How Samba has evolved in the last 50 years

Ballroom Samba Evolution

​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 as we 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? See if you can recognize the figures/ patterns from each decade and leave a comment below!

1970s - Walter Laird & Lorraine Reynolds

We’ll start by taking a look at the Samba performed by Walter Laird (also known as Wally) who 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, now you 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) and 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

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

2016 - Riccardo Cocchi & Yulia Zagoruychenko

Current World Champions, Riccardo and Yulia are thought of by many as a match made in Heaven when they partnered up in 2007. Previously coached by Shirley Ballas, they currently train with Donnie Burns. They are the current hot couple and continue to inspire and influence the tides of change in this art form, 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?

Considering how far the dance has evolved, how do you think Samba will be danced 50 years from now? Leave a comment below!


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