Noah Baron
May 27, 2016
By our second Friday in Rio de Janeiro, we had got a hang of Rua do Catete, calibrating our speeds to its pace and beginning to understand and embrace its subtleties. We made good acquaintances with Big B’s fast food a corner north of the hotel, Oscar’s donuts a half block further, and Big Nectar’s ritual kilo dinners on the corner of the next, but made nothing of the unassuming second floor dance studio lodged above them all. Until that second Friday afternoon, when we found ourselves climbing a flight of steep steps and entering an hour and half long beginner samba and Passinho [Rio de Janeiro funk footworking] class. Our two instructors didn’t speak much English, but taught just as [if not more] effectively through the monkey see-monkey do method on a count of 1, 2, 3, 4! After leading all fifteen of us through a step to the right, step to the left, grapevine warm up routine, we were split up. The male instructor took the five of us boys, the female instructor took the ten girls. Samba school was in session. Unbeknownst to us, we were learning our respective parts to a couples dance, and each switch in the choreographies would line up to what the opposite sex was learning. Although relieved to find I was not the most rhythmically challenged out of the five of us, that was no measure to say I would fare well next to a Carioca. But who cares? I was feeling myself, and embracing the physical conversation and play flirtation meant to be exchanged between my partner and I. Professor Sanchez and Matheus both had their cameras out the entire time, I pray none of their footage ends up on Facebook or the UW page. The second half of the class was dedicated to teaching us a short but high energy Passinho footwork routine. This is the dance of Rio’s youth today, done to hip-hop, funk, electronic music, music with heavy bass and drums. It is upbeat, fast paced, and each hit lands on a hit in the music. The instructor teaching the Passinho choreo looked no older than 22, barely past Carioca youthhood himself. And we saw it in the way he felt his music and feet, the ease with which he moved one to the other. We did not move as naturally or accurately [Ron swore it was easier than Samba, so maybe it was just me], but watching our instructor end his sixteen count Passinho on a whip, nae nae kill combo was worth our timid attempts