May 21, 2016
It is Friday afternoon, I get my bag, get my dance shoes, my stuff, the cake and food I made for the teachers, and off to Uppsala. Zouk weekend ahead! What happens in a Zouk weekend? Well, what happens is that you invite a teacher from outside, often an international teacher/teacher couple for study, social dance and some quality time together. So this is exactly what we do. Workshops, dinner together, sharing lodging with visitors from other cities, and dance, dance, and dance until we drop (or the alarm goes!).
This time the teachers are Val and Vanessa, on a quick visit to Sweden for classes. They came from Rio through Berlin, later on, they would be in Dubai for a Latin dance festival. During breakfast on Saturday morning, I get some time with them, for a quick interview:
– Val: Val Clemente..
– Vanessa: Vanessa Bonilha
And you guys are from..?
– Both: Rio de Janeiro…
What’s your favorite color? (Unanimous chuckle – this question becomes the internal joke of the whole weekend)
– Val: My favorite color is black (laughter).
– Vanessa: (touching her hair) My favorite color is red.
How did you start dancing Zouk? Why?
Val: It was yet another dance to learn, I wanted something with less energy and calmed.
Vanessa: I was trying several dances the same day, and I loved Zouk because it is calmed, the music, everything about it.
What is your favorite type of Zouk music?
– Val: The one for the moment, I prefer a type of music for a dancer that is not that good yet; if I want to cool down I have a song for that, If I want more energy I want a song for that.
– Vanessa: “Antigas!” (old Zouk music), because they remind me when I first started dancing. It is something for me.
Why did you start teaching Zouk and not other dances? I understand you teach other Brazilian dances too but you are profiled as Zouk teachers.
– Val: I think I started to teach Zouk, more Zouk than the other dances because I felt better when I danced Zouk than the others. You only get the trust of other people when you teach something you really like and feel good about. For me that is the meaning of teaching, I don’t like to teach just because I can get money out of it. but because I believe that – If I feel it, it and do it, I give it to others.
Your favorite dance memory?
– Val: When I started to dance and I tried to dance real slow, at the Lambada Congress in Porto Seguro, when the song was fast. But I was listening to the slow voice and started dancing slow – and my partner, she got it too. Everybody was dancing fast but not us. It was really nice for me.
– Vanessa: The first congress I went to in Rio. It was marvelous! So much people together dancing Zouk. It is hard to choose one (good memory)! there are so many, ha ha!
Worst dance memory – that you can tell?
– Val: When I got elbowed in the face. We were having a show with lifts. At the time of the lift, the girl got me right in the eye with her elbow. And after when everybody was moving to one side, I was walking to the opposite direction than the others…
– Vanessa: Once I was dancing with this gentleman hurt me so bad that it took weeks to get better..awful
For the people that don’t know this dance, can you give three words to describe it?
Both: Zouk – needs -you (laughter)
Great! You have to tell how you got this slogan! I’ve noticed that many Zouk teachers are known for a distinctive, catchy phrase (red: like Adilio Porto’s “Lets goooo”). How did you get this phrase “Zouk needs you”?
Val: I didn’t make it up, it. I had a picture and invited some people for my birthday. They took my picture, where I was pointing with my finger. Somebody thought that I looked like Uncle Sam, and wrote “Zouk needs you” on it, for those that did not come. I liked it and thought it made sense. Then I asked the guy who did it if I could use it, he said: “Of course”!. It makes sense because Zouk needs more people, it is a really nice and rich dance for the body but many people do not know it. Even in Brazil, if you mention the Lambada they can associate to it. When I use the slogan “Zouk needs you”, friends in for instance Facebook start asking me about what Zouk is. And they start to look for zouk.
So, What is it? What is Zouk?
Val: For me, I would like to say it is Lambada. For me is the result of a lot of changes that the Lambada went through. When they first started dancing the Lambada, it was pretty rough and people were hurting themselves. Most time, the girl would get a problem with her back and the neck. After three years of dancing, you see people with problems and it was difficult to get people to dance that dance. That is why Lambada started to change. 30 years ago, we had no proper schools for this and then teachers started to study and see how to teach the movements. They also found music to dance the Lambada to, Zouk Music. The work Zouk means “party”. The dance in Brazil started to be called “Zouk”. Now we can talk of a “Brazilian Zouk”: A Brazilian way to dance to this “Zouk Music”. We took it from Lambada, but now it is a different thing. More or less like in salsa. They get a dance, a new way to dance it, they create a system for it (It is very important) and they call it “Cuban Salsa”, “Colombian Salsa”, “Line Salsa” etc.
For the people that have not seen Zouk, how would you get them to start dancing Zouk? What do you see in Zouk that people can like?
I don’t tell people to dance Zouk, the first thing they see it is that is slow. I try to show Zouk for people. Most people that start dancing Zouk, they see artists on stage doing crazy stuff, and people realize that “Wow, I could never do that”, “I don’t like those clothes”, “my favorite color is not black” (laughter). Or a demo that is like a show. For me, the best way to connect with students is to show them some things that they can do. They should see Zouk and think “I can do it, it is not so difficult”. I like it when students come and say, “Wow, it is nice. I just need to shake my”… (laughter)..just like when people start to dance Salsa. “Oh I just need to shake my shoulders and, I am dancing Salsa”. When they start to study, they notice it is not that simple. Not just shaking.
How do you feel when you are dancing Zouk? Can you describe the feeling that is different from other dances? Can you tell some feelings that you have when dancing this dance?
Val: The big part of Zouk is that you can mix the feelings. At the same party you can feel something that is stronger, or somewhat -relaxed/sleepy, you can feel sad, for me every feeling is common, sometimes you feel really happy, one song is really relaxed and then the next changes it within a second: Everything can happen, that is why I like it, I cannot really describe it. I feel that my energy is always changing, That is the feeling of Zouk.
If you have to choose between a party, another kind of party than Zouk – rock, salsa, etc. What do you choose?
Val: If I am in Brazil, I look for some Samba. If not in Brazil I would go to a Cinema instead.
– Vanessa: Samba too!
Val: Or sometimes some hip hop. Because it is more close to Zouk, haha!
We move on Saturday classes, where we get this delicious demo, on a song with Swedish lyrics that they never hear in their lives. They rock it, or should I say, Zouk it?
// With love, from Stockholm, Lili. And my favorite color is…just like a Zouk party: The color of the moment ❤
Zoukin’ since 2014
- Val and Vanessa:
- Zouk in Stockholm:
- Free sample of Zouk-able music: