Bossa Nova

Merengue Dancers,
If you like the Merengue, allow me to share with you a dance you will love. The BOSSA NOVA.
This dance has the longest basic step in the history of dance being extended to 32 Quarter beats or one complete phrase of music.
Begin on initial Phrase of music:

BOSSA NOVA BASIC STEP (step on all Quarter beats)
MAN's Part in closed Position (Like Merengue).
3 side steps to Left, tap with rt ft on count of 4;
3 side steps to right, starting with rt ft, tap on 4 with lt ft;
7 side steps to the left, starting with lt ft, tap on 8 with rt ft;
3 side steps to the right, starting on rt ft, tap on 4 with lt ft;
3 side steps to the left starting on the left foot, tap on 4 with rt ft;
7 side steps to the right starting with rt ft, tap on 8 with lt ft.
You have completed the Basic Step in Bossa Nova (32 Q Beats)

STYLING: Lose hips flexible body with Salsa action or jazz moves, Shorty George Style;

VARIATIONS: Use the 7 count steps for all the following moves: individual turns, rocking in rotation in either direction, or traveling forward and backward, Separate and back away from each other and then return on the 7's, In closed position open up on 7's turning back to back; You get the idea!

NOTE: Just keep those 32 beat steps in sequence (MISS A STEP & YOU ARE OUT OF PHRASING) and start at the beginning of a BOSSA NOVA phrase and you will be choreographing your own 'Routine' like any experienced Professional.

Black Sheep 'The Creator of the Bossa Nova Dance' Joe Lanza 1962 a.d.


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Cool! I love bossa nova. So when I read your post, Joe, I had to google it. And guess what I found?

Lots of references to the birth of bossa nova music in Brazil in the late fifties. A bunch of references to movies featuring bossa nova. A bunch of references to Jobim (gott check out A Twist of Jobim CD that came out a few years ago. Good music :D ) A bunch of musicologists who said that bossa nova is not danceable music. :lol:

And several websites that attribute the choreography for the bossa nova dance that was very popular in the early sixties to our very own, illustrious Joe Lanza! :D Cool! 8)

Question, Joe, did you choreograph anything beyond that basic? All the bossa nova stuff I have is made up of basic figures from other dances, done in that bossa nova style, with the little one-hip bounce accentuating each movement or series of movements.

Also, you might find this interesting (or infuriating :? :lol: ). A guy named Chris Morris put together an instruction video tape on bossa nova several years ago. Take a look. You may find it interesting, to see what he's teaching about your dance. :D
Birth of Bossa Nova Dance

Thank you for the research on the Bossa Nova Dance.
Lawrence Welk, who is still touring the country with his band, introduced my Bossa Nova on his original TV program. I know films exist of that exhibition which I personally choreographed the routine for Bobby & Sissy at my HDC for the Lawrence Welk Show in 1962.
There is an important write up I got by Leonard Feather (the leading Jazz syndicated commentator for three decades) on the 'Universal Acceptance' of my Bossa Nova Dance; the write up appeared in a summer edition of Playboy Magazine in 1962, if memory serves me right.
The creation of the Bossa Nova was an accident. When I have the time, I'll tell you the strange story of how it came about.
The Bossa Nova is the only Ballroom Dance in history created by an individual; all the other Ballroom dances evolved from ethnic folk dancing groups, including our beloved Lindy Hop, whose Birth Place was New Orleans.
Black Sheep 'Sensitivity is the source of imagination, and imagination is the source of creativity' Joe Lanza 2003 a.d.


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Hey Joe! :D

I found out a lot with my bossa nova research. Pretty interesting. Apparently, there's a fair amount of controversy in the music world over bossa nova, because many musical purists feel that the original jazz/samba music that was bossa nova was diluted by its exposure to American pop culture. Also, they attribute the music's return to a purer jazz-like form to the decline of bossa nova's US popularity in the mid-sixties. Also, apparently, bossa nova and a few other musical forms were expressions of political unrest in Brazil during the late fifties and early sixties, and were subsequently repressed during poilitcal upheaval in the mid-sixties. Hmm. Very interesting.

