Remember the Samba-dancing Chiquita Banana girl with the fruit on her hat? That is the image most Americans have of the dance. The Samba originated in Brazil, and to this day, is danced in the street festivals and celebrations there. First introduced in the U.S. in a Broadway play called Street Carnival in the late 1920s, it was made famous by the movies of Carman Miranda in the late 1930’s. The Chiquita girl is patterned after Carmen Miranda, but Chiquita’s version of the Samba is very unlike the original. Many attribute the popularity of Samba and other Latin dances to people like Carmen Miranda, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. In the 1940s Carmen Miranda made fourteen movies in the U.S. but they were comedies, and her movies embarrassed Brazil. Still, she became an ambassador of Brazilian music and her home became the embassy for Brazilian musicians visiting the United States (Clifford).
The ballroom Samba, which was popularized in the United States throughout the 1930s and 1940s by these movie stars, was created in Rio de Janeiro. From the South American Bands of the 40’s and 50’s through the Ballroom Orchestras of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s to the Disco style music of the 90’s, the Samba has continued to change and keep pace with the current musical styles.
Samba’s history is intertwined with the famous Carneval in Rio de Janeiro. The tradition of a celebration carnival came from European influence where a festival is observed for lent. In New Orleans it is called Mardi Gras. In Rio it is the Carneval from “carne vale” which translated means “good bye to the flesh/meat.” The Carneval and Samba went through parallel development in Brazil and became connected. The two now are inseparable in Rio de Janeiro and have come to symbolize racial and social harmony. The samba of Carneval is a rhythmic dance that allows participants to sing, dance and parade at the same time (Clifford).