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Tonya Plank
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Lafayette Grill and Bar
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Carnival in New York: The Manhattan Samba Band and Dancer Marizete Throw A Lively Samba Party in Tribeca

by Tonya Plank
February 8, 2008
Lafayette Grill and Bar
54 Franklin Street
New York, NY 10013
Marizete, a dancer who frequently partners with the New York-based Samba percussion ensemble, "Manhattan Samba," was unable to go home to Brazil this year for Carnival. So she did the next best thing and threw a big Carnival party in her adopted city, introducing many down-town New Yorkers to this most festive of dances. On Friday, February 8th, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Tribeca, about fifty people from Marizete's Sambazina Meet-up group, along with about fifty or so onlookers, dined and danced.

The evening began with Marizete teaching an introductory Samba lesson on the small dance floor. About thirty people, many of whom had never danced Samba before, participated. Marizete began with a basic step, which starts with two feet placed together, then crossing one foot right in back of the other, sliding the front foot forward a few inches, then bringing the back foot up to meet the front, and in the process giving a jaunty little hop. After the class followed her with several basics, she moved on and taught a stationary pelvic roll, which basically consists of moving one's pelvis around in a circle, while feet remain planted in one position on the floor. After the class got the hang of that, Marizete added a traveling pelvic roll: the same movement as before but while bending knees and moving the body nearly all the way to the ground. That was followed by a pelvic roll performed while turning around in a full circle. And, she ended class by showing some nice arm styling – for women, a hand waving about in the air in a circular motion, the other hand on the hip; for men both arms held out slightly to the sides. She also threw in some variations on the basic – a side step with a sassy sweep, and back step ending with a little kick that resembled the Charleston, but with a completely different rhythm and style.

The class lasted about twenty minutes. With a large mirror overhead, all students were able to see Marizete, as well as themselves. After the class ended, people continued to practice their new steps for awhile, then retreated to their tables for drinks and dinner.

During dinner, "Bossa5," a Brazilian Bossa Nova and jazz band took the stage. Brazilian rhythm master and percussion leader, Ivo Araujo, led the band in several Samba songs in honor of the holiday. The dance floor opened for general dancing, where people could try their newly-learned skills on their own or partner dance. Marizete danced with several people, showing them more Samba steps or simply letting them lead her. While the band took a break, Marizete took out some CDs she had brought of live music that she had taped from past Carnivals in Rio de Janeiro. The taped music was very percussive with a fun, rhythmic, infectious beat, and after people finished eating, many took to the dance floor, practicing their new Samba moves or simply doing their own thing.

After another round of "Bossa5," "Manhattan Samba" took the stage. "Manhattan Samba" is a street band consisting solely of percussion instruments played by about ten musicians. An authentic Samba band that often plays at street fairs, "Manhattan Samba" was led by a man bearing a whistle around his neck, who conducted his drummers with a loud, exciting blow. The music was an intoxicating medley of sound produced by a variety of different kinds of drums, and the rhythm was so contagious, people still eating dessert were compelled to rise and dance at their tables. Soon Marizete changed into a real Samba costume, a beautiful bright blue bikini complete with feathered bottoms and a glittery rhinestone-laden top. She performed a spectacular Carnival Samba, and people fled to the dance floor to join her.

The two bands and Marizete's class and performance all made for not only a wildly entertaining evening, but an educational and cultural one as well.
Marizete teaching an introductory Samba Class as part of her Carnival Party at Lafayette Bar and Grill.

Marizete teaching an introductory Samba Class as part of her Carnival Party at Lafayette Bar and Grill.

Photo © & courtesy of Tonya Plank

Marizete performing a Carnival Samba with the Manhattan Samba band.

Marizete performing a Carnival Samba with the Manhattan Samba band.

Photo © & courtesy of Tonya Plank

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