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Casa do Samba

by Rachel Levin
January 11, 2008
Good Hurt Nightclub
12249 Venice Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 390-1076
Brazilian Carnaval Party
Every Friday Night
Samba Lessons @ 9:00 pm
Samba Show @ 11 pm
When Café Danssa closed in February 2007, Los Angeles was left bereft of a Rio-style dance hall where a samba school reigned in all its booming glory. Friday nights at Danssa were legendary for packing in a jubilant crowd who gyrated wildly to the beats of M.I.L.A. Samba School. With the club's closure, there were really no ideal substitutes. Zabumba in Culver City picked up some of the slack by providing a steady stream of Brazilian entertainment, but the dance floor remains too small to accommodate an entire samba school or replicate the feeling of getting lost in a riot of color and motion.

With Casa do Samba, a Friday night Brazilian party at Good Hurt Nightclub in West LA that began in fall 2007, founders Bia and Israel Ferriera have come as close to reproducing the pleasures of Danssa as LA is going to get. Good Hurt is a somewhat unlikely venue, with its garage-band aesthetic, black walls, and female bartenders in naughty nurse uniforms. On a recent Friday night, in lieu of the advertised 9:30 samba lesson, the club hosted amateur night, a succession of indie rock band hopefuls of varying quality. My group of girlfriends and me, who had arrived promptly at 9:30 for the samba instruction, grew impatient as the bands dragged on into the 11:00 hour. The contrast of noisy rock to the bouncing rhythms of Rio we anticipated was grating.

Still, when the Casa do Samba Bateria finally took the stage around 11:15, our frustration instantly melted. With the first reverberation of the drums, we were out on the dance floor letting the beats of a dozen percussionists wash through us. But, without the benefit of samba instruction, some of my companions were at a loss as to how to move. Luckily there were some experienced dancers on the floor, and we did our best to follow their lead. A bejeweled and scantily clad dancer in Carnaval garb paraded on stage to demonstrate how it's really done.

At Danssa, the entire space was the dance floor. There were no corners or crannies unoccupied by revelers. At Good Hurt, half of the space is devoted to non-dance uses, including pool tables, large booths in which to lounge, a VIP area, and the bar. So it turned out there were more spectators than dancers, which is good because there was ample room to dance but not so great because it detracts from the intimacy of the experience. Also, at Danssa, the bateria played right on the dance floor with the crowd; there was no stage marking a separation. At Good Hurt, this isn't the case, but to their credit the musicians did their best to interact with the dancers. They pulled people from the floor to dance up on stage with them (at one point, after being thoroughly intoxicated by the beat, I allowed myself to be one of them).

When the bateria is on break, DJ N8 spins hip hop, reggaeton, MPB, and pagode. My friends found this music more accessible to dance to than the bateria, perhaps because a critical mass of dancers led the crowd in a succession of funky line dances.

The venue could be better, the samba instruction could be more reliable, and the energy of the crowd needs a little cultivating. But on the whole, Casa do Samba feels like sweet rain after a drought. Let's hope it sticks around and continues to drench West LA with the rhythms of Rio for some time to come.

Upcoming events:

January 25 Queen of the Drums dance competition and pageant
February 1 Carnival Masquerade party

For more information, call 310-973-7893 or go to www.casadosamba.com

Photo © & courtesy of Beatriz Ferreira


Photo © & courtesy of Beatriz Ferreira

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