Bossa Nova

Electronic resources

History, music, and other info at Cultural ruminations on the authenticity of it all at More about Brazilian music in general at

How does it go?

> We often hear the "Girl from Impanema" but none of us remember what the Bossa
> Nova dance steps/style were. Anyone remember?

I've actually never physically seen anyone dance the Bossa Nova nor have I heard of anyone who offers lessons in it. However, a little over a year ago, I bought an old 1970's ballroom dance book just for kicks. In it was a description of several basic movements from the Bossa Nova. It was described with a rhythm of: 1 2 & 3 4 & (or SQQSQQ or however else you like to describe it). The gentleman's side basic, commencing in 1st foot position, was described as follows:
step 1 (count 1) - LF to side in 2nd foot position
step 2 (count 2) - RF closes to LF slightly back in 3rd foot position
step 3 (count &) - replace weight to LF
step 4 (count 3) - RF to side in 2nd foot position
step 5 (count 4) - LF closes to RF slightly back in 3rd foot position
step 6 (count &) - replace weight to RF
The lady's part was described as the natural opposite. A similar forward/backward basic movement was also described in the book. [Jeremy Powell]

In the book Discotheque Dances (Dick Blake, long out of print) there is a description that is basically Forward, Forward, Forward, Tap, followed by the same backward, and the whole thing left/right as variation. [Victor Eijkhout]>

There have been about nine Bossa Nova sequence dances published in the UK. The first seems to date from around 1960 but the most popular, the Bossa Nova Blues, is from the early 80's.

Timing is 12& 34& as described above, and it starts with two squares similar to what I envisage as basic American Rumba boxes; starting LF fwd -- fwd side close, back side close, repeat,

Taking double hold, the lady dances two chasses turning under man's L arm and back in a "Spanish Arms" type movement, while the man dances a forward walk and lock followed by a chasse, then repeat.

Regional variations have crept in now and in the south they dance some wiggly walks (SSQQS SSQQS), another square and then separate and clap (party style) before starting again. In the north they dance four whisk movements as you describe the side basic above, then solo outward circling walks to return to the start.

It makes an easy party dance and can be made progressive (a mixer) if partners move on after the clap or during the solo walks. [Howard Spurr]

Bossa Nova on film

The world's introduction to the music known as Bossa Nova was the 1959 movie Orfeu Negro, a French/Italian film based on the play by Vinicius de Moraes, directed by Marcel Camus, with Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn in the lead rôles, made in Rio de Janeiro.

If you have not seen it, you must! It fully deserved to be awarded the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize in addition to Best Foreign Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It's helpful, but not necessary, to refresh your knowledge of Orpheus and Eurydice before seeing it. Do NOT see a dubbed version. See the original version, in Portuguese, with subtitles in the language you prefer.

The lovely, sometimes haunting, music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa has endured. It is frequently heard as originally presented as well as interpreted by others.

There's maybe two seconds of silence in the film. No matter how quiet the scene, in the background is the constant beat of the music. When I went to a Brasil/Cameroon soccer match at the Stanford University Stadium, the Brazilians ensured that there was a constant beat accompanying all of that day's festivities. [Icono Clast] Get this movie from Amazon: VHS, DVD, Soundtrack.

Contents of the r.a.d. FAQ

This file is part of the FAQ list for the newsgroup The FAQ list is being maintained by Victor Eijkhout (victor at eijkhout dot net, talk about vanity), who appreciates being sent additions or corrections on the material in this collection. Copyright 1994/5/6/7/8/9/2000 lies with the maintainer and the contributors of various parts.

Listen up: Victor did not write most of this stuff; he just collected it. So don't send him any dance questions.

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Last modified on: 2000, Saturday September 9.