So you think you can dance? Well Rio de Janeiro is the place to prove it.
Give the locals a hint of a beat and a half-inch of floor space and they’ll be jiggling away – feet, torsos, and (most importantly of all) butts all moving in perfect sync. And while there are more dance styles in Rio than you could shake a funky stick at, far and away the most popular is samba, the drumbeat-driven sound that is at the heart and soul of Carnival in Rio.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a mover, you’ll have no shortage of opportunity to prove it while on holiday in Rio de Janeiro. Bars and clubs in Rio are awash with opportunities to hit the dancefloor and strut your samba stuff, and impromptu street parties have a habit of popping up in the unlikeliest of locations.
Even if you’re a total newcomer to samba, don’t be shy about joining in – the locals are famously flirtatious and will embrace any opportunity to get up close and personal under the guise of a quick tutorial in the art of samba. Do be aware though, Brazilians really CAN dance, so those half-mastered samba steps that win admiring glances back home are unlikely to wow the crowds here. However, the locals are well aware of their prowess, and don’t expect foreigners to be able to match them for pace, style and sexiness so if you have two left feet don’t worry – you’ll just be living up to their low expectations of gringoes’ dancing ability!
Should you want to hit the dancefloor or just watch the experts at play, here are some of the best spots to do it.
1. Carioca da Gema. Live music and a mix of locals and visitors make this a friendly and funky place to eat, drink and dance
2.Rio Scenarium. Granted, it gets its fair share of tourists, but this unique spot in the heart of Lapa delivers a unique experience, and the backdrop of antiques and filmprops is both brilliant and bewildering.
3. Lapa Street Party. It’s no coincidence that our top three picks are all in Lapa – Rio’s party central. This is where the bohemian heart of Rio beats loudest, and on Friday and Saturday nights you can join the caipirinha-fuelled hordes dancing samba in the clubs, bars and even on the streets.
4. Plataforma. If you’re more interested in taking in the samba-dancing spectacle than strutting your funky stuff, this Zona Sul haunt is stylish place to take in a show.
5. Samba School Rehearsals. The months leading up to Rio carnival see the samba schools open up their doors to the public at weekends, as they perfect their moves. Watch the experts and have a go yourself (even if it’s onlyafter a couple of inhibition-shedding caipirinhas)
6. Semente. Another Lapa hot spot, this is a popular meeting spot on Sunday nights. If you can’t afford the entrance fee, no worries – crowds gather on the pavement outside to hear the live music and dance a little samba
7. Bar da Fatinha. Ride the tram up to Santa Teresa on a Sunday to join the locals strutting their stuff outside this lively local bar
8. Trapiche Gamboa. You’ll see some seriously good dancing at this funky spot in Rio’s docklands, but take a taxi as the area is not safe after dark.
9. Scala I. Skimpy costumes, sexy ladies and saucy samba moves all present and correct at this Zona Sul nightspot
10. Mangue Seco. A real Rio institution, right in the heart of the city’s historic centre.