By the way, yes, the Lawrence Welk orchestra does still tour. I'm not sure who the band leader is nowadays, because Mr. Welk himself died in 1992. A pity. I used to love those tiny bubbles. And nobody could "and-a one and-a," like he did. However, the band plays on. :D

Anyway, back to bossa nova. It's a very fun dance, and I find it unfortunate that so few people know it. It's very romantic and sensual in its way, and the music creates a beautiful mood. There's a bossa nova on the latest Natalie Cole CD that just begs to be danced to. Much fun. :D

You wrote:
"Also, they attribute the music's return to a purer jazz-like form to the decline of bossa nova's US popularity in the mid-sixties. "

Although there was a sudden decline in the Bossa Nova's popularity in the mid 1960's, it was not due to the music one way or the other. In 1960, even before the Bossa Nova Dance was born, I was throwing a party in my apartment with the TV turned on. Suddenly out of the blue Chubby Checker came on the screen doing the 'TWIST'. Within seconds almost everybody in the room began imitating Chubby doing the Twist. I said to myself at that moment, 'If people can learn that dance just by looking at it, Ballroom Dancing is doomed!'
The Twist Craze was so simple and appealing that any club foot could get on the dance floor and be an instant star expert.
Within that year most of the chain studios in L.A. closed down. My Bossa Nova Dance had about an 18 month popularity where I had some very exciting bookings at Ciro's on the Sunset Strip, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and was even invited by Frank Sinatra to teach his friends at his Birthday Party in the Hollywood Hills. And a City wide Bossa Nova Contest was held in my honor at the Hollywood Palladium with almost every night club sponsoring their ten week Champion contestants as entrees at the Palladium Finals. I even had a class on Sundays at the Yucca Airport Café, sponsored by Sinatra's closest friends, Jimmy Chester Van Heusen and Johnny Haskell with students flying in on their private planes for their Bossa Nova Lessons. It was a very exciting time while it lasted.
I had my fingers around that golden ring but fate twisted my hand and that golden ring slipped away. The Twist was too strong and it pushed all the Ballroom Dances on the Back Burner, including the Bossa Nova Dance!
Black Sheep 'Sometimes it's difficult to see the benefits of a tragic lose, but they are often there', Joe Lanza 2003


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From what I've understood the Bossa Nova isn't being done anywhere in the USA. Be nice to see a revival like that for Lindy Hop; it's a dance I've been curious about.
Bossa Nova Lives

Last year at the 2002 Camp Hollywood event, Lance Benishek, an authority on the Big Apple variations of the 1940's, informed me that the Bossa Nova was a popular dance in Minneapolis. He happened to have one of my original booklets on the dance from my 1962 mail outs.
I'm sure there are other areas where the dance is being done.
The Bossa Nova music is too good not to make a strong comeback, and where there is Bossa Nova Jazz music, the dance is sure to follow. everything from fashion clothes to World Depression have a cycle.
It's only a matter of a year or so that the Bossa Nova will make a strong
return. Unfortunately, no one ever made a 'Don't Knock the Bossa Nova' Film.
I just taught a brother and sister couple a Bossa Nova Routine for the
girl's Sweet Sixteen Birthday Party which they performed which was
professionally filmed. Their performance was flawless, so I'm looking
forward to receiving a copy of that film very soon.
Black Sheep 'I'm running out of sayings', Joe Lanza 2003


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In my web searching, I also found a couple references to bossa nova dances, where the featured music, class and dance of the evening were bossa nova. And these ads were fairly recent. I don't know if that means a resurgence in popularity or not, but it is quite interesting. :D
Magic Pill for Instant Choreography ala Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova Buffs,
If you ever wanted to be a Choreographer? the Bossa Nova will make you one in 15 minutes! How?

