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Home grown Sambistas take on Rio!

Ashleigh Went

Every February during National Multicultural Festival, Canberra’s city centre is transformed into a slice of Brazil, when dancers from local Latin Dance schools don their feathers and sparkly costumes and samba their way through the streets to the beat of live Batucada drums. For most, it’s the closest they’ll get to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. But for eight Canberra ‘sambistas’, the dream of dancing in the iconic parade is about to become a reality.

Canberra dancers in costume for the 2014 Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro.

Canberra dancers in costume for the 2014 Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro.

They’re about to join Australia’s first Samba Queen, Mishel Finlayson, in a “guided tour of Rio, including all the hotspots, plus Samba lessons with Rio’s Samba Queens”: it’s set to be 10 days of street parties, Samba nights out, shopping for bikinis and gym wear, and beach time, with the highlight of both watching and performing in the Carnival parade”.

Mishel will be taking 28 Australians with her to perform at the parade in Rio, which in a historic first, will feature an all-Australian float exclusively for the team in the parade as part of Estacio de Sa, one of Rio’s oldest and most respected Samba schools.

Mishel says “there is no other event in the world that compares to the exhilaration of being in the Rio Carnival parade! It’s an explosion of senses – beautiful colours, feathers, sparkling costumes, the sounds of thousands of live drums, and the energy of tens of thousands of dancers – young, old, poor, rich, locals and foreigners”.

Kate Ticehurst and Kirstie McMillan are set to perform at Carnival for the first time,

Kate Ticehurst and Kirstie McMillan are set to perform at Carnival for the first time,

Kate Ticehurst and Kirstie McMillan of Canberra studio Subsdance have been dreaming of dancing at Carnival for as long as they can remember. Kate says “we believe in giving our students the correct knowledge about the cultural aspects of a dance. We are going to be learning from some of the top Samba dancers and bringing back what we learn to our students.”

Kokoloco’s Becky Fleming is looking forward to returning to Rio, calling last year’s Carnival one of the best moments of her life, “dancing on the float, singing the Samba school’s song and representing Australia on one of the most incredible platforms, and most extravagant and prestigious parties in the world”.

Becky says that despite nine months of planning, the real preparation will take place in Rio. “We attend the last rehearsal of the Samba school when we first arrive. We also attend workshops with other amazing Samba dancers from Rio, and personally I will be training each morning and eating as healthy as possible to be in the best shape I can for Carnival – though it’s very tempting to eat the barbeque cheese!”

The eight Canberra dancers will be soaking in the sights and sounds of Brazil.

The eight Canberra dancers will be soaking in the sights and sounds of Brazil.

You can understand the ladies wanting to be in their very best shape – the Carnival in something of a visual feast, a celebration of the beautiful female body in all it’s sensual and curvaceous glory.

Aside from a collection of stunning women, the float will feature incredible costumes. Mishel says “our float’s theme is the ‘Discovery of Brazil’, so we will be wearing a mixture of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese nobility inspired costumes – of course with lots of feathers and bling!”

The dancers’ appreciation of the heritage of the dance runs further than just the costumes. Kate says “people all around the world love to see the images of the beautiful Sambatistas at Carnival, decked out in crystals and bling. But there is an abundance of history attached to this event that makes it even more special to Samba dancers like us – dancers who invest time into researching the culture and its music”.

If you’re inspired to try Samba for yourself, Kokoloco and Subsdance both offer fantastic classes! Check them out below…

The essentials

What: Subsdance Dance Studio
Where: Monkeybar, 128 Bunda Street, Civic
When: View the timetable online
Web: www.subsdance.com.au

What: Kokoloco Dance Studio
Where: Level 1, 9-11 Dundas Court, Phillip
When: View the timetable online
Web: www.kokoloco.com.au

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue

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