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An Interview with Carlos Porto - Brazilian Samba Teacher

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 13, 2002
New York, NY

About the Author:

Carlos Porto

Brazilian Rhythms

You Should Be Dancing Studio, 212.244.0011
412 8th Avenue at 31st Street, NYC

Champion Dance Studio, 212.307.7707
300 West 43rd Street at 8th Avenue, NYC

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

Carlos Porto, (See two Carlos Porto Photo Essays) a world-renowned Brazilian Samba teacher and performer, is also a Modern Jazz dancer and artist. He is in New York for several months and can be reached at the Dance Studios listed above. Carlos is an engaging and magnetic dancer, all muscle, who delights the classes and private lessons with improvisational Samba dancing. Through the following interview, I became aware of the fact that Carlos Porto is also an accomplished jazz artist. Carlos Porto is the subject of this inside perspective.

November 13, 2002, with Carlos Porto, Alex Bradford (Translator), John Redmond, and Shannon Mauman, at Westway Diner - Restaurant, 212.582.7661, open 24 hrs, 614 Ninth Avenue (between 43rd and 44th Streets), NYC, over a light supper.

REZ - For you, what is the soul of Samba?

CP - Samba is an African rhythm. The origin of Samba is an Angolan word, which refers to movement from the stomach. The dance came from the original slaves in Brazil. Samba became a part of life and a part of society.

REZ - What is your background? Why did you specialize in Samba?

CP - I always liked to dance. I studied classical jazz. I always liked Latin rhythms and became interested in Samba from Carnivale. I was first a jazz instructor in Belo Horizonte.

REZ - How did you make the transition from Jazz to Samba?

CP - I brought the technique from teaching skills to Jazz. In Brazil, you don't specialize in one dance. I was teaching other rhythms, like Samba.

REZ - How many years have you danced Samba?

CP - For 20 years. In Samba, I worked during Carnivale and at different dance events and parties.

REZ - Did you perform in Carnivale?

CP - I stopped 2 years ago. I wasn't dancing professionally in Carnivale anymore. Then I started specializing in coaching celebrities (See photo of Carlos Porto and his student, Liza Minelli) and dancing in performances. I created choreography for Samba, Salsa, and Jazz. Last summer, I created choreography and performed a mix of Tango and Cha Cha with a Brazilian influence. This choreography was created for the opening day of a painting exhibition of the best Brazilian painters of art and movement. There were only new Brazilian artists with different styles. Some used the old style of Baroque painting. I performed with my partner, Lena Maia. I brought a painting of a dance couple, and, when the lights were dimmed, the silhouettes turned into us. We started to dance.

REZ - Why do you bring Samba to NY?

CP - I teach a variety of dance styles in Brazil, with more Samba in NY. Brazilians don't take Samba lessons; they are not big with dance classes, Samba is a natural style, and Samba is very difficult in class.

REZ - How much do you travel?

CP - I have worked in Portugal, Morocco, Spain, and Argentina. I teach Samba and Zouk. That's what people want, when I'm abroad.

REZ - Tell me about your childhood.

CP — My Grandfather, Dario, showed me Cuban rhythms. He played the accordion, pandero, and he liked Cuban rhythms. It was a hobby, and at home he would play records and dance with me. I learned Jazz, when I was 18 in Belo Horizonte. I took Jazz dance classes and taught and performed. When other rhythms became popular, I learned them, too. Now I have a Sponsorship from a Clothing Manufacturer, Brenda Vaz.

REZ - Tell me about Carnivale in Rio.

CP - I have paraded Samba in Rio. I danced for 5 days. Each school of Samba (12) tells the story of that style with a different dance theme. Within the theme, they talk about the history of that style with special costumes. There are 3 or 4 thousand different dancers in each school. Each row has different costumes and represents 1 area of the theme.
REZ - I'd love to go to Carnivale in Rio. Where do you live?

CP - I still live in Belo Horizonte, a large city. I make benefits and parties in Brazil to save homeless dogs. I give workshops and get sponsors, and then all the proceeds go to save homeless dogs.

REZ - How long will you stay in NY?

CP - I will stay 3 to 6 months, as long as everything is OK with my projects in Brazil. Right now, I am trying to create a very large animal shelter for the homeless dogs.

REZ - What will keep you in NY?

CP - Lots of students to continue the workshops.

(Call Champion Dance Studio and You Should Be Dancing Studio, See Above Information, for Workshop Schedule.)

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