How young can you start dancing Zouk?

When I started dancing Zouk I never even thought about these questions. Children do not belong to a late-night dance establishment. At least not so in the culture where I live and function: A Scandinavian country like Sweden. Here the different ages are segregated in many aspects of life. Also, “noisy” is not considered ok. There are regulations against sound pollution, as to protect small children’s hearing. So there are many reasons why you don’t see a child tagging along on a dance floor, perhaps a teenager at its most.

So we have a physiological reason not to have children around as we dance. But what can the benefits be? The benefits of dance are generally known from using both your brain halves, to improving your health in general. Also for dance teachers, the limitations of the motoric development of children are the ground for setting the dance classes which should be appropriate to the child’s age.

When it comes to social dance, I was amazed to see at the last Mzouk Experience event in Palma de Mallorca 2022: Teenagers (13-15) on the dance floor, and kids as young as 9 years old, that tagged along with their parents, and actually could dance. Amazing. So, with no ear protection, the music was low enough to carry a normal conversation. And they stayed until the party was over at 4:00 am. Bewildering! But also, we must remember that in (Southern) Spain, kids are a more a part of adult life, they get to go to bed really late. They are used to noisy environments and are part of the party.

After witnessing the work of Juan Manuel Peña Moreno and his dance school in Jerez de la Frontera, I get to the conclusion that actually at any age. But then I am culturally biased from my Latin American side. But what is good culture but something to be spread? At least when it comes to bringing a little bit of the joy of a foreign lifestyle to your cold, dark, Scandinavian country. Can the kid stay up an extra hour and dance? I would go for it – as long as we have priceless, genuine family fun while going at it.

Heels or no Heels, that is the Question

Dancin Zouk in High Heels

After a major injury in my left ankle, while chasing a bus on my way to the airport, I am finally dancing Zouk in high heels again. It was not easy, but with some help from my physiotherapist at löparakuten, I am as stronger as ever, and can actually endure a few hours of dancing in 9 cm high heels. This makes me think of all the misconceptions I used to have about high heels!

If you look around while at a Zouk event, you will see that most ladies dance in flat shoes. When you think of it, it is quite normal considering the perilous head movements you get to execute in Zouk. But now that I dance in high heels, I wonder, how could I miss this before?

Of course, it is not only the issue of having a healed foot that makes my delight so fascinating. It is also the fact that I have been training for this moment for a few years now, in spite of my bad ankle. It takes a strong core to be able to support your body in high heels while executing Zouk head movements, but also strong inner thigh muscles.

My point is, only because it is very hard, it does not mean impossible. Only because it’s unnatural, it does not mean it’s bad for your body, or your dance. In fact, I am forced to use those muscles I have been training for a couple of years now in order to keep my balance while dancing. I am really dancing with a neutral pelvis. I am really engaging my pelvic floor. I am activating all my “balance” muscles. All the elements to dance in a healthy way, provided I keep training my supporting muscles, I guess.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not advocate for the general use of high heel shoes. In fact, I rarely walk around in high heels. But for dance, you can actually see them as a powerful training tool. Like the training wheels on your first bicycle. Wanna go for a ride? Start using not-so-high heels and keep on dancing. Unless you have a condition that prevents you from using high heels, you will see the development. Don’t forget to train your core!

Lili from Zouk in Stockholm.

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

Eat, Sleep, Zouk, Repeat – Festival Survival

Photo: Zouk Devils, Mataró 2017

You are hooked on Zouk now and want to start to travel for Zouk. You find yourself, as a Teletubby after sliding down the slope, “again, again!”. Zouk festivals are somewhat addictive (at least for a short period of time), and your very first festival ever is a test on your body and mind. But let’s say you passed the test and are now hooked. For you my dear dance friend, I have some words from someone who has been there, done that.

Be prepared for a period of about one year or two, where you go to festivals around Europe whenever you get the chance. You will get a lot of new friends, perhaps visit cities you did not think you will visit (not that you will actually see much of the city). And you will learn a few things:


  • Every person, every human body, every metabolism is different. People have different needs for rest and food in between dances. You might not find general advice always useful for exactly “you” in particular.
  • The day has only 24 hrs. You will not have time to do everything on the trip so you will have to prioritize. Your perception of time will be challenged and in the end, you will learn how to plan your whole trip, from when to sleep to when to arrive at the party.
  • Your perception of sleep and how much activity your body can take will also be challenged, but you will learn.
  • You will experience something that resembles “the post-festival blues” once you come home.
  • You will learn that Zouk is a very intricate dance and that teachers are very different from each other.


