What to Wear to Dance the Samba

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Both Brazilian and ballroom samba have similar costume themes.

Samba inspires some of the most elaborate costumes. When practicing the samba, wear dance shoes and attire that is comfortable. Costumes are a bit more complicated. There are two different kinds of popular sambas, Brazilian and the samba that is one of the five Latin American ballroom dances. The dances vary significantly. Brazilian samba is typically danced solo, whereas ballroom samba is always danced in pairs. Costuming is similar, with Brazilian samba greatly influencing the overall look of ballroom samba.


Brazillian Samba

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Brazillian samba costumes are elaborate and revealing.

Brazilian samba is eye catching, festive and sexy. Samba costumes expose legs, torsos, shoulders and arms. The style of costume varies, but the most distinctive samba costume is the bikini-style with a large, elaborate head piece. Other styles feature a bikini and long samba skirt with a bra top, samba pants and wrap-tie tops. Common accessories are feather headpieces, gloves, arm coverings, leg or lower calf jewelry, neck pieces, and boas. Shoes can be heeled sandals or boots. For parades, such as carnival, costumes are often elaborate and high quality. Details can be complex and may include rhinestones, beads, sequins, fringe, shimmer, and feathers.

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Latin American Ballroom Samba

Latin samba costumes are made for dynamic movement.

Latin American ballroom samba is derived from Brazilian samba and carnival. The dances differ significantly. Because all five Latin dances are danced consecutively, the same costume is worn for the entire competition. However, during single show routines, especially shows where dancers have time to change, many female dancers prefer to wear costumes that have the character of each dance. Men typically wear what they would for competition, a top and dance pants. For both competitive and show routines, Latin ballroom performance shoes are required. Some female ballroom dancers have worn replicas of the Brazilian bikini and feather headpiece, others are inspired by flouncy layered skirts and headbands reminiscent of Brazilian samba singer and dancer Carmen Miranda. Ballroom costumes have connecting dance briefs or are based on a leotard made out of lycra material to help show off dynamics, such as movement, spins and turns. Bright colors, fringe, feathers, beads, and rhinestones are all popular accents and embellishments for a samba costume.


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