1) The musical structure in Bossa Nova (BN) is typical of most Ballroom Dance music being composed of 32 Quarter beats to a 'PHRASE' of music... or 8 bars of music (4 Q Beats to a bar). If there is a vocal in the music, you can hear the phrase begin with the first words and resolved with the last words of the phrase at the end on the last bar (4 Quarter beats);
2) All the BN Dance steps are exactly 32 Quarter Beats long or one phrase of music long;
3) If you are not musically trained, just listen to some BN songs with a medium tempo and a strong beat, and start counting, starting on the beginning of any phrase and count the Q beat pulses. If you end up at the end of a phrase on your count of 32 Q beats, you are on your way to being a bona fide Choreographer. It may take you the counting of three or four songs ( 9-12 minutes) until you catch on and start counting in synch with the phrases. Once you understand those phrase structures and are able to hear that first beat of a phrase, the rest is easy and automatic. Why? Because all BN steps are exactly 32 beats, one PHRASE long. It will be as easy as putting round plugs into round holes.
4) Now you decide which step patterns you want to use in your 'ROUTINE'. e.g. Side steps, Rotating steps, Backing away from each other, Rocking in place (Sexy), Turning away from each other, lady turning under arm, Holding various steps in place with body Quarter pulse moves etc..
(NOTE: Travel on 7 counts only until you become proficient enough to mix it up or hold the 7 counts in place with body ripples or other body gyrational moves).
5) Pick a move for an entrance onto the dance floor (one phrase 32 beats) and pick a move for an ending pose on stage or one traveling off stage (ANOTHER 32 Q BEATS);
6) You can move around or change the sequence of steps to vary, embellish or to fit the musical phrase more aesthetically, since phrases usually have different moods and instrumentations, and can do this without disturbing the structure of the Routine because every BN step pattern is the same exact size in measures, i.e. 32 Q beats long.

What once took me some two years to learn the technique of Choreographing, now takes 15 minutes to UNDERSTAND and apply.

Black Sheep, your friendly instructor with a money back guarantee!
Bossa Nova songs to learn with

Bossa Nova Dancers,
Brazilian produced Bossa Nova CD's are often a little difficult to hear the
Quarter beats, and for a beginner I recommend some of the old standard
American produced Bossa Nova CD's of the 1960's:

Fly Me to the Moon;
Blame it on the Bossa Nova
Insensatez (Charlie Byrd).

And almost anything by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Attempting to dance to the more sophisticated Brazilian produced CD's can be a challenge even for an experienced dancer, because the beat is often overpowered by the vocals. Brazilian Bossa Nova Vocals are often very slow in tempo with a faster rhythmic beat running under the vocals.
Black Sheep 'Let the music control your Body & Soul' Joe Lanza 2003 a.d.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for the tips, Joe. There are also a few more recent bossa novas out there, which I'll have to post when I have more time. Really rushing this morning! :D
Bossa nova story Part I

BN History Buffs,
Developing the Bossa Nova Dance was a case of, ' Necessity is the Mother of Invention'.
Here is this lucky circumstance that caused me in an attempt to tempoprarily appease thousands of students that were clamering for me to teach them the Bossa Nova Dance which at the bregining I did not have a clue about this mystery 'dance:

From 1960-1963, Joe Lanza worked as an Itinerary
Dance Teacher for the Los Angeles Public School
System. His job entailed teaching the popular
Ballroom Dances at over 49 Jr. High Schools. When
the Brazilian Bossa Nova Jazz Music hit this country,
his student's began asking him to teach them the
Bossa Nova Dance. Since he had not yet come across the
dance, he created a SUBSTITUTE dance for them until
the real thing came along. As the weeks went by, the
dance teacher kept on improving his substitute Bossa
Nova Dance until the dance took on a life of its own
with unique step patterns and jazz movements.

Some weeks later, on a Friday evening while he was
watching a TV Documentary on the Bossa Nova, a
revelation came to him. The TV program filmed the
type of dances being done to the Bossa Nova music in
several major capitols of the world. Lanza was
astounded to learn that Tango, Swing, Cha Cha, and
Samba were being danced to the new Jazz sound, and he
suddenly realized that there was no special dance for Bossa
Nova Music; Lanza's SUBSTITUTE Bossa Nova Dance that
he had created for his Jr. High School students
happened to be the only unique 'Dance Form' which
expressed‑the jazz mood of the Bossa Nova music.

