Today’s post is all about a bit of Brazil in Brighton – about real Samba brought to us by Beleza Brighton. This amazing social enterprise stole my heart with their beautiful dance moves and colourful outfits. They offer authentic Samba lessons to anyone who wants to join and are truly passionate about dancing and the wellbeing of the body and mind.
I sat down with the founder (and friend of mine) Leandro Beleza and had a chat about his new project.
Tell us a bit about your journey – when did you find your passion for Samba and how did you learn to dance it?
It’s quite difficult to say when I really started feeling the passion for samba. What comes to mind now are memories from what seems like a very far childhood in a different life back in Brazil. My parents were quite young and I remember not having a TV at home until I was nearly 10 years old. But when we finally did and I first saw the adds for the samba schools songs at Rio Carnival I just needed to learn them all! And the passion developed even more when I started to recognise the changes in the rhythm – the changes between the samba and the bateria break. It just took it to a whole new level.
Has starting your own Samba school always been a dream for you?
Quite honestly I never thought of it as a possibility. You see for Brazilians samba is a way of life, almost like a religion, and as much as it’s such an amazing feeling I had to pass my own tests. What I mean is when something becomes too technical and challenging it might lose its appeal and put people off and this happens when fun becomes work. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to see samba simply as work. When I overcame all the obstacles it became even more interesting and it made me proud to have been able to explore new levels of my passion.
What made you take the steps to create Beleza Brighton?
Mainly because there are many groups in the UK working as samba bands or dance companies – mostly commercial samba. It’s great and I absolutely love seeing my culture all over the world but there is a clear difference between the art of dancing and exercise. So I’m happy and proud to demonstrate the real samba, trying my best to respect its culture and its roots.
What were the most difficult issues you came across after deciding?
Finance is always the most difficult thing. We work as a social enterprise and Beleza Brighton depends on good will of its students and community to produce costumes, shows for fundraising activities and basically… to survive.
Tell us a bit about the name – how did you come up with it?
I had to think of a simple and effective name. Beleza means beauty in Portuguese but in Brazil we also use it for many ways of greetings. For example a simple”Beleza?” means “how are you?” or “is everything beautiful in your life?” but it can also be used as an affirmation or positive response: “Beleza!” meaning ok, yes or beautiful! So Beleza Brighton sounded PERFECT!
How has being involved in the Brighton Fringe festival been for you?
This is our first year and we need to be seen and established so Brighton Fringe is an amazing opportunity to be exposed to the public. We thought that the best way to do it was to support a chosen local charity and working with other Brighton based groups that also focused on different Brazilian cultures to produce a great show with clear music and dance variety.
Tell us about the support you’ve been having from people
I have AMAZING people making all of this happen. I could never do it myself without the support and dedication of our directors, PR, costume production and all the students and performers. Even a simple show requires a lot of admin work with all the licenses, safety procedures and techs. We are sharing a passion to make people happy. The students get all the benefits of samba, they learn how to be confident and perform to help support local businesses and charities. Everybody wins!
What advice would you give to anyone that wants to start their own project/business/company?
I’d say… plan ahead. Studying the location and industry will give you a clear idea on how to work and what you can offer to be different from other businesses in the same area. But most importantly having the right people supporting you is the best thing. Give yourself time to understand your own ways of making it happen and allow yourself to make mistakes but don’t let it happen again. But mostly stay positive and work harder than you ever did!
(all pictures are a property of Nick Orloff)
You will love meeting this lovely group of people!
Lots of love,