RIO’S PARTY PEOPLE
From Page 1 it is not just all that. It is that they make dancing so damned hot. To see Brazilians dancing is to see how sex would look if they set it to music.
All over the world, in unlikely places such as Japan, people attend samba classes as an innocent pursuit, a bit of exercise, a way to meet new people. I have seen samba classes advertised in church halls, in school gyms. But samba is only innocent if you are not doing it right. In Brazil samba is so erotic, it is eye-watering. It is not just dancing; it is foreplay.
Ricardo is gone in an instant. A young woman in a very fetching pair of jeans is already grinding her pelvis with bewitching rhythm on his upper thigh. I order another caipirinha.
I realise that out there on that dance floor, I am not going to cut it. The freeform do-your-own-thing kind of armwaving feet-shuffling stuff that passes for dancing at home would be laughable among this lot.
I feel as if I have fallen into one of those nightmares where you are about to go on stage at the Sydney Opera House even though you don’t know the opera, haven’t been to rehearsal and can’t sing a note. I decide on a low profile. I hide behind a flower vase.
But eventually an Amazonian spots me through the lilies and swoops. My merit as a partner is that I am one of the few men in the place almost as tall as she is. She is not to know that it will be my only merit. Before I know what has happened, she has me in an arm lock in the midst of the jiving crowds. A moment later, she is doing things I generally only see behind closed doors.
I try to rally but it is at this moment that the caipirinhas kick in. All around me now are couples who seem to have stepped from the stage of Come Dancing. Their hips are a blur of syncopated rhythms. They are doing things with their feet that would need an algebraic equation to express accurately. I have the sense the dance floor is beginning to part, the way it does in movies. But the parting is not for some spectacular couple. It is so that everyone can get a better look at the tall gringo apparently trying to swat flies with his flailing arms while tripping over his feet. Mercifully it doesn’t last long. I am dumped back behind the flower vase before you could say two-step, while the Amazonian twirls away with a more suitable, rather shorter, victim.
A moment later Ricardo arrives in a somewhat tousled state. He looks as if he has been getting jiggy with a combine harvester. ‘‘ Let’s go,’’ he says.
‘‘ Where?’’ I ask, possibly still a little befuddled from the dance floor.
‘‘ Another club,’’ he replies, where the real dancers are.’’
Copacabana Palace Hotel, opposite the beach, is regarded as the best hotel in Rio and is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. More: (02) 9377 8400 or 1800 222 033; www.lhw.com; www.copacabanapalace.com.br. There are no good hotels yet in Lapa but neighbouring Santa Teresa, a more residential quarter of leafy streets and old colonial houses, has an excellent association for bed-and-breakfast options, known as Cama e Cafe, which features more than 50 properties. A three-minute ride on a tram takes you from Santa Teresa to Lapa. More: www.camaecafe.com.br.
Feeling groovy: Dancing in the streets of Rio de Janeiro