Samba Olywa

The Tigers of Samba Olywa

by Christian Carvajal for OLY ARTS

Samba dancing began as semba in Angola, then evolved into its modern form in early-20th-century Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Olympia’s resident samba troupe, Samba Olywa, united to dance in Procession of the Species 1995. Now it performs several times a year under the direction of a seven-member steering committee. Its procession theme each year is chosen by a vote of the full membership. In 2017, notes member Juli Kelen, “tigers won by a whisker.” Costume chair Carol Riley got right to work overseeing the construction of papier-mâché heads, painted garments and fabric ears.

“We will be in the element of earth,” says Kelen, “and that usually means we focus our creative energies on one of the large land mammals…So far, we haven’t taken on earthworms, but who knows?” All five or six tiger subspecies are currently endangered, and two or three subspecies went extinct over just the last century. There are only about 3,000 tigers alive in the wild, as they’re hunted for their meat and pelts in addition to organs used in folk remedies. Tiger habitats are threatened by deforestation. Kelen hopes Samba Olywa’s performance “will inspire people to think about how they spend money, what they eat and how they vote.” She adds, “We all have a part to play.”

What: Samba Olywa

Where: Procession of the Species,
from Jefferson St. and Legion Way to Water St. and Capitol Way, Olympia

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29

How much: free

Learn more: 360-705-1087 | Procession of the Species




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