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Learning a new social dance is (to use a cliché word), a real journey. A journey in your own body, your mind and soul. Our ability to adapt to each other, lead and follow, is amazing when you think of it. How to tune in into each other and submerge yourself into a two-some, in dance. Under the years I been practicing social dancing, at all levels – I am beginner at some dances, intermediate at others, and advanced at others ( if you can call 20 years of experience for advanced); I’ve had time to reflect and, be amazed at what I have accomplished to learn, the fears that I have overcome, and the lovely friends I’ve met – the friend topic is enough material for a new article. This time I am using a malignous tone on a few topics, not to mock anyone, but to laugh at the situation, since I’ve found myself at some point, in it. Some thoughts, here we go:
More is more: Sometimes the most enjoyable dances are the ones with the leader trying less combinations. Few, clean combinations, elegantly done can be far more interesting than more, stressed combinations, which end up in a stressed follower – and dizziness. Try check here: Is she/he smiling or not? The smile is a sign of having a good time, which should be why you dance in the first place. A way to dare do more complicated moves on the dance floor could be a private practice, or try introduce them on the social dance little by little. Don’t feel bad if they don’t work on your first attempts: Relax, reset, and start over. And remember, Less is more.
To get better I need to dance with dancers that are more advanced than me: Well, besides of being not solidary, it is not necessarily true. Yes, you might get a very interesting perspective when you are dancing with a very advanced dancer. But what you might not notice is that it feels like you are king or queen of the floor, because of the advanced dancer’s ability to compensate for what you still lack. In fact, many advanced dancers like and enjoy dancing with beginners, because it gives them a challenge: how to make my leading so clear that it is infallible. For you that want to improve, you need this challenge. Either as a leader or as a follower. You need to practice with everybody, get the experience from whoever is dancing with you. And to learn the most important technique of them all: the joy!. Remember: All practice is good practice.
To learn better I need to go to teachers that dazzled me on their amazing, one-thousand-flips-on-the-air-show. “Excuse me while I yawn”- [yawn]–This would be me during one of these shows – I rather go to a circus when I want to see flips in the air, I think they go better with a drum roll than with music, most of the times. Some of the best teachers are perhaps not the most impressive ones on show time. By best, I refer to get the students to comprehend and improve the dance quickly, smoothly, and individually. To help you bring out the dance from within you. And on the other hand, some of the most impressive dancers on show need to improve on how to reach out to students. Some lucky ones are both combined!! So my guess is that this is a relative matter, and that you can ALWAYS learn something from every teacher. So give the good show performers a big round of applause, they deserve it for the good job, but don’t believe you will learn what they do through Osmosis.
Sorry for the contrived language, here is a syllabus:
Infallible: That never fails
Impart: To teach
Osmosis: Vital process in microbiological beings that helps them get nourishment through a semipermeable membrane.
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 togheter, sharing lodging with visitors from other cities, and dance, dance and dance until we drop (or the alarm goes!).
This time the theachers 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…
Whats your favorite color? (Unanimous chuckle – this question becomes the internal joke of the whole weekend)
– Val: My favourite color is black (laughter).
– Vanessa: (touching her hair) My favourite 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 beacuse it is calmed, the music, everything about it.
What is your favourite 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 whan 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 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 really slow, at the Lambada Congress in Porto Seguro, when the song was fast. But I was listening to the slow voice and 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 marvellous! So much people toghether dancing Zouk. It is hard to chose 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 did’nt 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 does 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 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 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 of part people that start dancing Zouk, they se artist on stage doing crazy stuff, people realize that “Wow, I could never do that”, “I don’t like those clothes”, “my favourite 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, were 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
May 15, 2016
What is Brazilian Zouk? History-
Brazilian Zouk is a dance with origins in Lambada and Carimbó, from Nothern Brazil. Carimbó is a folk dance from Belém de Pará, from which later the Lambada from the 1990′s originated. Carimbó was danced to traditional instruments such as hand made drums, and Lambada to so called “Lambada music”, which was in fashion during the 90’s, also known and danced in Europe. Lambada music and dance went out of fashion, but Lambada dancers kept dancing, but now to Atillean Zouk music instead. The dance was now known as “Zouk Lambada” or “Lambazouk”, and later became simply “Zouk”. The dance style born in Brazil is called “Brazilian Zouk” not to be confused with the musical genre “Zouk”, wich has an evolution and history of its own. Later on Brazilian Zouk evolved into several branches since more people started dancing and teaching it at dance academies, and incorporated elements from the dance academy world such as Ballroom, Bolero, Contact Improvisation and Contemporary dance, just to name a few.
To understand more, Videos:
Why does people like it? – How does it feel?
The energy while dancing can be centripetal or centrifugal -the energy you feel when swirling very thight to each other, or holding hands and swirling until you drop each other -. It can also be vertical: a feeling of getting upwards by pushing from the floor, while stepping or “taking off” after a break in the music. The feeling can be of swirling, sweeping, flying, or even running as a fluid. The contact between dancers is very subtle: body rolls can be led by gentle touch and body weight. Big focus is required. You can lead with hands, no hands, an elbow, a forearm, thigh… you dance with your entire body, including your skin. You get pauses to breathe in. Creativity is one spicy ingredient, that is why this dance is always in evolution. All these ingredients toghether are the charm of Brazilian Zouk. Its essence.
