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Remembering The Dark Time Of The Lambada


You don’t get much in the way of dance crazes these days. Sure, you have “The Dougie” and “Flossing,” but that’s nothing major when compared to 1960s dances like “The Twist” and “The Mashed Potato.” By the late 1980s the dancing trends looked like they were dying out, when all of a sudden something unexpected arrived from South America.We are, of course, talking about the Lambada: the forbidden dance.

It all began innocently enough. A dance music with a strong beated rhythm emerged out of the Brazilian clubs in the 1980s. The locals called this new music “lambada” after the Portuguese word for “a hard slap”. Like all things Brazilian, the music was so sensual and sexy. Basically, you moved your feet back and forth as you dry humped your partner. It was like getting a lap dance standing up. In 1989, the French group Kaoma recorded “Lambada,” a song that incorporated the rhythm of it’s namesake, a song that would eventually become a huge hit worldwide.

The song and accompanying dance really took of in the U.S. thanks to two films that were released on the same day: Lambada: Set The Night On Fire and The Forbidden Dance. Hollywood is fairly unoriginal. Many times, when a studio hears that another studio is making a film about X topic, they will make a movie about the exact same thing. Case in point: Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Armageddon and Deep Impact, and, most recently Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached.

In Lambada: Set The Night On Fire, a school teacher goes to a club where he sees a bunch of his inner city students dancing the lambada. Like any good educator, he joins in and earns their trust by becoming really good at rubbing his junk on his students. He’s just doing it to reach out to the kids, man! When the school finds out about his nocturnal activities they want to fire him, but the kids come to his rescue.

The Forbidden Dance is even goofier. An Amazonian princess named Nisa journeys to LA with her tribal shaman to get an evil corporation to stop chopping down her rainforest home. She and the shaman use black lambada magic to get past the corporate guard and talk to the president of the corporation, who promptly has the shaman arrested. Nisa then becomes a maid to a lame white family whose son, Jason, only wants to dance. The two start going to the clubs where Nisa shows off her lambada moves, but his buddies can’t stand the heat. Nisa runs away and starts working at a strip club where she doesn’t have to get naked (wait, what?), Jason finds her there and tries to rescue her, but is beaten up because he is lame. Just as the sleazy owner is going to rape Nisa, the shaman shows up and uses magic to stop the would-be rapist. Jason and Nisa then decide to sign up for a live TV dance contest to tell the world about her people’s plight. The evil corporate president then kidnaps Nisa. While trying to rescue her, Jason twists his ankle. But fear not, because the shaman fixes his ankle with magic. It seems like every time the screenwriter got stuck, he had the shaman show up and use magic. They win the dance contest and save the rainforest and then everyone does the lambada, no longer forbidden.

By 1990 the trend had run its course, and no one gave a crap about the lambada anymore. As soon as your aunt starts taking a class about something at the Y, it is no longer cool. Still, if The Forbidden Dance is to be believed, somewhere in the rainforests of Brazil a tribal princess and her shaman are filling plot holes with lambada magic.

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