The lambada is a sexy dance, true, but contrary to the “dirty” image shown by some Hollywood films, it is a fast-paced, wholesome and graceful social dance. There is no malice in its movements. It is an expression of artistry, enjoyment of life, of freedom.
It is distinct from other Latin dances, with a slow to quick and quick rhythm that incorporates the elements of other Latin dances. What distinguishes lambada is the wave like movements of the bodies of dancers, which gave the dance its name, the whip’s wave like motion.
The dance is fast-paced, with hip swaying motions that go from side to side, Included in the steps are graceful spins, dips and lots of twisting movements. Even with these technical aspects, lambada is fluid and smooth in the end and knowledgeable partners can showcase the sensuality of the dance without any cheesy undertones. To be able to put your heart into the dance, you have to know some details about the dance.
The term lambada
Lambada as a term refers to dance, a fusion of salsa, maxixe, carimbó, merengue, and forró. The name is a translation of the Portuguese term for “firm slap” or “hit,” which originated in “lambaste” a French and English term. The name for the new dance caught on quickly, aided by a local radio station in Pará’s capital, Belém, where the music was called “the rhythms of lambada” and “rhythm with a strong beat.” It’s also associated with the flowing wave-like motion created by the bodies of lambada dancers.
The origin of lambada
The lambada has its roots in Brazil, a Portuguese colony for three centuries. Located in the northern part of Brazil is Pará, the second largest state. Here, the common native dance is called Carimbó. It is believed that lambada evolved from this dance. Carimbó involves many spins, pronounced yet graceful hip movement and side to side footsteps that became lambada’s basis. There are no front and back movements for lambada. The dance style is loose, with women wearing very short shirred full skirts while the men wear loose long trousers. Music is mainly provided by the beat of hollowed out wood trunks, made thin through fire.
Pinduca or Aurino Quirino Gonçalves is said to be the true originator of lambada music, he being a prominent carimbó musician and composer. He recorded a song called “Lambada” in 1976. Another composer and guitarist closely related to the development of lambada music was Master Vieira whose “Lambada of Quebradas” was recorded in 1976 but was only released two years later.
By the late 1980s, the sound of carimbó was combined with the electronic and metallic music prevalent at that time, giving the music a new face and a new name, lambada.
While the dance and the music immediately caught on, the lambaterias (dance halls) in Brazil were forced to close down during the winter months due to lack of tourists until eventually patronage dwindled. French entrepreneurs however bought the copyright to the some 300 pieces of lambada music, and formed the Kaoma band, bring the music to international attention.
Their Lambada song was entitled Llorando se fue, translated as “Crying he/she went away” in 1989. It was done in Portuguese and during the pre-download days when the Internet is still unheard of, was able to generate a worldwide sale reaching five million singles! It became one to the top songs in Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The music video of the song featured two children, Chico & Roberta, performing the new Lambada version. This gave way to the respective musical careers of the two.
However, there was some controversy about the popular song because it had different owners. The case of plagiarism went to court. The original owners won and credited in the subsequent releases.
Dirty dancing label
The close association of lambada with maxixe brought about the confusion. It was maxixe that was labeled dirty and forbidden in the 1920s due to its suggestive movements and lyrics. This was further enhanced when Hollywood came out with the 1990 films, Lambada: Set the Night on Fire and The Forbidden Dance. It was not helped by the costumes worn by lambada dancers, which were ultra-short full skirts that show the dancers’ underwear when their skirts billow as they move and turn; the closeness of the dancers, which were taboo during the 1920s in Brazil.
Dancing the lambada
Dancing the lambada is quite easy. While dancing shoes are good, it is also great to dance lambada barefoot. Lambada can be danced alone, as a couple dance and as a group dance. Two of the most important things in lambada are the hip sway and the head roll, which could make the women arch their backs while their heads almost touching the floor as their partners hold them. Another thing is that throughout the dance you will do it on the balls of your feet.
The man holds the woman firmly close, with the right hand on the woman’s lower back. The left hand holds the hand of your partner while her other hand is placed on your shoulder. Your hips should be close together, knees bent and one knee placed between that of your partner’s. Stay close yet loose throughout the dance, keeping your upper body still and concentrate first on getting into the rhythm and twisting your foot alternately to get your hips swaying.
As you get the feel of the dance, start incorporating the wave-like movement typical of lambada that includes using your upper body. This means moving your shoulders from side to side, but opposite to the direction of your hips, thus creating the waving motion. Define the twist by raising your elbows together with your shoulder movements. As you get into the groove, move your head in the same direction as the movement of your hips. This completes the whole fluid and sensual body wave.
After mastering the basics, you can add breaks into the dance routine. First you can introduce the turn. The partners hold hands and raise them high up in the air. The woman spins and returns back to her starting position before returning to the lambada moves once again.
Finally, the focal point of lambada is the dip. This is done with the woman resting on her partner’s leg. The man supports the woman with his left hand on her back and his right hand holding her left hand in support as well as to prevent her from falling as she bends over backwards.
Now that you have learned the basic, you can introduce other movements while keeping the motions fluid and graceful. Just don’t allow you and your partner to separate, as this is a no-no in lambada.
In the middle part of the 1990s, lambada enthusiasts began to look for other sources of music to continue their craft. They used flamenco rhythms and Arabian music just to satisfy their love for the dance. They turned to the Caribbean sounds of soca (calypso), salsa, merengue, and zouk. The lambada dance today still carries its original style and form. It has less acrobatic steps, and more on an intimate, closer and smoother contact between partners.
Lambada is still enjoyed around the world today. It is performed in the dance floors of Brazil, France, Portugal, Vietnam and Japan, among other places. Lambada dancers gather to have fun and be merry and groove to the beat of the sensual lambada.