Brazil was the birth place of the Samba. It was and is danced as a festival dance throughout the street festivals and celebrations. In the late twenties, it was introduced in the U.S. in a Broadway play called "Street Carnival". The festive style, the joyful music and catching rhythm of the dance make has kept it alive and popular to this day.
Since late 19th century, the Samba music rhythm has been danced in Brazil. Many of the music in the heavily populated coastal areas show a significant mixture of African, Native Indian, and Iberian influences.
Actually, there is a set of dances, thus, no one dance can be argued with conviction as the "original" Samba style. Another main stream of the Samba dance besides the Brazilian Samba dancing styles is Ballroom Samba which differs appreciably.
The Portuguese discovered on the east coast of South America, a place they called the January River (Rio de Janeiro), in the 16th century. Colonists soon established and slaves were brought from South-West Africa to work in the plantations of Bahia, in the north-east of what became Brazil. To devote of the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomble, Samba signify to pray, to invoke your personal orixa (god/saint). In their homeland the rhythms were used to call forth different gods. Candomble conserves these rhythms to this day. It is the rhythm that has profoundly influenced Brazilian music making Samba a single genre of music.
In the 1830's a compound dance was developed, which mixture the plait figures from these Negro dances and the body rolls and sways of the natives Lundu. After this dance included carnival steps and began to be performed with the dancers holding each other in the European way (closed dance position). By 1885, it was danced by high society in Rio, and popularized as the Zemba Queda. It was changed again and called the Mesemba. Later, the Mesemba was combined with another Brazilian dance, the Maxixe and was popularized in the U.S.A and Europe. It has been described as having the steps of the Polka done to the music of the Cuban Habanera. The current day Samba still includes a step called the Maxixe.
In the 1930's, in U.K. a style of Samba called the Carioca was revived and extend to the USA. Samba was popularizing with movies helped, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers performing it in their first film together. In 1941, movie star and singer Carmen Miranda, is attributed with making the dance accepted in the United States.
The Ballroom Samba, while keeping elements of what the Brazilians believe the true Samba, was formalized in 1956 by Pierre Lavelle. Since then, different forms of Samba have been developed.
A brief history of some styles of dance: