Student Mandy Gulbrandsen, a 37-year-old mother of one from Salem, Oregon, radiates excitement.
"I never, ever imagined I'd be dancing in Carnival in a costume that's so small that I should be wondering where it went," said Gulbrandsen, who moved to Rio about a year and a half ago with her husband, who works for Merrill Lynch. "I danced ballet and tap as a kid and that helps, but nothing prepares you for this."
Gulbrandsen said it took her about 10 lessons to manage to dance anything even vaguely resembling the samba. Her British-born classmate Jane Strachey said it's taken her even longer.
"I've been taking classes for about a year, and my moves have definitely improved but I have to face the fact that I'm never going to dance like a Brazilian," said Strachey, who moved here with her husband two years ago. "When I went to my first Carnival, I thought these girls were so beautiful and I wanted to be able to dance like them."
"And 12 months later, I am, but 'gringo' style," she said, employing the Portuguese word Brazilians use to refer to all foreigners.
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