Updated: Aug 1





Company dancers Dee, Samantha, and Giselle are taking over classes in August!



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If you love Charis' samba class, you will also love these one-time chances to learn some other dances! Samba teaches us self love, musical creativity, and provides us with raw vitality. Dee's Afro Latin Heels class has all the confidence and self love of samba. Samantha's Afro Latin Contemporary class will have ALL the musicality and expression. Giselle's Afro Colombian class will bring us energy and vitality!


Check out the more detailed class descriptions here:




Afro Latin Heels with Dee

August 3


"Heels" dancing taught in studios as a unique genre emerged in the early 2010s. It is characterized by a sensual and hyper-feminine affect and of course, wearing high heeled shoes (usually stilettos). Dee teaches a "Bedroom Baddie" heels class focused on confidence and self love. She will be fusing her style with flavor of the dances we do in the company!


Bring comfortable, sturdy heels to dance in or wear whatever shoes make you feel comfortable!



Afro Latin Contemporary with Samantha

August 10


"Contemporary" in the United States has come to imply ballet-based movement with some floorwork and contractions. We at Amara Arts challenge


that limited perspective.


The word "contemporary" literally means of the current moment! Dances of Black and Indigenous cultures are often characterized as solely "folk" or "traditional" when in fact these dances are living, breathing, changing practices! The mambo, bachata, reggaetón, and samba you see in competitions, music videos, and congresses today don't look like they did in 1888. Samantha will give a fusion class that brings in the hottest moves of today plus the influences from ballet and jazz (like long lines and turns) that have been incorporated into Afro Latin performance dance over the years!




Afro Colombian with Giselle

August 17



This will be a great class for lovers of West African dance! Colombia's Mapalé is one of the dances Giselle will teach and it is a perfect example of Africanist aesthetics in movement. Robert Farris Thompson and other dance researchers have theorized several concepts that tie together "African" arts as a category. When it comes to dances that come


from Afro descendants in the Americas, it's all about

  • polyrhythm (multiple rhythmic patterns at once)

  • polycentricism (multiple areas of movement initiation at once)

  • call and response (conversation between dancers or between musician and dancer)

It is often said that Mapalé is named after a fish, due to the "frenetic" motions. Those movements are also "survivals" - practices continued from the cultures of enslaved Africans of various ethnicities brought to Colombia. It's a super energetic and fun class!



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Updated: Jul 22, 2021

I recently wrote a paper for school looking at Mangueira's 2019 performance at Carnaval (they won!). I love love love the lyrics of the enredo and the whole theme. Our main #stlsamba choreography that year was to their song. I realized that the sources I used for my paper on Mangueira are a great intro to samba history and samba's cultural context! I start this resource list with a video for those who haven't seen samba danced, then move on to history and end with the parade from 2019. Enjoy!









What Samba Looks Like

“Brasil Samba Congress 2018 Equipe Rodrigo Marques.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby_K_Ax0gA . This performance choreographed by Rodrigo Marques, one of the founders of the International Samba Congress, includes two African American dancers who have studied samba! Nicolea Pettis (https://www.instagram.com/nicolea.pettis/ ) is the one in orange. Amrahu Ibraheem (https://www.instagram.com/thebestpersoneveroninstagram/ ) is the tallest in white.


History/Context

Chasteen, John Charles. "The Prehistory of Samba: Carnival Dancing in Rio De Janeiro, 1840-1917."Journal of Latin American Studies 28, no. 1 (1996): 29-47. http://www.jstor.org/stable/157986. This article is an extensive exploration of some of samba’s movement predecessors, mainly lundu and maxixe.


“About the Rio Samba Parade During Carnival.” Rio.Com - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Hotels, Accommodations, Tours, Vacation Rentals. https://www.rio.com/rio-carnival/about-rio-samba-parade


“About the Sambadrome.” About the famous Rio de Janeiro Sambadrome. http://www.rio.com/rio-carnival/about-sambadrome


Raphael, Alison. "From Popular Culture to Microenterprise: The History of Brazilian Samba Schools." Latin American Music Review / Revista De Música Latinoamericana 11, no. 1 (1990): 73-83. doi:10.2307/780359. An older look at samba schools. There seems to be a gap in the literature that doesn’t cover the last couple decades. Anyone know of more recent work in English (or work in Portuguese that I can slog through with a dictionary)?


Gilman, Bruce. "The Politics of Samba." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 2, no. 2 (2001): 67-72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43134029. Really good (and short 😊 ) examination of the intersection of politics and art in samba.


Mangueira’s 2019 Presentation

Carnavalesco, Redação. “Mangueira 'Reescreve' História Do Brasil Em Desfile Transgressor e Entra Na Briga Pelo Título De 2019.” Carnavalesco, March 5, 2019. https://www.carnavalesco.com.br/mangueira-reescreve-historia-do-brasil-em-desfile-transgressor-e-entra-na-briga-pelo-titulo-de-2019 Article in Portuguese discussing Mangueira’s 2019 performance. Use Google translate function if necessary!


