MAKING YOUR SAMBA TICK

Don Herbison-Evans ,   donherbisonevans@yahoo.com

The Samba differs from all the other Latin dances in having a Tick. Many eminent dancers have offered descriptions of this movement. It has been described in various ways, some of which will make sense to you, and some will not. Everyone learns in different ways. Here is another simplistic description of the Samba movement that may, or may not, be helpful for you.

In this view: taking any step in the Samba can viewed as having three parts: a Tick, the Step, and a Remain. In Cruzada walks, stepping on beats 1,2, the movements are counted "a 1 & a 2 &". with the Tick on the 'a', on a quarter beat before a Step, and the Remain on the '&' on the half beat after a Step.

The Step, in which the body weight is transferred from one foot to the other, on the beat, is the movement of the legs, involving the muscles around the hips, knees, feet, and toes. Here we will talk of the Moving Leg, and the Remaining Leg.

The Tick and the Remain both involve tilting and twisting the pelvis using muscles in the small of the back and the pit of the stomach. The Tick occurs in the preceding fraction of a beat: the 'a' before the Step. It consists of leveling of the pelvis, and then tilting it so that the hip of the Moving Leg moves in the direction the leg is going to go. So for a forward step, in the Tick, the bum tucks under, moving the hips forward. As it does so, the thigh of the Moving Leg is taken forward with the pelvis, and the thigh of the Remaining Leg starts moving behind allowing the torso to start moving forward. All this happens in the quarter of a beat, in the period between the previous '&' and the 'a', so that at the moment of the 'a': the pelvis is tucked fully under.

During the next quarter of a beat, between the 'a' and the '1': the Moving Leg moves to its new position, with the ball of the foot landing on the '1', and the knee bent. The torso, as it moves, is moving forward, staying over the moving foot, and the pelvis is un-tilting, back to its normal orientation under the body.

During the next half beat, during the Remain, after a forward step has been taken, the pelvis starts to twist back and tilt over to one side, so that the hip of the Remaining Leg is back and high, and the Remaining Leg twists in the thigh to turn the back foot out which is pointed so that it is resting on the inside edge of the big toe, and the knee of the Remaining Leg is straightened to result in the lunge shape, characteristic of all the steps in the Samba.

Of course: during all these complex movements of the pelvis and legs in the Tick, the Step, and the Remain, the only movement of the Torso is to progress smoothly forward.

The above explanation referred to the simple Cruzada walks. Applying these principles to, for example: Voltas and Boto Fogos, in which three steps are taken on the '1', the 'a' and the '2', means that during the quarter beat between the 'a' and the '2', the movements of Tick for the '2' have to happen in a 16th of a beat. This is not easy.

The overall result is that in the Samba: the different parts of the body, the torso, the hips, and the legs, all do different dances of their own, in a form of dancing counterpoint, like the voices in a Bach Choral singing different tunes and rhythms. The essence of the Samba is this harmonious counterpoint that makes it intriguing to watch, and great fun to do.

(written 23 October 2020)