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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. 

  • Overall posture:
    • Head should stay fairly flat, do not pop up and down.
    • Chest lifted (so lower body free to move), shoulder down, neck long. Upper body should be quiet, but not tense/stiff.
    • Soft knees, body weight more forward and front of foot.
  • When practice:
    • Stand on one foot, e.g. LF, whole foot flat. RF to side, inside edge of ball, bent R knee, R heel up, feet are not too wide apart (which will limit bounce action) Keep left heel down during bounce.
    • 1&2&3&4 - switch weight to the other foot 1&2&3&4, 
  • 1: First 1/2 of the beat - going "down"
    • Contract tummy, pelvic pendulum forward action, tail bone down, underneath body, flex the knee, think about knee going "forward", knee slightly pass the feet. (do not think about "down" action, which makes it look heavy.)
    • 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. 
  • &: Second 1/2 of the beat - going up
    • slight straightening of the knees. Knees are not locked. Contract back muscle (shorten the spine)/ Pelvic pendulum back action. Back is normal position, do not try too much to "stick butt out"
  • Whole beat and half beat are exact point when body changes direction
  • Two beats to a bar in Samba music, 2 complete bounce actions to one bar.
  • Bounce is even, smooth, subtle and not exaggerated. Soft knees.
  • 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).
  • Many Samba figures combines with figure 8 actions and bounce action.

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.
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 (knee forward), slight acceleration.
Take weight onto RF. Slightly flex the knees that becomes before lowering the heel, then the knees will continue to flex slightly after heel has lowered.

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

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).
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

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. See details in Volta movements.

Bota Fogos Forward

See technique details in Bota Fogos Foward

Cruzados Walks and Locks

See technique details in Cruzados Walks and Locks

General Technique