

Samba has various combinations of timings and beat values. The chart below also shows different methods of counting.

Count # of steps
# of beats
(1 bar = 2 beats)

Beat Value
Alternate method of counting
Breaking 1 beat into quarter note
1 a 2
3/4 1/4 1
S a S
(123) 4 (5678)
Basic Movements  Whisk  Boto Fogas
1 a 2 a 3 a 4
3/4 1/4 3/4 1/4 3/4 1/4 1
S a S a S a S
(123) 4 (567) 8 (123) 4 (5678)
1 2 3 3
3/4 1/2 3/4

(123) (45) (678)
Promenade Runs
1 1/2 1/2
1. 2 and
(1234) (56) (78)
Natural Roll  Reverse Roll
1 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2
1. 2 and 1 and 2 and 1 and 2
(1234) (56) (78) (12) (34) (56) (78) Corta Jaca
1/2 1/2 1
1 and 2
(12) (34) (5678)
Samba Locks
1 1 1/2 1/2 1
1. 2. 1 and 2
(1234) (5678) (12) (34) (5678) Cruzado Walks and Locks
1 2
1 1
(1234) (5678)

Samba Actions

Samba Bounce and Foot Movement Rhythm

Samba Bounce

The characteristic movement of Samba is the Samba Bounce. Bounce action happens on whole beat and "&" count.
  • First 1/2 of the beat - going down: slight flexing of the knees. knee slightly pass the feet.
    • Contract abdominal muscle. Pelvic pendulum forward action. Lift the heels, Tail bone goes underneath body.
    • Absorb the bounce in body, head height should not have very big up and down changes, do not crunch shoulder forward to try to achieve the look. Contract center.
    • When weight is on one foot, contract both opposite side and center muscle.
  • Second 1/2 of the beat - going up: slight straightening of the knees. Contract back muscle (shorten the spine)/ Pelvic pendulum back action.
  • Whole beat and half beat are exact point when body changes direction
    • "&" is when knee starts to compress.
    • whole beat is when knee starts to straighten.
  • Two beats to a bar in Samba music, 2 complete bounce actions to one bar.
  • Bounce is even, smooth, subtle and not exaggerated.
  • Bounce action is used on all figures having a count of "1a 2 3 a4" basic timing and Volta timing (1a2a3a4).
  • Bounce is not used where this is a Q in timing, or 1 2 3. (exception: Cruzado Walk and Locks).

Foot Movement

(This applies to Samba Basic and Volta timing.)

One of the complexities in Samba is that foot moves at a different time from the bounce action. Foot moves/places (no weight, just pressure) on quarter note "a", while body bounces on whole and "&" count.

Putting It Together

Using Natural Basic as an example, starting with weight on LF.
  • Bounce (body changes direction) happens on count 1, 3, 5, 7 (quarter beat #, see chart below)
  • Foot moves (without weight) on quarter note: count 4 and 8.
  • Keep weight more forward on front of the foot.
  • At more advanced level, figure 8 and body ripple action could be added (body wave would be too much).

Quarter Beat #
Count Bounce Action
Foot Action
Body rising up, strong
This is starting second half of the preceding beat.
Start to straighten knees.
The straightening comes from pushing the balls of feet off the floor. (Do not do this mechanically from body. It needs to come from the foot.)
Body continue to rise
RF places fwd, no weight, just pressure
Shorten the back, "Samba Pulse", Pressure through ball of LF, move RF fwd with slight pressure on RF, but no weight. Pelvic pendulum back.
Weight is still on LF. Think about opposition. Step underneath the body.
Do not move spine over too quickly.
Body reaches peak rise, and change direction to go down, slight acceleration.
Straighten the knees, take weight onto RF. Remove space underneath the body. Weight lands on RF same time as the foot on the beat.

Free leg that's behind: the foot should be IE, roll the ankle downward, point back. Free leg position is very important.

When knees are straight, it's soft and not as "locked" as other Latin dances.
Then lower/fex knee (which comes before lowering the heel), then lower heel.
Flex knee: just enough to move body, not too much; not bending knee "down", but "bending and going forward"

Contract ab muscle, Pelvic pendulum forward action.
Body continue to go down
Knees continue to flex after heel has lowered
Body reaches bottom and change direction to rise up, slight acceleration
Technique is the same as above. Start straightening knees (coming from ball of RF).

