Baby, it’s cold outside — that’s just one of the reasons why we often have cold feet about working out in the winter. So to turn up the heat and burn away Cinnabons, we do what Brazillians do and dance! The quick rhythms of samba dancing, for example, offer full-body cardio exercise.
It’s also hard to stay gloomy when you’re shakin’ your booty, so dancing is good for your mental health, too. In Rio’s nightlife haven, the Lapa neighborhood, dance clubs such as Carioca de Gema and Beco do Rato welcome newbies and also keep cariocas (Rio’s residents) on their feet.
In the U.S., look for classes at a local studio or just have a spontaneous kitchen dance party to the tunes of one of “the three Queens of Samba”: Clara Nunes, Beth Carvalho, and Alcione. While samba rules in Rio, Brazil’s mix of dance styles is as diverse as its people. Here are a few options to help you “shake it off”:
From the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio comes funk carioca, a kind of Brazilian “dirty dancing” to gritty, throbbing music of the same name that mixes Miami bass, hip-hop beats, and rap. At massive baile funk dance parties, you’ll find freewheeling cariocas twerking their bodies to the non-stop beat.
Rio’s famous Samba Schools’ Parade during Carnival features barely clad dancers in parrot-bright feather headdresses competing with passion for the championship title. However, Brazil’s most famous dance has more conservative roots. Samba was originally practiced in traditional religious ceremonies and brought to Brazil’s Bahía state by enslaved Africans. Today, women in Bahía still practice the hip-shaking and fancy footwork of samba de roda (“ring samba”), but in modest, long flowered skirts and headscarves.
A graceful combo of dance, martial arts, and mesmerizing music, capoeira was practiced by slaves on Brazilian plantations as a way to break free, mentally and physically, from their captors. This acrobatic art form requires balance and strength, and will make you feel like an action moviestar (look for capoeira in the flick “Ocean’s 12”).