So here is some advice for you:


  • My guess is that you are not traveling alone. Most of the people get together in groups from the city of origin or neighboring cities. If you are alone and want to travel in a group, search for groups for instance on Facebook, or discount groups, to connect with others. It is nice to make these trips in groups, not so practical all the way, group dynamics is an article of its own, a separate topic!
  • Consider of all accommodation possibilities, what is the most suitable one for you. Hotel room? Hostel? Airbnb? Single room or together with someone? Walking distance from the venue is great. But even greater, if the venue is a hotel where you only need to go downstairs. If so, check for rooms well in advance, they disappear very quickly.
  • Make sure you get information about the venue, location, travel, tickets, where to get food well in advance to save time and money (but mostly time) once you are there. You might want to save your precious energy for dancing and not walking around looking for food (perhaps with a group of peers that all have different tastes). Especially if you are a vegan.
  • Some dancers take magnesium to help the muscles not to cramp. Others simply eat bananas, others stretch before and after the party. Some others make sure to have a quiet moment and meditate, to clear the head and get the mindset for the party, and have better dances (especially the leaders).
  • Try to do some shopping to keep some food and beverages in your room that are rich in energy and nourishment. Like nuts, energy bars, soya milk, fruit (avocado is very good!), chocolate and stuff that keeps you going. For me, beer sausages are a must, since I eat meat. And water, lots of water. Do not drink tap water if you are not sure it’s ok. I usually get a huge bottle for the whole weekend and refill my small bottle.
  • You might not attend every single workshop there is to attend. Your mind is not able to take in all information anyway. If you want, you can write down important stuff, or record small movements. Another way to save energy is to watch the workshops, instead of doing them.
  • You might need to take power naps here and there. If you want, bring earplugs and a sleeping mask. I usually take a power nap right after dinner and before going to the party, then I last all night. In other words, since you know your sleeping pattern, make sure you leave time for some nap, or come later to the workshops next day. I try to have at least 4 or 5 hrs of consecutive sleep, and a nap of at least one hr. Works for me.
  • You might need also to learn how to plan recovery as soon as you get back home. Plan at least for a day off from work or studies to sleep and rest.
  • Try book your flights well in advance, your hostel and so on. It is hard sometimes to plan Zouk festivals with so many months ahead. So try not to plan too many. You might find yourself not so motivated after a few months, exhausted and even broke. There is a life outside Zouk, you know…


To get an idea of how festivals are, which ones to chose and so on, you can visit the blog Zouk the World, where they have a global Zouk calendar with the biggest events. But also you can join facebook groups where you can get an idea of which ones to attend. There are many festivals around Europe, some have been growing and some have disappeared, which is a topic for another blog article.

Happy Zouking!

Yours truly /Lili

Confessions of a Social dancer – My becoming an Mzouker

Crush number one: April – May 2014, I meet a person at a salsa party in Sweden, and start checking out this person’s videos on Youtube, he was dancing this thing called “Brazilian Zouk”. What is that? It was not perhaps “love at first sight”, but I had to find more out. Eventually, I enrolled in Lambazouk classes at my local Lambazouk school in Stockholm, Brazouka. But, I was not satisfied. The energy in Lambazouk is something that I already had, and experienced. I had been dancing salsa for nearly 20 years by then. I was hungry for the calm, the torso, the pliés, and demipliés that I was seeing in the videos, and reminded me of the years at dance academies – that I had not gone back to since my second pregnancy. A part of myself that I somehow had abandoned. A very big part of myself, it turned out to be…

So after enrolling to a beginner’s boot camp in Helsinki with Freddy and Andressa, I got a students discount to their Festival in Helsinki, which I, of course, attended.

Major crush: I was already hooked on Zouk. But on stage I see Daniel and Leticia Estevez, performing their “red” choreography. The Flamenco one. I had to make a big effort not to burst into tears by the end of the performance. Why was this? Why them? Well, maybe because that night, everyone except Renata Pecanha and Jorge Pérez, and of course D and L, were doing the standard show, with a catchy song and a sporty routine. When the Mzoukers went on stage (and later Renata and Jorge), they told me a story. I had never in my life seen a social dance show that could carry so much expression and so many emotions at the same time. I could not believe it was possible, and yet it was there. A social dance, that you do on the floor. And that allows you to express so many feelings and so many things. In good connection.

