Looking for samba in NYC? It’s everywhere, especially after this summer of Brazil World Cup action and during the current lead up to the Rio Olympics 2016. Here are the festivals, events and classes that will not only help you find your samba smile now through August but will help you keep your bossa nova spirit year round.
What is it about samba that makes it so irresistible? If you love the sheer joy of the music you know the reason – it’s good for the soul. In a world that seems divided and cynical at times, samba thunder rolls in, leading with the shrill call of a whistle, to lift people up and bring everyone together. Under the spell of samba you recognize once again everything that’s beautiful and worth celebrating about life.
|Capoeira at Sunrise by Silvia Nikolova|
New York’s Biggest Samba Celebration of the Year
Big love for samba and Brazilian culture spills out onto the streets of New York City each year on Brazil Day. That’s when the city celebrates Brazil’s independence from Portugal with a music festival that began in 1984 as a small gathering in “Little Brazil” on Manhattan’s West 46th Street.
Today it’s a massive event that stretches the length of Sixth Avenue from West 46th Street all the way to the Central Park entrance at West 59th Street. Join the 1.5 million people that are expected to come out for Brazil Day this year on Sunday, August 31st - the festival’s 30thanniversary.
Where’s the Party?
Love Brazilian music but not New York City’s August heat and haze? Then head downtown and indoors during Brazil Day weekend for a pre-festival celebration and three festival day after-parties you won’t want to miss.
Some of the best samba parties take place in NYC throughout the summer at DROM. Each one is hosted by Samba New York! – the samba school that is central to the city’s samba culture. But on Saturday, August 30th, beginning at 6:30 PM, Samba New York! will bring the energy at DROM to new heights.
The pre-Brazil Day party will be a not-to-be-missed celebration of dance, music and Brazilian culture. Make sure to be there when Samba New York! kicks off the action with its ‘bateria’ – drum section - walking through the crowd under the direction of percussionist and ethnomusicologist, Philip Galinsky, Ph.D. Expect to spend the evening celebrating within a lively, fun crowd, 8 to 80+, dancing, singing, clapping together and 100% caught up in the moment.
On August 31st, as the festival on Sixth Avenue winds down, the fun will begin at the Novotel Rooftop Lounge in Times Square with the Brazilicia party and at B. B. King’s with the Pagode do Massa party - both events, open to the public, begin at 6 PM. The evenings festivities culminate with the biggest Brazil Day after-party in New York City – “Depois: The ConcertAfter featuring Brasil Live, Grooversity Bloco and top artists from across the U.S. and Brazil performing samba, axe, pagoda, arrocha, funk and more at S.O.B.'s - Soundsof Brazil.
Samba for Every Season
Before, during and after New York City’s Brazilian celebrations in August, there are plentiful ways for you to keep your samba buzz going strong even through the coldest months of winter.
Take samba/Afro-Brazilan classes at Alvin Ailey – a pair of classes for beginners cost only $28. Classes take place at the Ailey Extension building at West 55th Street in beautiful, sunny studios. You’re invited to participate whether you’ve danced for decades or have never set foot in a studio. It’s all part of the Alvin Ailey philosophy – “Dance is of the people and should be given back to the people."
Learn to dance samba from New York's premier samba dance performer, Danielle Lima, at Djoniba Dance Center, where there are, "No tutus, no attitudes" and where the philosophy is, "If you can walk, you can dance." Your first class is free or you can sign up to take a class accompanied by live drumming for only $3.
Immerse yourself in the full spectrum of Brazilian culture through capoeira – a Brazilian martial art that combines music, dance, playing instruments, acrobatics, games and (depending on where or with whom you study) spiritual practice. New York's Arte Capoeira Center offers a full schedule of classes and performances year-round. Exploring capoeira you discover that Brazilian culture is as much about feeling (sentimento) as it is about movement.
Learn to drum! Samba New York! offers courses that can take you from spectator to performer quickly through fun, low-stress weekly rehearsals. After completing a series of classes you can participate in some of the groups biggest performances of the year including the New York City Dance Parade in May and the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade on October 31st.
And finally, year-round it’s Samba Souls Saturdays at Sounds of Brazil where you can enjoy live performances and dance the night away each weekend beginning at 6:30 PM.
Still not enough samba? Take a Samba StudyTrip! Join fellow New York City enthusiasts of Brazilian music and dance in a hands-on exploration of Rio’s rich culture.
If you know of additional samba-related events in NYC please share them here or @CityGirlWrites on Twitter and Instagram - the more chances to get your smiles, sweat and samba on the better!