Lanza knew he had a tiger by the tail. But now, how
was he to control the INTEGRITY of his style of Bossa
Nova so it would not be corrupted and mutilated by
charlatan dance teachers modifying his creation to suit
their own personal agendas?
Lanza, the DANCER had already published two books on
Novelty Dances so he intuitively knew the answer.
(To be Contuinued)
Black Sheep 'Ask me a Question and I'll Tell you a Story' 2003 a.d.
Re: Birth of Bossa Nova Dance

Black Sheep said:
The Bossa Nova is the only Ballroom Dance in history created by an individual; all the other Ballroom dances evolved from ethnic folk dancing groups,
I thought the Merengue was suppossed to have been artificially created also. Somethingabout a general with a war wound. Interesting distinction though certainly worth more than a footnote in history.

Joe you should put together a video tape for sale showing some of your original/vintage moves/choreography for the dance as well as telling about how you developed it. For posterity and historical accuracy.

including our beloved Lindy Hop, whose Birth Place was New Orleans.
Really? Funny... no one else seems to think so... and you still haven't been able to prove it. Why the need to include this in a completely unrelated post?
Re: Birth of Bossa Nova Dance

d nice said:
including our beloved Lindy Hop, whose Birth Place was New Orleans.
Really? Funny... no one else seems to think so... and you still haven't been able to prove it. Why the need to include this in a completely unrelated post?
While I underdtand your point please let's not dredge this up here --- continue talking about the Bossa Nova-- I actually remember learning it in seventh grade but have not danced it since. I really was not aware of what it was... nor did I have much knowledge of any ballroom dances at the time. It's just pretty awkward having one gym teacher try to teach 35-40 eleven and twelve year olds how to "dance"


Well-Known Member
Re: Birth of Bossa Nova Dance

d nice said:
Joe you should put together a video tape for sale showing some of your original/vintage moves/choreography for the dance as well as telling about how you developed it. For posterity and historical accuracy.
Actually, I have a question on this. Joe and I have a project of finding some of his old movie and video footage. I found one of his movies pretty easily -- Virgin Sacrifice, made in 1959, is still available for purchase on video at But a couple other things we're looking for, some TV specials, are MIA. Any idea where we could go look? Library of congress has lot of old video. Is that a place to start?
Lawrence Welk Bossa Nova TV

A couple of years ago, I ran into Bobby Burdes who performed my Bossa Nova routine on the Lawrence Welk Show with Sissy in 1961-62, and he assured me that all the LW shows in the 1960's were on film and were then scheduled to be released again. Unfortunately, I never kept in touch with him, so I never knew if they were in fact rerun on TV. At the time in 1962, I did view their performance and as all their dances, it was flawless.
Black Sheep, a friend of Bo Peep!
Bossa Nova Story, Part II

BN History Buffs,
Joe locked himself in his house for three days and
nights, and began describing the dance in detail
with illustrations. When he was finished, he had
three thousand copies of the, 'BOSSA NOVA DANCE'
book printed, and with addresses obtained from the
telephone company library, mailed copies to all the
dance studios in the USA and Canada. He also mailed a
couple of hundred to the hair dressing salons. The
rest of the Bossa Nova booklets were sold on news
stands or distributed to students in his classes.

Within weeks, Laure' Hale from Arthur Murray's Whilshire studio
was asked by the Lawrence Welk people to choreograph a
Bossa Nova Routine for Bobby & Sissy. She graciously threw
the assignment my way

LAWRENCE WELK featured Lanza 's Bossa Nova on his
National TV show with Bobby and Sissy performing a
routine Choreographed and taught them by Joe Lanza.

LEONARD FEATHER, the syndicated Jazz columnist, wrote
in a 1963 Playboy article, that he witnessed Joe
Lanza's Bossa Nova being danced internationally.

Although there was no profit in the distribution of
these Bossa Nova books, the reaction brought the
DANCER more teaching engagements then he could fill.
His teaching engagements included classes at
Celebrity Parties, classes at the Beverly Hills Hotel
Polo Lounge, Ciro's on the Hollywood Sunset Strip,
Northrop Aviation, classes in public High Schools
gymnasiums, and in many private clubs, and
Ballrooms. The First Presbyterian Parochial School
hired Joe as their gym teacher where his classes were
a combination of, dancing and gymnastics.