During that festival I also attended the Mzouk workshops, and I had to say, I liked the attitude, I like having to “chew”, I fell in love with the: “Let’s drop everything and start leading from the left” (since most leading is done to the right side of the leader). I was a beginner, but I felt immediately attracted to “let´s do the opposite”.

Later on, attended the MZouk Intensive Week, and so I had done ever since. Every year I get so much to practice at home, especially something about my solo technique, about my body. The first time, I was very shy (remember I was a beginner), and the workshops were way beyond my level. I manage after a while to bring home an idea of the basics. And for every time I brought home some ideas to work on.

And the most important thing: I found a “home”. A group of people, that actually I can share a lot with…I found myself being one of “them”. I think it has a lot to do with the creator of Mzouk Maestre Gegê, who took some extra time on me at the beginning, with huge patience, and whose discipline I also came to admire and love. The discipline that runs through the Mzouk spirit, and also the good values in the Mzouk family: Respect, curiosity, humility, and determination. It is a school found by a Capoeira master, and the values live on through its students: Children (Daniel and Leticia Estévez), grand-children (Like Juanma and Elena from Cádiz), and great-grandchildren (Jm and E’s students from Cádiz, here in the video).

This video is to show how in a few years the Mzouk is renewing itself into something really good: A Legacy of new instructors and students.

*I am a Mzouker, I love to be different *

The Learning of Social Dance – A Zouk journey

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 have been practicing social dancing, at all levels – I am a 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 malignant 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:img_2839



More is more

Sometimes the most enjoyable dances are the ones with the leader trying fewer 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 to 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 being not supportive, 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 the 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 a good job but don’t believe you will learn what they do through Osmosis.

Yours Truly,


Genealogy of Brazilian Zouk


zouk styles


Zouk, Lamba Zouk, Neo Zouk…all words that don’t give a specific meaning when you are new and have not danced Zouk for long. But as you do, and visit European Congresses, or find interesting Demos on Youtube, you start to wonder. We modern humans like to categorize everything, from birds to dance styles and sub-styles. Sometimes for practical reasons, others for commercial reasons – the latter especially when it comes to the music and dance industry. Here is an attempt to summarize the main varieties of Brazilian Zouk, and some characteristics of it.I make my summary based in own observations, and on the (well documented) book by Daniel Estévez “Mzouk, my Little Big World”. I also recommend this book, not only for the Mzouk part but because Daniel and Leticia Esteves are- if not the longest active Zouk Dance couple in the world – at least one of them. They have been around since the Lambada era, throughout its development into other Zouk sub styles.

And as for “Zouk” as a musical style…well. It is a subject for a separate article. Here we go:


Carimbó: Ancient folk dance from Belém de Pará, on which later on the Lambada from the 1900s originated. Carimbó was danced to traditional instruments such as handmade drums. Was danced in long skirts, with bare feet and with circular movement with extended arms.

Lambada: Danced which originated from Carimbó to so-called “Lambada music”, which was in fashion during the ’90s, also known and danced in Europe. Lambada kept the circular pattern of Carimbó but was now danced with short skirts and holding each other. Circular and head movements were kept. As well as the extended arms movements, called “Boneca” (doll).

LambaZouk/Zouk Lambada/Porto Seguro Style: Lambada music disappeared from the market, and Antillean Zouk music was being used now, after the ’90s. Characteristics for this dance are hip movements, accentuated beats marked by a Cambré or head whip (Xicote), and circular traveling of the ladies – always to the right side of the leader. Also the shifting of accentuation on the basic step: the long step of the gentleman is on the 2, 4, 6, i.e. the even beats.

Traditional Zouk:  When dance schools in Rio began teaching Lambada, the adaptation for a dance academy environment was seen as necessary. Lambada got stylized movements, became rather linear than circular, and was influenced by other academy dances such as Bolero. It became also slower and accented the odd beats rather than the even ones with the long step of the basic (although shifting is always possible). One particular school to mention here is the school founded by Adilio Porto and Renata Pecanha, later to by run by Renata only, from which popular teachers such as Leo and Becky Neves, Freddy and Andressa, and many others come from. From here we recognize several fundamental steps such as “Viradinha”, “Elástico”, “Bonus”, “Bonus Invertido” and so on.

NeoZouk: As Mafie Zouker (one of the first DJ:s to remix popular music to specifically Zouk floors) began to experiment with Zouk Music, there was also experimentation on the dance itself. The music was often electronic, with unexpected changes and brakes, with a flowing melody upon it. And so was the dance too. Nowadays are Mafie Zouker’s classes focused on the creation of own moves, and experimenting with a set of patterns, rather than teaching conventional patterns.