“Mangueira 2019 CAMPEÃ Desfile.” YouTube. YouTube, January 5, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yokl1C4NPx0. Video of the whole parade. I enocurage you to watch this split screen with Google so you can type in all the historical figures, it is super dense and full of historical information! Notable moments: Beginning/scene describing the overall idea at 9min 35 sec. Float critiquing the violence of colonization 24min 5 sec. Float highlighting African historical figures 28min 35 sec. Passistas 30min 22 sec. Queen/Bateria 31min. Bahianas 33min 30 sec


Lyrics: https://www.letras.mus.br/mangueira-rj/samba-enredo-2019-historias-para-ninar-gente-grande/


“Marielle Franco Murder: Two Rio Ex-Police Officers Held.” BBC News. BBC, March 12, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47538871. For context regarding the Marielle Franco/Marielle Presente references in the performance.


My favourite book about samba:

Samba: Resistance in Motion by Barbara Browning if you're one of my students or colleagues in St. Louis let me know if you'd like to borrow it sometime!


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Updated: Jul 10

I came across a neat article about oral cultures and memory! I started thinking about how it applies to dance.


Memory and Dance Class


If you've taken any salsa or samba classes with me you know I'm not a fan of students taking videos at the end of class. If you haven't heard my mini rant about oral tradition in the African diaspora it goes something like this:


"Alright so we're not going to take videos today. I have found that when I take videos of class combinations I let them sit in my Google Drive. It's like a digital graveyard of dance knowledge. These dances we are learning are born out of the African diaspora. Many cultures of the African diaspora pass on information using oral tradition. In oral cultures the people's histories, genealogies, religions, and scientific knowledge are passed down through music, spoken word, song, stories, and dance. We are going to honor that tradition and hold these movements and knowledge in our minds rather than letting them sit in the cloud forever."


In salsa specifically, shine combinations aren't meant to be learned from someone else and regurgitated verbatim. What is that expressing about *me* if I do someone else's exact choreography at a social? Maybe I'm saying a little bit since my anatomy and movement instincts are different than the choreographer's, but ultimately I'm not saying much! I like to use combinations from class as I'd use source material for a research paper. I read it, make sure I understand it, then I figure out what is relevant for me to reference in my own work.


But I Didn't Get The Combination!!


It may feel scary when you don't think you fully got the "understanding" step. Well if you don't understand it now, how is re-watching without any input going to help? If you don't understand a lecture, you go to the professor and check in with them! That is so much more effective than stewing over it alone. Ask the instructor to watch the class do it and give pointers if they haven't already.


Now don't get me wrong, I don't hate technology. Videos are super useful if you use them well. Ask if you can send them a short video of YOU doing it and get a tip or two. I took a private with Shani Talmor last time she was in Saint Louis and she told me I could text her videos as I practiced. This was before I switched my mindset about taking videos and I didn't take her up on that - I had my little recording of her doing the combination and figured "ehhh that's good enough." Kind of arrogant right? I passed up an opportunity to a) reconnect with someone with more knowledge than me and b) make sure I understood what I paid her to share with me! So as another method of understanding movement from workshops, ask if you can send them short videos and get a tip or two! Most dance educators would love that - it confirms that they gave you something valuable.


Memorizing Movement Without Video


I memorize movement through repetition, creating a story, or associating moves with words/sounds/phrases in my head. When there is a pause in the flow of class I do the movement again and again. I pay attention to what in my body makes sense and what doesn't. I try to ask smart questions about what I'm not getting. "When does my weight shift to start that step?" "Is that hip sway an isolation or is my whole body moving?" Really make the most of class by being a proactive student. I will say if it's something simple like "is that the right foot or left foot" just use your eyes as to not waste time ;)


Now, for the article that inspired this post.


https://theconversation.com/the-memory-code-how-oral-cultures-memorise-so-much-information-65649


"Aboriginal elders explained to her how they encode knowledge in song, dance, story and place. This led to a theory that may revolutionise archaeology.
It has long been known that the human brain has evolved to associate memory with place, referred to as the method of loci. This means that we associate memory with a location."

Location is a method I haven't thought of! Can this be scaled down to a dance studio? Can we associate that bump in the floor with the memory of feeling our foot sliding over it and remember that phrase of movement? Or remembering that our head direction changes because we saw that crack on the ceiling when we looked up?


Does it still work once we take ourselves out of that original space? I don't know. The article is referencing cultural groups tied to locations. Indigenous Australians using the stars as "memory spaces" is such a beautiful concept. The knowledge they remember (flora, fauna, geological history, navigation) stays in that physical context though so it's possible that it isn't applicable to choreography that has to be put in different contexts... But I'll be trying it and you can be sure I'll mention it in class if it works!

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