Raffaella Falchi grew up immersed in the rich cultural traditions from her Sicilian and Argentinian immigrant family origins and the rich diversity that characterizes the Bay Area. She received her B.A. in Psychology and a Minor Art from UC Berkeley in 2001 and a Masters of Architecture from CCA in 2007. She divides her time between working as a program director for a San Francisco non-profit Out of Site Youth Arts Center and teaching. She has been involved in the San Francisco community for the past five years through teaching architecture to high school youth and teaching Brazilian dance.
Raffaella has been dancing professionally since 1998. She has studied Brazilian dance extensively both locally and in Brazil. Raffaella’s dance training and experience includes performing professionally with numerous Brazilian dance companies in the Bay Area and performing both locally and internationally both in Europe and Brazil. She has performed in numerous types of events including the SF Carnaval Ball and numerous SF Carnaval Parades. Raffaella began teaching Brazilian dance in 2003. Her samba class was awarded best of the bay in 2004. In 2004, she became co-founder of Sambamora Dance Company and recently in 2010 started her own dance company Sambaxé.
Jessica Arroyo is a first generation multi-faceted artist and educator currently living in the bay area with Puerto Rican roots. She grew up dancing to merengue, salsa, and bachata as a hobby. In 2000, she helped form a group called Bay Area Boricuas, who brought bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican folkloric dance, to the SF Carnaval parade for the first time. She received her B.A in Liberal Studies and a minor in Raza Studies from San Francisco State University in 2002, then returned to Puerto Rico with an interest in studying more Bomba. However, a combination of studying and spending time with her familiar elders steered her more into the direction of Afro-Cuban dances and religion.
After a few years in Puerto Rico, Jessica came back to the bay area and received a Bilingual Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Masters Degree in Education from San Francisco State in 2006. She continues to dance salsa regularly; particularly, cuban salsa known as timba. In fact, it is her greatest dance passion, after traveling to Cuba several times in the past decade. She is an initiated priest of Obatala and currently teaches Kindergarten in Berkeley Unified School District. Samba is a newer interest of hers, especially after traveling to Brasil in 2009 and seeing the similarities between the Brazilian, Puerto Rican, and Cuban cultures. Jessica has been dancing samba since 2009.
Growing up in the Vasquez Family household meant that their children were influenced by dance and music at a very young age. Having strong Salvadorian roots, the family would come together and celebrate every occasion possible to sing and dance, especially cumbia. Although she was seen as a shy little girl at first, a star emerged into the spotlight and dance became something she would forever enjoy. From dancing punta to “Sopa De Caracol” and merengue and latin pop to anything by Olga Tañón, Helen Vasquez became a performer in her family’s eyes and that was just the beginning of her passion for music and dancing.
Helen graduated from Pittsburg High School and pursued a degree in Architecture at the University of San Francisco. In 2008, while studying abroad, she met someone who would become a very important person in her life, someone who also shared the same love and passion for dance – Raffaella Falchi. Raffaella has introduced Helen to the beautiful culture, dance styles, and music of Brazil. Helen has continued to take dance lessons from Raffaella over the years. Helen has taken her love for dance to the next level through her participation in several Carnaval Parades, and at the many cultural dance events where Sambaxé has performed. Helen hopes to continue expressing her love for music and dance, with the Sambaxé ladies, in their celebration of life.
A midwest girl at heart, Kim Honda has lived in the Bay Area for over 10 years. She was drawn to San Francisco by its diverse dance and creative arts community. Her background includes training in ballet and gymnastics, as well as Japanese folk dance. She enjoys learning new dance styles and traditions, ranging from salsa to breakdancing. She was first introduced to samba in 2010 while taking adult dance classes from Rafaella at UCSF. In 2012 she joined Sambaxé, and embarked on a new journey of learning and appreciation for Brazilian dance and music. For her, dance is a joyful outlet, and she enjoys the connection that all can share through dance. When she is not dancing, she has the privilege of working as a Family Nurse Practitioner in both San Francisco and Napa.
Sofia was dancing before she was even out of the womb- two weeks before she was born, her mother paraded as Iemanjá in the SF Carnaval. As she grew up, Sofia trained in circus arts, continued to dance and has participated in the SF Carnaval every year since 1998. She started taking Raffaella’s class in 2007 and five years later joined the Sambaxé Dance Company. Sofia is currently studying at UC Berkeley, majoring in Geography and Latin American Studies and working at the Multicultural Community Center. Besides dancing, she also greatly enjoys photography, costume making and hanging out with her dog Malú.
Zoya’s pre-Samba dance background includes Folk, Ballroom, and Modern dance styles. She has been studying dance professionally since she was four years old starting in her hometown Kharkov, Ukraine. Shortly after she moved to the US in 2008, Zoya found her true passion in dance and life, once she was introduced to the colorful world of Brazilian Samba. Zoya is greatly thankful to her Samba teachers, Doug Da Silva, Kellita Maloof, Jazz Baptiste, Fogo Na Roupa, and Raffaella Falchi, for sharing their passion and opening the creative side of the dance.
Zoya started working with Sambaxé Dance Company over three years ago, and it gave her priceless experience participating in such performance productions as San Francisco Carnaval 2013, 2014, and 2015, Cuba Caribe Festival 2013, ODC: Global Dance Passport Showcase, Pilot 64, How Weird Street Fair 2015, Pride Parade 2015, and others.
Zoya’s 2013 trip to Brazil and her participation in Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador enriched her ties to Brazilian culture and made her an even more inspired dancer. Besides dancing Samba, Zoya has taken Samba drum classes led by Sambaxé musical director Alfie Macias.