Evolution of Samba: How Samba has evolved in the last 50 years

Evolution of Samba - Ballroom dance

​International Samba did not always look the same way as what we see in videos today. How has it evolved? Take a walk with us down memory lane. We will look at the most iconic dancers of each decade (spanning from 1970s to 2016), performing the International Samba dance. What do you think has changed over the years in the evolution of samba?

See if you can recognize the figures/ patterns from each decade. Leave a comment below!

1970s - Walter Laird & Lorraine Reynolds

We cannot talk about the evolution of Samba in Latin American Dancing without starting with Walter Laird (also known as Wally). Wally is considered the Forefather of Latin American Dancing. His philosophies and teaching have been passed from one generation of dancers to the next. Besides that, we also need to credit him with the creation of some of the most common steps danced today. If you love Samba Promenade runs, you now know who to thank!

1980s - Donnie Burns & Gaynor Fairweather

Donnie and Gaynor (14x World Latin Dance Champions) are proteges of Walter Laird. Donnie credits Walter for his knowledge and training. However, you can clearly see how the style of dancing has evolved from one generation to the next. Look carefully at Gaynor’s feet – she has the most talked about and envied arch of her time!

1990s - Corky & Shirley Ballas

Corky and Shirley are the parents of Mark Ballas (pro dancer on DWTS – USA). They are also “surrogate parents” and coaches of celebrity brother-sister duo, Julianne Hough and Derek Hough. They are fantastic character dancers and performed many memorable pieces throughout their career.

2007 - Bryan Watson & Carmen

9x World Latin Dance Champions

Bryan (from South Africa) paired with Carmen (from Germany) in 1999. Then on, they started a 9 year streak in dominating the Latin Dance World. During that time, they won pretty much every major championship they competed in during that time. This charismatic pair chooses classic choreography that is often quite simple. However, they permeate simplicity with such rhythmic precision and confidence. They dance extremely well together, and are known for their incredible connectedness.

2016 - Riccardo Cocchi & Yulia Zagoruychenko

Riccardo and Yulia (Current World Champions) are thought of by many as a match made in Heaven when they partnered up in 2007. They were previously coached by Shirley Ballas and currently train with Donnie Burns.

This couple continues to inspire and influence the tides of change in the ballroom scene. Young dancers look to them for inspiration. From their choreography, to costuming, hairstyling, and of course, artistry and philosophies towards each dance.

How has their dancing change from the 1970s in terms of leg actions, body movements, choreography, partnering, and even rhythm?

In Conclusion, the evolution of Samba…

continues with each new generation of dancers, and influences across other art and dance forms. Considering how far the dance has evolved, how do you think Samba will be danced 50 years from now? Leave a comment below!


  • Pricebye
    December 9, 2020

    An amazingly charismatic couple! Wonderful samba choreography!

  • frankebe
    November 16, 2017

    The more samba absorbs the spirit (if not the actual step patterns) of Brazilian CARNIVAL, the better it looks. I note (humoursly) the men are consistently terrible until … oops, maybe I better not…

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      LiWen Ang
      November 27, 2017

      Interesting… the joyousness of the Samba is just contagious, no matter what! 🙂

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