Mzouk: The only Brazilian Zouk style that was developed outside Brazil. This sub style is from Mallorca and was developed by Maestre Gegê, and his students, Daniel and Leticia Estévez. Being a Capoeira Master, Gegê educated his students with discipline, awareness of the need for the human body to be strengthened in order to dance properly. This style has different basic steps than the others, and is rather “molecular”, rather than “step-based”. This means that you are given a set of short steps from which build your dance, your own “formula”. Both right and left sides and directions are trained and used equally, which is not always the case in the other sub-styles.

Soul Zouk: It is considered a Methodology, rather than a sub style. Developed in Rio de Janeiro by China Soul Zouk and Luciana Guinle. The most known teacher from this school – outside Europe: K-yo Victor. This school takes up the aspect of Biomechanics in the students, to perform movements with as little energy as possible, and as comfortable as possible. Soul Zoukers are very gentle leaders, and able to make followers perform movements, sometimes when they don’t think is possible.

Flow Zouk: Also took shape around a Zouk DJ and his musical production- Arkkanjo. He is known for launching Zouk artists such as Paulo Mac, Alvaro Costa or D’black. Arkkanjo was the first one to play R’n’B music at Zouk parties. From this influence, it got its energy and ….flow. It is an urban sub style, which took shape on the floor, rather than at an academy. Like Soul Zoukers, Flow Zoukers are…incredibly smooth!!!!


by Zouk in Stockholm

References: Mzouk, mi pequeño gran mundo, 2013, Daniel Estévez. ISBN 978-84-616-1743-2

Confessions of a Social Dancer – Blog about being a Zouker

Trading Places

I have been dancing Brazilian Zouk as a leader lately. I just started little by little, goofing around with my girlfriends, and one day somehow I just took off dancing. Not the best of the leaders, but yes, leading through an entire song. In Zouk, it is common to see dancers trading places. I have to say I love it. I LOOOOVE …IT! Lots of new sensations that I feel I have to share here.
New Sensations
For you ladies that have never led a woman before, some news: Fishnet pantyhoses are a little bit uncomfortable. Guys are most often wearing long pants. But if you are a girl or woman wearing a mini skirt, while leading a lady who is wearing fishnet pantyhose, you might end up with a rash in your thighs. You use your thighs a lot in leading. Also, the long hair getting in the way, you really have to close a head movement sequence in a very clear way for the long-haired person to push the hair back in place. Hair, more than ornament, is a real marker in Brazilian Zouk. If the hair is right, the movement is probably right.
And to experience all types of dancers from the opposite side is…awesome. The light lady that swirls smoothly, and has a good arm positioning. Lovely. The soft lady that is like butter in your hands while manipulating her chest box, or waves; or the funky lady that responds to your funky feet. And my favorite: The very creative, independent lady that does not respond as you expect, and give you a challenge – How to lead more clearly. Trading places give you the possibility to learn more, have twice as much fun and interesting dances at the same party!!!
Getting a happy follower
So what is the key to a good dance? Well, as far as I have experienced, with my tiny repertoire of moves, the most rewarding thing is having a smiling lady. It is priceless!. The last congress I attended, the Barcelona Dance Congress, was special for me because I got to lead through half of it. Luciano Gomes (teacher) approached me during one workshop and said…” Ahh let me see the girl, is she smiling? yes, she is – well done!”. It stuck in my head and it is going to be my goal from now on. Play with the dynamics of the music, funk it up, and get the girl to smile. Combinations will come little by little, but the more complicated they are, the less probable the girls will be smiling, since I have to learn them gradually to make them work on the floor. That is I don’t even try them. Yet.
Prejudice ( my own?)
My experience so far is that women are very helpful, and when leading women embrace happily that help. Maybe because we women are most accustomed to putting ourselves in men’s position, be sympathetic towards them – these are thoughts that perhaps don’t belong here-. But sometimes, when I try to help men, it is hard for them to get what I mean. A leading lady understands right away when I help her. We are making the dance work together in harmony, while from men is more “why don’t you move as I wanted? move woman, move!”. My theory is that because we women have already done half the work following when leading we have a lot of experience and instincts from it. Men that never try following, have not this to help, and leading and managing the dance can all the opposite to relaxed.
So I openly advocate for men to TRY FOLLOWING, you learn a lot new, from a new perspective, and it will help you to become a better dancer. A dancer that all followers like.
Yours truly: Lili from Stockholm

Zouk Weekend time – Val and Vanessa

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:

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