Brazilian-American Samba Queen Gisella Ferreira opens a fitness, dance and cultural arts studio in Marina del Rey

By Christina Campodonico


For the past decade, Gisella Ferreira has been doing the Samba all over Los Angeles and the world.

She was crowned the U.S.A.’s first Samba Queen in 2014, picked up dance moves in Rio de Janeiro, and taught at the Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Culver City and UCLA’s John Wooden Center while majoring in dance through the university’s World Arts and Cultures department.

Now the 29-year-old Brazilian-American Samba dancer and Mar Vista resident has found a new place to center her dance practice — her own studio in Marina del Rey.

Global Dance Art — a combination fitness, dance and cultural arts studio offering classes for kids and adults in Samba, Zumba, Tahitian dance, hula, yoga, African dance, drumming and Brazilian Funk (a style of Brazilian hip hop) — opened April 1 with a celebratory evening of international music and dance.

“Most dancers don’t have their own place to dance or create,” says Ferreira, who says that dancers often have to seek out and rent rehearsal space at their own expense to pursue their creative endeavors. “I realized at some point I had to create a space for myself to be able to grow and do what I’m passionate about.”

So Ferreira started her own dance and fitness studio business, using loans, her personal savings and donations from the online crowd-sourcing site GoFundMe to get the venture going. She hopes to turn Global Dance Arts into a youth arts education nonprofit eventually, but for now she aims to make the studio a space that brings the Westside arts community together and opens people’s eyes to the beauty of dance forms from around the world, not just Europe and North America.

“Often world arts are cast aside or put as ‘the other,’” Ferreira says. “I really believe by focusing on the cultural arts it helps people to break down barriers and to really value many cultures and diversity.”

Ferreira also believes that such cross-cultural pollination can make for a great workout, too. Her Brazil Fit class will be a fusion of music and dance styles she picked up while teaching in Rio and Salvador, Brazil.

“Brazil has a certain swing. Everything is really about relaxing. The workout is more a release and relaxation, as opposed to being tense. It’s a different approach to fitness,” says Ferreira, who likens Samba to an energy cleanse for the body.

“You’re shaking out everything. You’re whole nervous system stimulates your whole body,” she says.   “You can’t help but enjoy yourself when you’re working out to Brazilian music.”

Global Dance Arts opened on April 1 at 4206 Lincoln Blvd. in Marina del Rey and offers over 30 classes throughout the week.  Class packages range from $18 to $400. Visit for a full schedule.