Dancing Zouk as a leader when you are a woman

The idea of this article has been growing in my chest for a long time, I think ever since I started dancing as a leader and decided to be a good one, as good as any male leader. For real. Once I took the decision, it was easy. I am not sacrificing anything (some awesome dances with male leaders for instance, I still have those): I am winning something new. I wish my male counterparts would see this the same way and go all the way, and follow more formally.  And make the effort, and break the barrier, and really put some work on it. Actually equal work on being a leader and a follower. The dance world would be even more magic this way!!!!

leading l
Photo by Oriol Alella / Barcelona Dance Congress

Every dance I have as a leader makes me grow empathic to both ladies and men, and all the stereotypes we have to fight. Gender roles are an imposed burden that does not allows us to be free. From being a “Pinocchio”, now I am becoming “a real boy”  – on the dance floor. Fellows, here are some news from you who don’t get this: I am far from gay, I just really enjoy the privilege of making ladies enjoy their dances and shine not only on the floor but also as colleagues and friends. As human beings. Yes, my friends, I guess I am a feminist by default!


First of all, the Joke

Not so many years ago, two ladies dancing together, or two guys would mean: “They are just being silly”. Now it is a more common sight but still, it is “something playful”.  Well, Brazilian Zouk is playful, so hence the open mind of the dancers. Me for instance, I was terrified the first time I asked a lady for a dance in a festival (Becky Neves or Paloma Alves, I don’t remember which one).  But a leading lady “does not take it so seriously” as having a career as a single, female instructor, or same gender instructor couple, this is not the commercial standard for Latin dance instructors. If she does, “maybe there is something wrong with her” – And this year (2019),  after I already put this phrase in the draft version of this article, the Nike commercial about Crazy women with Serena Williams gets on the air and goes viral. “Are you sure honey?”  – barriers, I just see barriers.

Well, have it occurred anybody, that a follower has actually a step ahead in the sense that she already knows one part of the dance – The following! Me, on my first festival where I started leading, I danced with inspiring Sofie Toris – she was leading me – and I was blown away by her leading skills: Very intricate Traditional Zouk wrist movements, body alignment,  and her footwork were amazing. She felt like any other guy in the room. So, my respects. And my disapproving stare at you if you would rather go to a male dance Zouk teacher over Sofie, who is not better than her – because “he is a guy”. After all, knowledge is knowledge, and skills are skills.

Second the Business and the traditional “Male and Female” couple

This has been the standard so far. If you want to teach, you have to as a lady stay quiet as the gentleman (whom the lady actually might have trained from scratch, to begin with) speaks all the time. I was one to a festival where the lady did not have a headset microphone of her own (I hope it was not intended, because it looked really tacky). Anyway, we have many professional dance couples like this: countless numbers. The leader is very big in his movements, or very clever in his improvisatory skills. The follower is most of the times very thin and graceful – Although there are some very muscular ladies out there that flawlessly execute their dance.

But you don’t see so many touring ladies, in Zouk festivals that are teaching by themselves, or in a female-female – partnership. Or having a male – assistant, and she being the main instructor. Still, I start to see here and there,  many ladies working together. For Instance Ruanita Santos in Amsterdam and Ilse Boerboom. Or Ruana Vasquez in Brasil with lady assistants.  Or Rubia Frutuoso. Here is a playlist I made with some demos, with same gender dancers. They are not “jokes”, not plain “playful” they are for real, and for professional purposes and show some detailed technical aspects of Zouk teaching.

Third, the future

who cares about gender? Does it matter? If a person has the skills, and the knowledge (but not the penis or the vulva), what is the difference? I pity the person that only constrict her/himself for the sake of the looks, or the male/female ideal. You are missing the possibility to grow as a dancer.  Also, the ladies that are in some position of power of supporting leading ladies, because you are an event organizer or own a dance business or the like, can all times go all the way and ignore the fact that “male and female sells”. But YOU who are reading this, you are in the position in changing the whole business. By attending and supporting events and teaching by leading ladies. And by adopting a new attitude towards your choice of dance lessons: Go after knowledge and not the gender. Also by quickly commenting malicious comments that call in to question an instructor out of his or her gender, rather than professional skills. Be open-minded – a choice you will never regret.

It makes me very happy that a trend is slowly becoming accepted: This is leading ladies that stand for themselves and do not work professionally in a male-female partnership. I would like to see male-male teaching couples as well.  Tango has done the same-gender-partnering since the very beginning. And Lindy and Westcoast have some working, steady same-gender professionals (Like the Swedish DeCavita Sisters).

Is our time here? Well if not, I am here!

Yours Truly,

Lili Z

Published by ZoukinStockholm

For the promotion of Brazilian Zouk, in the Stockholm region.

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