Samba has various combinations of timings and beat values. The chart below also shows different methods of counting.
Notation: Break 1 beat into 4 quarters beat (1234), it can be noted as (1 2 3 4) or (1 e & a). "&" is half beat, "e" and "a" are 1/8 and 3/4 beat. 1 bar of music is 2 beats (1234 5678).
Count | # of steps | # of beats (1 bar = 2 beats) | Beat Value | Alternate method of counting | Breaking 1 beat into quarter note | Examples
1 a 2 | 3 steps | 2 beats | 3/4 1/4 1 | S a S | (123) 4 (5678)
1 a 2 a 3 a 4 | 7 steps | 4 beats | 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 steps | 2 beats | 3/4 1/2 3/4 | (123) (45) (678)
SQQ | 3 steps | 2 beats | 1 1/2 1/2 | 1. 2 and | (1234) (56) (78)
SQQQQQQ | 7 steps | 4 beats | 1 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 | 1. 2 and 3 and 4 and | (1234) (56) (78) (12) (34) (56) (78)
QQS | 3 steps | 2 beats | 1/2 1/2 1 | 1 and 2 | (12) (34) (5678)
SSQQS | 5 steps | 4 beats | 1 1 1/2 1/2 1 | 1. 2. 3 and 4 | (1234) (5678) (12) (34) (5678)
1 2 | 2 steps | 2 beats | 1 1 | SS | (1234) (5678)
Samba Bounce and Foot Movement Rhythm
The characteristic movement of Samba is the Samba Bounce. Bounce action happens on whole beat and "&" count.
Head stays fairly flat, do not pop up and down.
Chest lifted (so lower body free to move), shoulder down, neck long. Upper body is quiet, but not tense/stiff.
Soft knees, body weight more forward on front of foot.
1: First 1/2 of the beat - going "down" (which is really a knee forward action):
Compress/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. Shoulder/neck relaxed, calm.
&: Second 1/2 of the beat - going up:
"Release": Contract back muscle (shorten the spine), pelvic pendulum back action. Slight straightening of the knees. Knees are not locked.
Back is normal position, do not try to "stick butt out" too much.
Whole beat and half beat are exact point when body changes direction
Bounce is even, smooth, subtle and not exaggerated. Soft knees.
Two beats to a bar in Samba music, 2 complete bounce actions to one bar.
Bounce action is used on all figures having a count of "1a2 3a4" 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.
Stand on one foot, e.g. LF, whole foot flat. RF to side, two feet are not too wide apart (which will limit bounce action), inside edge of ball of RF, bent R knee, R heel up, Keep left heel down during bounce.
1&2&3&4 - switch weight to the other foot - 1&2&3&4
(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
Starting with weight on LF, RF will step forward, using Natural Basic as an example, chart below shows the bounce and foot actions over 1 bar of music (2 beats). Each beat is broken into quarter beat.
Bounce (body changes direction) happens on count 1, 3, 5, 7 (whole and half beat)
Foot moves (without weight) on quarter note: count 4 and 8.
Samba Natural Basic: (Quarter Beat # | Count | Bounce Action | Foot Action)
7 | & | 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.)
8 | a | 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.
1 | 1 | Body reaches peak rise, and change direction to go down (knee forward), slight acceleration. | -
Take weight onto RF. Slightly flex the knees before lowering the heel, then the knees will continue to flex slightly after heel has lowered.
Contract ab muscle, Pelvic pendulum forward action.
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.
2 | e | Body continue to go down | -
Knees continue to flex after heel has lowered. Think about ice cream scoop action.
3 | & | 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).
4 | a | 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
5 | 2 | 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.
6 | e | Body continue to go down | -
7 | & | Body changes direction to go up | -
8 | a | Body continue to go up | LF places back, no weight
LF is placing back, but body is still forward.
1 | 3 | Body change direction to go down | -