The reason I started Escola de Samba Sydney in 2016.
At the time I had been dancing and performing Samba extensively for almost 10 years. I was running a successful Brazilian entertainment company however I was watching what was happening in Brasil and frustrated with the way Samba was being represented in Australia. Samba had become so far removed from the source and the art of Passista Samba no pé was virtually non-existent… It was all showgirl style choreography and Samba “competitions” with no connection to the roots of the culture.
So I travelled to Brazil with my Baiano husband at end of 2015, threw myself in the deep-end and began the intense journey of studying the art form like a university degree and completely retraining my Samba. I went to Carlinhos Salguerio’s, projeto (class), trained with Carlinhos de Jesus (the top two masters of all things Samba in Brazil). I slowly started to feel my way through the fog in Rio and connect with Samba de verdade (the truth of Samba).
Shortly after this trip, I brought Carlinhos Salgueiro to Australia in March 2016 for a workshop tour and trained extensively with the grand master, day in and day out, exhausted but oh so fulfilled. This tour introduced authentic Passista Samba to Australia for the first time directly from the source. Although the tour was met with a lot of resistance from so many in the established Latin dance community and it was a huge financial risk (we even had to cancel the Brisbane workshop due to the lack of support), I am truly proud to say that this was the beginning of the Samba revolution here in Australia. Eyes began opening, veils began lifting.
Prior to all this I had taught some private lessons here and there and a few workshops, however I never taught regular Samba classes because I have always believed that teaching (anything at all) is a serious responsibility and even more so when the art form is not your own culture. Coming from Jamaica (a third world Afrocentric country similar to Brazil in its history of slavery and struggle) I understand what the weight of teaching an Afrocentric art form meant and I wanted to be sure that I was ready to share the culture of Samba armed with a bucket-load of experience and with the utmost integrity.
Post Carlinhos Salgueiro’s tour in 2016, I officially started my weekly classes treading cautiously but firmly. At the time I was teaching one class each week and slowly trying to educate the local Samba community (the majority of whom were still very resistant at this stage) on the art of Brazilian Passista Samba.
I knew that I had only scratched the surface of my own Samba transformation so I took myself off to Rio again later that year (early October 2016) with my close Samba colleague Nubia for intensive training. During this trip we trained day in and day out with every master instructor and Passista we could get our hands on. There were days we couldn’t walk from blisters on our feet, days of exhaustion and dehydration dancing in small spaces in the near 40 degree heat and days we put ourselves in areas that non locals would be well advised to stay away from. Nevertheless, it was worth it to us because those experiences are merely a taste of the reality of Samba and the life of a Passista in Brazil. It is more struggle than glory, far more fight than glamour.
We launched Samba Internacional whilst in Rio in October 2016 as an organisation dedicated to fostering the integrity of Samba culture internationally. We started with a video blog series to educate the western world on the reality of the culture of Samba. We also auditioned and were officially accepted into the Ala das Passistas for Imperio Serrano to parade in Carnaval 2017.
That 2016 trip, the Samba Internacional vlog and our first Carnaval tour in 2017 were game changers for the international Samba world. I am proud and honoured that we opened the gateway to information and possibility and many international Samba dancers began seeking access to training and travelling to Brazil themselves.
In May 2017 whilst at the International Samba Congress in Los Angeles, Carlinhos Salgueiro officially accredited and endorsed me (and Nubia) as his international representatives to teach his signature style. It is an honour and responsibility that I uphold with the utmost reverence to this day.
The incredible experiences and events that have taken place since I started the Escola in 2016 are immeasurable: From bringing so many of Brazil’s master instructors to Australia for tours over the years including the Australia Samba Congress events; to the Samba Internacional’s annual educational tours to Rio Carnaval; Plus my own personal achievements in Brazil as a Passista of three of Rio’s top Samba schools (Imperio Serrano, Salgueiro, Tuiuti), Musa of Imperio Serrano as well as launching my dream Brazilian show ensemble, Rio Projekt in Australia in 2018.
Picture above of Sashya Jay performing as a Musa of Imperio Serrano 2018
Since 2015 I have worked diligently with my team to provide the highest level of integrity in Brazilian dance education at Escola de Samba Sydney. All the Escola instructors and highly trained in Brazilian dance with extensive experience in Brazil itself. We have grown from just me teaching one class a week to 15 classes on the timetable for 2021! We also have a full online platform and with students from all over the world training with us. We have developed a signature Samba syllabus that is highly effective and producing the most exceptional results in students.
I say WE in all of the above because I have never been a soloist. I am ALL about the team, the collective, the ensemble and the community. I am immensely grateful for the team of maravilhosas who believe in my vision, make sense of my madness and who are all fiercely dedicated to the same principles. Obrigada from the bottom of my heart to my crew - Sky, Jeska, Nandara, Karla and Nubia. Onwards and upwards always!
Picture above of the Escola Instructors - From left: Sky, Nandara, Nubia, Sashya, Karla and Jeska.