“Dance is the best therapy,” a dance professor confidently announced on the beginning of my first samba class. It startled me. When I thought of dancing, I either thought of monotonous jumping in a club with one fist raised to the ceiling, or of strenuous counting of my steps and stressing out whether I and my dance partner are dancing in the rhythm.
Dancing is inherently human, playing a crucial part of cultures and places around the globe. In my culture, from what I know about ballroom dancing, we rarely touch our bodies apart from our hands and the inept trampling on partner’s feet.
Here, as a warm-up of the samba class, our teacher said that we should stand opposite to our partner and let our weight fall on each other, to learn how to keep our body during dancing. My partner, a well-preserved bosomy lady in her late sixties, approached me naturally with a peaceful smile on her caring face. It was weird. I am used to having half a meter space between me and my partner while dancing the Polka in Slovakia, and here, just as warm up a lady whose nephews were jumping around the ballroom, was plunging her from-miles-easily-observed breasts into me. Seeing her so close to me and in such a peculiar position, it felt awkward, far from the “therapy” that the professor promised.
Forró, a dance originating in Northeastern Brazil, is yet another level. It was my first forró class, I didn’t know anyone in the room. After every 2 minutes of attentive practicing, the ladies would move on to their next dance partner. In this way, we get to dance around 2 times with everyone in the room. The music started, my partner a young woman in her 30ties with two kids who were patiently waiting for her, began to slowly move her hips. I already felt insecure, because my skills of moving hips were pitiable. The professor showed us our dancing position. First, we hugged each other and stayed there for a while. This, interestingly broke the thick ice of insecurity and then, feeling more comfortable with my partner, I began to dance more loosely.
The dancing went on, as well as the spectrum of dancing partners: young and old, slim or chubby, married or single. After half an hour, it felt natural. I don’t know what it is about dancing here that complete strangers get comfortable with dancing so close that “personal space” has no meaning anymore. But there is something magical in that.
The lights were turned off, it was 8:30 pm, and the view of Florianopolis, under a blazing sunset, separated with sea covered by peaceful ripples, was pouring on me through the windows of the dance school. We were told to close our eyes and move with the music. I enjoyed last sights of the marvelous view and obediently closed my eyes. At this point, almost all the apprehension was gone; my mind was too busy enjoying the vivid sound of accordion which was instinctively lifting my feet and moving my relaxed body.
After two playful songs, the lights were turned on again. People started complaining about a smile that now when it started to be fun we must stop. At this point, after all the stress and unfamiliarity of this dance, I joined the innocent complains. Before we left, the old bosomy lady approached me smilingly and said I had a good rhythm. I was happy and surprised to hear that. I almost forgot rhythm was an issue at that time.
It was only one hour and a half, I was still far from mastering forró or samba, but I could confidently say that I finally understood what dancing is. It made me suddenly appreciative of the dances that I had known from Europe and excited for those I am going to learn here in Brazil.