Learning Latin dance in London

Jungle heads out into the field to find the best tips from the world of dance in London

“I got married at forró”, says Aruna de Oliveira Costa. Her statement might sound weird at first, but it represents how something first tried as a matter of curiosity can evolve into a hobby and become an important part of someone’s life – or even to mark the consecration of a relationship, as happened with Aruna. ‘’I went to Brazil on holiday in 2003 and started practicing capoeira. Then I was introduced to forró. I now come here ever since it opened’’. By ‘here’, Aruna’s referring to Forró do Galpão, the weekly party which goes down at Corbet Place on Brick Lane. And that’s where she met her husband. ‘’The place is now part of my life, so when Juca and I decided to get married we chose to celebrate here after the ceremony in Brazil, and the organisers threw us a party’’, she says, in an almost perfect Portuguese, with a little Minas Gerais twang.

Another English woman in love with forró, Bella Dodds, 25, comes to Forró do Galpão whenever she can. “People here are a family. Many are frequent punters and everybody is up for dancing and having fun. The atmosphere conquered me’’, she tells, and not only the atmosphere, as Bella also met her other half, Jonata, at Corbet Place. Her love for Latin rhythms began in her teenage years and she’s mastered salsa, samba, axé and lambada. She even happily gives hints and pointers to those willing to have a go. ‘’Samba is much harder to learn than forró, where the pace is more obvious. Samba can be very quick and tricky to follow, while I didn’t have any trouble learning forró’’. Aruna agrees: “if the man knows how to dance, the women learns faster; it gets easier for us’’.

Sizzling and packed, Forró do Galpão has been such a hit that some punters have teamed up to organise a second event on Mondays, but they make it clear that it’s not a replacement event. “Galpão remains strong’’, says DJ James Lawrence, whose own forró story is rather curious. He first experienced forró two years ago, at Guanabara, and even though he doesn’t speak a word of Portuguese, Lawrence took eight months of dancing classes. “I didn’t know what the songs were about, but I could get their feel. It was also rather pleasant to dance so close to a woman, something not so common in England, as it’s not part of our tradition’’, he explains. For James, practice is the only the way towards perfection for a male dancer. “It’s quite hard to get to grips with leading the steps, something essential for a forró dancer. You have to practice all the time’’.

Forró, however, is by no means the only Brazilian rhythm enjoying popularity in London. Samba, albeit more traditional and known worldwide now for a long time, still attracts its followers in the capital. Rosa Nazira, who’s been teaching samba classes for more than 10 years, says that British men and women have never given up on the famous rhythm from the streets of Rio de Janeiro. She feels touched by the amount of elderly students in her classes. “It’s so surprising. They dance non-stop, with no fear, just so willing to seize the moment’’, Rosa explains.

Latin rhythms such as salsa are also a guarantee for fun in London. First, however, learners have to overcome the most basic difficulty of the process – getting the tempo right. In the specific case of salsa, Rosa prescribes persistence as the only medicine. “If you work your socks off you’ll get there. Dedication, persistence and perseverance form a well-known trio, but they are still the best way to reach any goals in life. Learning to dance is no different. The more you practice, the more you perfect it, regardless of which rhythm you have a go at’’.

A new fever that’s been conquering revellers is lambada zouk. Kleber Saude, who teaches the rhythm, explains what it’s all about: “it’s hard to describe. It’s a fusion style, so there are adaptations. Some people even call it the Brazilian Zouk to differentiate from the Caribbean variation’’. For those who don’t know, the main difference is the tempo. The original version is slower and allows more body and head movements, while the Brazilian variation is a bit faster and closer to the original lambada. Which one is more successful? ‘’Both. Dance is always in demand for every kind of style’’, answers Kleber.

More than merely a way to learn some new steps, the dance nights spread across London offer mental and physical benefits. Dance can also be a form of escaping a sedentary life with an activity so enjoyable that it disguises the effort made. Besides, it’s a great way to socialise, meet new people and shake off stress when dancing the night away.

Don’t waste any time and check out our list of dance classes right here!

By Ana Brasil

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