To understand more, se Katerina Lenkievich’s documentary, My Life is a Zouk Dance:
How is the music? –
A dance style is often defined by the music you dance to it. For instance, you dance Salsa to salsa music, Tango to tango music. Kizomba….well- let’s not go there since Kizomba music is broad as a river (I often refer to a song as “Kizomba-ish” not to guess wrong about the style or sub-style). Dance styles in evolution tend to “make it fresh” or renew it by adapting non-typical music for the dance, such as in Neo-Tango, or Bachata Fusion and also the Kizomba dances. You use for instance an R’n’B remix. Maybe a song in English for Salsa, etc. Brazilian Zouk can be danced to an ocean wide group of musical styles, – fast and slow, but rather slow.
As long is it not too fast, anything works- a pop song, a kizomba-ish song, an R’n’B song, a recording of the sound of rain…Metal ballads (If you like it, try dance Zouk to it..it’s awesome!), Dancehall, Reggaeton- preferrably slow though….and you’re good to go. Brazilian Zouk remixes of these songs are very popular, you get a catchy song – slow it down, and make a Zouk-remix of it.!
To understand more, here a sample of Zouk Remixes:
Eclectic, a big word from Ancient Greek ἐκλεκτικός (eklektikós, “selective”): “Selecting a mixture of what appears to be best of various doctrines, methods or styles.” Brazilian Zouk is a dance style characterized for freedom of interpretation, musicality and none the less: Sensuality in both playfulness between the dancers, and sensual body movements such as waves and body rolls. Swirling with inclined body, like in Ice Skating, head and torso movements, and much more.
It is eclectic by origin, development, culture, people, music, and even essence. Don’t missunderstand me: Even though all given freedom, there is still some basics that you have to learn in order to freely improvise. You can’t be or think outside the box, without getting the box first.
If somebody would ask me for a word to define it, I would say, Eclectic.
2 A Zouk demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfhRHnEAbak
Cheers, Lili from Stockholm 🙂
May 2, 2016
Well, so much to tell about my experiences as a social dancer. Social dance can be so more than just dance. It is art, sports, technique, entertainment, healthy hobby, and 120% fun. I knew salsa since about 15 years, grew up dancing socially, and even worked as a salsa instructor. But nothing would be the same after seeing a Youtube video one day for a couple of years ago…
It was a series of personal experiences and discoverings about my (lack of) skills as a social dancer, and even motoric skills that had me hooked on Brazilian Zouk, and the huge challenge I had ahead. Which I accepted. Now, I look back, and see that the “mountain” of obstacles and difficulties, was only in my head. Yes, Brazilian Zouk is a difficult dance, but a with certain understanding of it, and determination, it becomes easier.
In my case, which made it even more difficult, and almost disencouraging, was the fact that there were no professional (full time) Brazilian Zouk teachers in my city, like in other European cities. A very good Lambazouk school, though. So I startet there. And carried on learning abroad. Eventually, the more Zouk I learned, the more I appreciated the Lamba.
Why is Brazilian Zouk so Difficult? – What is the big deal?
Many people, enchanted by the beauty, sensuality, and musical freedom of Brazilian Zouk, try it with enthusiasm. Not many stay and continue learning or practicing when they discovered it is not like Salsa. It is not like Kizomba. And deffinitely not Bachata: The culture is different. The community is small. Tecnically, it also requires intricate skills and connections resembling perhaps those in Tango or West Coast Swing. And special “Zouk Stepping” – The basics, especially for the ladies, or let us say – the follower: You have to pivot while changing weight, squeezing your inner thighs, holding your tummy in, and keeping your back straight – always searching for the contact of the leader on your back (an arm, a hand, whathever).
This is the key for the ladies’ basic step – the lateral, on which all the leading is based. If the follower doesn’t pivot while doing the lateral, the leader has a hard time leading an unstable follower. And if the leader doesn’t keep a good basic to transmit to the follower, the follower ends up making an unstable move to keep up. This is very common to all dance styles while learning them, but the Brazilian Zouk basics – the muscular work of it – are very often underestimated. Because soon you will need this stability to perform good head movements.
Yes, no much zouk if there are no head movements. So it is natural that people are eager to try them, right away, with barely any basics. And here comes often the very first dissapointment. It is hard to get them right away – unless you are a trained/experienced Contemporary dancer. These people have already the core stability needed for it, which helps a lot. You need stability not only in your base: Your feet, but also in the core of your body.
But imagine how awesome the feeling when this is finally accomplished! The huge satisfaction and freedom! In my case it took me almost a couple of years to get som kind of stability in my lateral stepping: by this I mean squeezing my inner thighs to get stability. This by excercising in my kitchen, twice a day: about 5 to 10 minutes. I brought with me the metholodogy (and basics) from the Mzouk school (Spain), which proved to be very handy for my situation. Eventually I started to try swirling by tilting the body. I am on my way there…still trying to figure out how to step properly to retain the balance. With some advice from teachers, but still, something I do alone. My partner does not help me train this.
Avoiding Injuries –
There are risks as in all physical activites that are not carried with common sense caution. Brazilian Zouk is no exception. You hear often of people that hurt their necks or the back while trying head movements, or other movements. Or while dancing socially. I think I have avoided injuries thanks to my body consciousness, and some background of ballet and contemporary dance, which made me very shy for head movements: Contrary to others, I was reluctant to make head movements until I felt my body was ready – even could tell my partner at the dance floor please not to try head movements on me. To be frank: I was afraid of head movents. And kind of knew where to beging, and could actually maintain the focus on what I needed for the moment: Most of the times the connection – here again something about my motoric skills, that kept me running notoriously faster than the leader. But now, I connect better, and even dare to push myself a litte more out there!!!
It has been not only a dance, as much as it sounds like a cliché, it really has been a journey, where there was – and will be – so much more new to discover. Places – physical places or places within myself, good people, experiences, feelings, sensations, and more.
Lili from Stockholm ❤