Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to become a samba queen?

Passista (comes from the Portuguese word passiar - meaning to walk) is a solo samba dancer and one of the key members of the samba school. In the samba carnival the passistas wear the most elaborate bikini costumes and commonly dance in front of the samba band, bateria. Only a handful of the best dancers are chosen as passistas and one of them, the best of the best, is furthermore chosen as the rainha de bateria. Rainha is the queen of the bateria who will dance in the carnival parade right in front of the bateria and is considered as the "leader" of the passistas. Passistas are chosen for one year at a time and each aspiring dancer have to audition for the part no matter how experienced they are.

Last Saturday I went to see the annual passista exams at the Helsinki samba school Império do Papagaio. The passista exams are in fact one of the most anticipated samba events of the year (the carnival is obviously the most anticipated event). A panel of judges, typically former passistas and merited sambistas, evaluate the dancers that perform an improvised dance in small groups as well as individually to the live drumming of the bateria - and in front of a large crowd of fellow samba dancers. To be chosen as a passista you not only need to have excellent skills in samba no pé and be familiar with dancing to the beat of the live bateria but you should also have charisma, musicality, a big smile.... and don't be afraid to dance in a very revealing costume!

At the Império do Papagaio passista exams this year there were 15 dancers trying out in three groups of five dancers. After the intensive - and very hot - exams six sambistas were chosen as passistas for the coming carnival year! Below (as well as above) are some pictures from that night.

Piitu - passista
Anna - passista
Bateria and Salla - passista
Salla making her final pose to the judges and the crowd
Ia in the traditional post-audition interview with Kirsi
Fanny - this year's rainha
It was a fun night at the samba school! I always enjoy watching the joyful sambistas dancing and really putting all their energy into the performance. After the auditions the party started and I got to dance samba with my friends. It's not often I kick out with the samba no pé but it's always a blast :)

Curious about how it was? You can also see a video I captured during the evening. This is the third and final group of dancers in the passista exams, the group dance before the individual auditions:

If you are interested in learning carnival samba, polishing your solo dancing skills or try out drumming the bateria then look up your local samba school. In Finland you'll find them via SSKL and in Helsinki I can warmly welcome Império do Papagaio. Now is a great time to join as the samba year has just started and you'll have a prime opportunity to get involved in organising one of the largest samba parades in Europe (read here about the previous parade)!!

**  New in this blog: SHOP! Have you seen my samba t-shirt collection? **

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