Samba is an old Brazilian style of street dance performed at the local carnival in Rio, and it is one of my favorite dances.

The dance was introduced to United States movie audiences when Fred Astaire and Dolores Del Rio danced the Samba in “Flying Down to Rio.”

Several years later, Carmen Miranda danced the Samba in “That Night in Rio.”

The ballroom Samba comes from the rural “rocking Samba.” Samba has a very specific rhythm with a happy, flirty and fun interpretation.

There are fast steps, a rocking motion and a swaying of the dancing couple.

Because of its speed, the dance is somewhat limited to experienced ballroom dancers. However, there is a social Samba that allows beginners to get in on the fun.

In Brazil, the Samba is performed to the drum beat and steps are limited. It’s all about the beat – mostly shaking and shimmying and the barely there costumes.

In the ballroom world, Samba is executed completely differently, with more of a dress code when it comes to the costumes. For one thing, ballroom dance Samba is always done with a partner.

The music is somewhat slower than Brazilian Samba and step combinations are much more intricate. It involves a lot of traveling around the floor as well as directional changes.

Samba is one of the most competitive Latin dances in ballroom. In Brazil, this is a totally different experience.

First of all, the event takes place outside in a parade-like venue rather than a formal ballroom setting. In this competition, there are thousands and thousands of participants competing against each other in front of millions of spectators.

Their competition will involve only the Samba.

While in the competitive ballroom world, Samba will be tied in with ChaCha, Rumba, Paso Doble and the Jive. These are considered the five competitive Latin dances.

I would recommend the Samba to anyone who loves the Latin beat – however, don’t confuse it with Salsa, which is a completely different style and dance.

Samba can really lift you up.

Sandro Virag is a partner and instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Hilton Head, located in Bluffton at Seaquins Ballroom. www.fredastaire