JIMMY VAN HEUSON and Johnny Haskell, the Real Estate
Developer of Yucca Valley, organized a Bossa Nova
dance class which was held in the Copper Room at the
Yucca Valley Skyport Cafe, where Joe's students flew
in from various parts of the STATE in their private
planes for their Sunday afternoon Dance Classes.

JOHNNY HASKELL came to Hollywood in the 1940's with
Jimmy Van Heusen and Frank Sinatra in his 1929 twelve
cylinder Packard, complete with a built-in bar.

FRANK SINATRA was persuaded by his friends to have
Joe Lanza teach the Bossa Nova at his Birthday Party.
The night of Sinatra's party came and Joe Lanza was
dressed and ready to leave his home at 8pm to get to
the Sinatra party before 9pm. Before he walked out
the door, however, he decided he needed a stiff shot
of Vodka. Two hours later the DANCER was still
having shots of vodka to bolster his courage.
The DANCER finally arrived at Frank Sinatra's Party
a quarter past eleven. Johnny Haskell met him at the
door, and brought him into the room where the party
was still going on.

" Sorry Johnny! I got a late start."
" You were supposed to be here before nine."
" Is it too late to have the class ?"
" Joe, Frank left twenty minutes ago, and he
was angry that you didn't show. He told all
his friends he was going to have the Creator
of the Bossa Nova teach them the new dance.
Oh what the hell ! Let's get a drink."
(To be continued)
Black Sheep 'Two vociferous opinions do not represent the Majority' Joe Lanza 2003 a.d.
Bossa Nova Music

BN Dancers,
Let your body flow with the music.
Some of my favorite BN dance songs:
Desafinado *****
Corcovada ****
Baia ***
Otra Vez ***
Summer Samba ****
Insensatez ****
Meditation ***
O Morro Nao tem Vez **

Coracao Vagabundo (heavy clavis) ***
Comeca de Novo****
Corcovada ***

Black Sheep 'Bossa Nova dancing is like foreplay' Joe Lanza 2003

Bossa Nova BUFFS,
BN is a dance that takes a dancer to a higher level of the terpsichorean art because it lends itself to more sophisticated body gyrations of 'LONGHER DURATION' than any other Ballroom Dance, And here are the reasons why?
Once you have understood the 32 Q beat rhythmic structure of the Bossa Nova Dance, embellishing the dance with infinite variations of body moves are easily applied by following these SIX suggestions and still remain within the choreographic structure of the Bossa Nova music:

1) Substitute the tap steps with either a sharp kick away from partner or a hop or a skip or a pause;
2) Break away from partner and do solo moves individually;
3) Break away and do challenge moves, one partner at a time;
4) Instead of stepping out the 1,2,3 tap steps, rock the counts in place;
5) Instead of doing the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 tap step, take the first 4 steps and rock tap on the last 5,6,7, tap step;
6) Instead of doing the rock rotating move on the 7 tap step, to Q beats, slow it down to 3 HALF BEATS (2 Q beats), and a '7 tap'.

NOTE: As long as you maintain the alternating (changing weight) moves to within the structure of 32 Q beats, you will remain within the phrasing of the 32 Q beat Bossa Nova Music and experience the euphoria of dancing a choreographic routine.
(To be continued)
Black Sheep 'When the dancers are one with the music, that is ecstasy' Joe Lanza 2003 a.d.
BOSSA NOVA vs the Merengue

Bossa Nova vs. the Merengue,
In reply to D'nice, who suggested the Merengue was also created by an individual, the leader of a Caribbean country who limped?
The Merengue was supposed to have originated because the citizens of that country, in order not to embarrass their dictator, they all danced with the same limp.
Now if this story which is as old as the 1950's, is true, this does in no way PROVE the dance was created by an individual, and if it was true, how come no one knows the Dictator's name?
I still contend that the Bossa Nova Dance remains the only Ballroom Dance created by one individual, Joe Lanza.
Black Sheep "Those who serve, Deserve' Joe Lanza 2003 a. d.

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