A mystical figure in breezy white skirts can sometimes be sighted in the vicinity of Lake Merritt. This vision is local dance priestess Isaura Oliveira. On Mondays and Fridays at Gold's Gym in Oakland, and on Wednesdays at The Beat in Berkeley, she teaches Brazilian dance classes. But like all great teachers, Isaura imparts more than samba steps. In a lilting accent she dispenses dance instructions that double as life wisdom: The secret, for everything — one foot, 'nother foot. And beauty tips: After the bath, sweet almond oil. Regular pupils may find themselves a bit inculcated into the cult of Isaura, falling willingly, wearing breezy white skirts and head wraps and audacious earrings, and referring to the hindquarters as the "boomboom." In addition to teaching, Isaura choreographs and performs. She carries a deep artistry, something soulful, rooted in the rich African Brazilian culture of her home in Salvador-Bahia. But she discourages imitation; better that we should each find our inner Isaura.
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