Well when I left off on my last post I sort of said that I was going to take dance lessons at a Samba School here in São Paulo. That didn’t quite end up being the case. We went but the school wasn’t a school it was actually a club. A Samba Dance Club.
Permit me to set the scene for you. My tour manager, Jana, and I were heading to, what I believed to be, a Samba Dance School. I was very excited until our taxi turned down a very questionable street. You know the type of street that you might peer down into from the main boulevard but never enter? One of those streets that seems to tell its own tale of “nothing good ever happens here, go the other way.” So instead of going the other way, we turned down the street to find the “Samba School.”
I believe I lost my illusion that I was entering a school when the door man demanded to pat me down and search my belongings. Hmmm… I said to myself, this is not like any school that I’ve ever attended. It was easy to see that the disheveled building was a gathering place of some sort.
As I entered I had this really nostalgic feeling that I was entering some place familiar. I was. This place was the Brazilian equivalent of a “Juke Joint!” Alright I know I’m telling on myself, and my history, a little bit but I don’t have any other way to set the scene for you. Kind of dark, a little musty, and the smell of fried food and alcohol permeating the air. There was a solo musician on stage seated playing his guitar and singing to an almost empty house. We were early and had our pick of tables.
It seems there’s a rhythm to how these clubs function and they are as ubiquitous as churches. Most of the clubs open for lunch around noon or so. People from the community gather to eat and meet. Around 4 pm, the band takes the stage and then… Samba!
As we were ordering food and water (I don’t drink and this seems to really freak everyone out when I travel so I try not to mention it), people were coming in and claiming tables. Apparently people send others in advance as a form of reconnaissance table procuring because the clubs get really crowded. Watching the door was so entertaining that I could have come to the club just for that. I watched as a woman walked in with her infant child swaddled. A few elderly women, who must have, at least, been in their 70’s entered dressed to kill and already had their hips swaying to the playing rhythms. At one point an entire family of about 12 people walked in together. There were children, teens, elders, and everything in between. There was something familiar about the scene as I watched people who looked like my own family members take their places in different sections of the club.
Our host arrived with a friend and we ate, talked and laughed a bit. I was really enjoying the mellow mood and then the clock struck 4 pm. The band ascended the stage and, within seconds, the music was pumped up a notch in energy and volume. It was Samba time!
There was a dance floor but it seemed that people just danced everywhere, between tables, near the steps, back against the walls, everywhere. The mood was infectious.
I’ve never been one to hold up the walls so I hit the floor as soon as everybody else. Did I know how to dance Samba? Well… no, but why should that stop me. While on the floor I was being taught a few simple moves. There were arms swinging and legs flailing everywhere but no one was in danger of being hurt. There was a grace in the chaos of movement that made it safe to experiment with my new Samba moves. I don’t even know how I did, I really didn’t care. I just enjoyed the mood of the place. I kept my mouth closed and didn’t talk to too many people. It seemed, and this was told to me by a Brazilian, that I fit right into the demographic as long as I wasn’t saying anything. I was warned that, if the women knew I was a foreigner, I would be swarmed. Now that might be nice for you younger single guys but I’m chill, I like to take it slow and easy. That’s what happens you cross the mid-40 bridge.
I danced and danced some more before my legs started cursing at me, and loudly too. Samba is muscle intensive and if you are not in shape be very careful about how far you take yourself with the dance.
The place began to get hot and the smell of alcohol far outweighed the grease burning meat in the back. It was time for me to go.
I have an intuitive sense of when to make my exits (It’s a southern Juke Joint thing, some of ya’ll will understand and some won’t).
We made our way back to the hotel. I entered my room and collapsed on my bed.
If you were wondering why the blog was a little late getting out, well now you know.
Blame it on the Samba!