Thursday, August 05, 2010


“I have no partner,” I said, when my friend suggested that I join him and his girlfriend go dancing at a traditional samba club. He gave me an exasperated look that could only mean, “shut up and just come”.

So I tagged along with them to Democraticos at the old bohemian Lapa neighborhood. The spacious lobby was unadorned except for a big curving staircase lined with a dirty wall. We went up and found ourselves in a large scruffy crowded ballroom, with a stage on one end covered in a red velvet backdrop and a trail of little hanging light bulbs. I looked at the scene doubtfully and wondered where the music was.

Just then the band walked up to the stage and the crowd perked up expectantly. At the strike of the first sweet samba note the couple took hands and left me to survive on my own, those traitors.

I stood on the peripheries feeling rather nervous and unattractive, watching people whirl by. But a few minutes later the music seeped into my bloodstream (mixing with the caipirinha) and I was moving, uncaring, and ready. By the next song, a quiet-looking man approached and politely extended his hand. In a flustered daft moment I did a little bob while taking his hand and then vaguely wondered whether that wasn’t European. In the next split second my worries had disappeared as he placed a hand firmly on my waist and pulled me into the music.

An hour later, I’d lost count of how many people I had danced with; young and old, short and tall, expert and amateur, polite and dodgy. As each song stopped, there was the awkward pause in which we decide whether to do another song, whether I would be declined from the next song, or whether I would decline him and move on to others. All three situations occurred in rough measure.

The most flattering moments were on being asked, incredulously, “You’re not a Brasileira?” And the most humbling moments were on being told to “Relax. Let me do the job. Let yourself go.” - which I miserably failed to do because he was beyond my crappy league.

When I rejoined my friends they said they were proud of me. I was exhausted and glowing.

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