Victor’s Lab, Samba with Marketa

THE BASICS: A beginners Samba dance class, run by Marketa at Victor’s Lab. Available as stand alone classes, with “workshops” running over several weeks also available. Back in the autumn and I’ll update when new classes are available!

THE BITCHES: Carly

THE CLASS: I’d been to Victor’s lab several months earlier to try a Capoeira class and had a brilliant time- so when samba teacher Marketa got in touch to say she’d been in that same class and… And would I like to shimmy my hips back along Victor’s Lab to try out her samba for beginners class on a Wednesday night? My hips made the decision for me and shimmied along obligingly.

We had time for a chat before the class and Marketa told me how she’d given samba dancing a go when she was younger, and instantly felt that click of “yep, this is me” which I know a lot of fitness teachers experience. These teachers who’ve fallen under the spell of their chosen practice bring genuine passion and enthusiasm to their classes, and Marketa did just that!

Initially, she got us stepping in time to the beat, simple, repetitive steps that followed the drums. When we momentarily paused between songs, she gave us a little background on the relationship between samba dance and music- the music starts and “calls” to the dancers- the dancers then respond. This continues for a minute or two, building the tension for the audience before reaching a crescendo and BAM! The music explodes and the dancers step, fast and rhythmically.

We were a little way off such an amazing explosion of music and sound, but having Marketa explain this in a genuinely excited way, definitely gave those first simple steps more passion and excitement.

As we moved through the class, we practiced several sequences (simple to follow once you had gotten your head around left and right!) all of which we learned in isolation but that eventually flowed into the next sequence seamlessly. Our aim (although we didn’t know it at this stage) was to put all of these sequences together and dance Samba to a whole song at the end of the class. As someone with the memory of a goldfish, I find dance classes quite intimidating usually; you learn tiny snippets of a sequence and then add to it. adding adding adding, until you learn the steps to a whole dance from beginning to end.

These sort of dance classes inevitably lead to the whole group being really good at the first half of the steps that they’ve been practicing for the best part of an hour, but then forgetting steps as you add them- by the time you get to the end of the song, everyone’s forgotten what they’re supposed to be doing and descended into chaos.

The way Marketa taught Samba, however, was different. We learned 4 or 5 short, simple sequences, dedicating an equal amount of time to each. We could then add these sequences together, again and again, and in different combinations, meaning we had enough steps to last for a whole song… and we could dance the whole thing without forgetting. Ok, so there was still a bit of forgetting, but this was probably the most successful “final-dance” sequence I’ve ever achieved- and it was mainly down to the way Marketa taught us.

Another reason I particularly liked Marketa’s teaching style was that, as we completed our “final dance”- having learned all the steps and swapping between them for a whole track, she let us do it all together and didn’t then split the class in 2 and make us watch each other. Dance teachers of the land- TAKE NOTE!! We are amateurs. We are sweaty by this point. There is nothing more awkward or intimidating that having to dance in front of the other half of the class (who are essentially strangers!), while they watch. The dancers don’t want to do it, and the watchers don’t want to watch. Just let us get on with it in our own little worlds, please!

We shimmied, hips and ankles in different directions and in double time…. and I now pretty much feel experienced enough to lead a float at the next Notting Hill Carnival!

THE VERDICT: Marketa was an enthusiastic teacher who gave insight into the Samba “story”, kept it simple enough for beginners, injected her flair and passion, and taught in a way that made dancing accessible and not intimidating. And Victor’s lab is always, always a beautiful studio to work out in- the space, light and atmosphere made for a wonderful mid-week class.

THE EXTRAS: Just time for a photo (Marketa: poised and Samba-like, Carly: doing some kind of hybrid Strictly Come Dancing/Ballet pose she’s just made up. But she’s certain she is mirroring Marketa’s poise while the camera’s flashing….)

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One of us is a Samba dancer…..!

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