Adding body ripple: continuing after pelvic forward action, then bring center (ab), rib, and finally head forward in a small ripple
Body continue to rise
LF places fwd, 3rd position, pressure only, no weight
slightly straighten knee, draw LF towards RF without weight, but with pressure on ball of LF
Body changes direction, going down
Continue to slightly straighten the knees, take minimal weight to LF, replace weight to RF on ball of foot;

Then, change direction, slightly flexing the knees and lowering heel.
Body continue to go down

Body changes direction to go up

Body continue to go up
LF places back, no weight
LF is placing back, but body is still forward.
Body change direction to go down
The difference on action on this whole beat between Basic Movements and Volta:

Basic Movements: weight is taken onto the foot that was placed in previous "a" count. (So weight switched to a different foot.)

Volta: place minimal weight on the foot that was placed in previous "a" count, and then replace weight back. (So weight ends on the same foot as before.)

Stationary Samba Walk

See details in Samba Walks

Whisk Action

See the details in Whisk.

Volta Action

The Volta action is a very characteristic movement of Samba. The following chart breaks down the movement in more details.

Step Timing Movement
 Footwork Notes
LF in front of RF (Cuban Cross)

Leg just crosses in front, do not take big step. Upper legs are very tight together.

Back knee is against back of front knee, together (not on the side)

Feet are turned out, hip is 1/8 turned out.

 After "1" (feet flat, "kiss floor") , "&" step: front foot heel up, use front foot to push, L hip to left side (lateral action, or if you can ouches, squeeze left side), L leg starts to straighten, go up, rise (hip arching back), pendulum back, hips rotate to flat
RF to side and slightly back w/o weight, toe turned out

Pressure on IE of T
Continue with foot rise, twist hip to L on "a" count which causes RF to step to side (small step, traveling/progressive step (not crossing). Both legs are straight at this point, on balls of both feet, then move spine to RF.
Take part weight to RF and draw LF in front of RF (Cuban Cross)

BF (Pressure on ball of foot)
Then, push off ball of LF, take part of weight to RF, rotating R hip to R (don't over do it, belt buckle 1 o'clock), the rotation draws LF across (think about pulling heel of LF across to keep LF turned out at all times, think about bringing the back of L thigh to meet the front of R thigh), Do not cross too close in front, L leg is straight, turned out when crossing, so there is room to, hip is free to rotate.

Drop the heel, when lowering, pelvic tilt forward (pendulum), allow L hip to draw a little circle, Make sure LF is turned out, hip rotate direction is along the turnout direction (dancing hip fwd, think about release pant wrinkle), so it starts from about 11 o'clock.
a 1 a 2
Repeat step 2 and 3 twice.

It could be extended to an additional 1 or 2 bars of music repeating step 2 and 3, two or 4 times.

  • Keep the movement compact, do not step too big. 
  • Soften the movement, access the joints, not using muscle unnecessarily which may make movement stiff.
  • Keep head flat, do not pop up and down.
  • Front leg has to do a lot of work. "Up-side-down" motion for Voltas:
    • Use front leg to go up, then step to side, then come down (and cross leg).
  • Do not use back leg to step and push. when practicing, release back foot from floor and let front leg do all the work.
  • There is hip rotation, but the more prominent movement should be pendulum movement.
  • Heel of front foot: not flat, nor up the whole time. It should "kissing" the floor, down on beat, up on 1/2 beat.
  • Body inclination:
    • when starting with RF, there can be slight inclination of body to the right. (incline to L when starting with LF).
    • the degree of inclination may be increased in proportion to the amount of turn used.
    • There are exceptions: no body inclination when lady dances Spot Volta turning under arm, (and other steps)
    • Exceptions: No inclination is used in Maypole or when Lady is dancing Spot Volta turning under arm, or during a Foot change.
    • In Roundabout, when commenced with RF, May may incline his body slightly to R or L, (lady normal opposite). Same when commencing with LF.

General Technique