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Brazilian Zouk History and Styles

| Filed Under: Events At Spotlight First Person Learning

Brazilian Zouk is a relatively new dance compared to some.  For instance, the Cha Cha Cha has been around since the 1950's.  That's almost 70 years.  Lindy Hop has been around for almost 90 years!  Zouk is just a baby in comparison.  It has only been around for 20-30 years.  Right now, Zouk has a following in most major cities across the US, especially on the coasts.  As it is getting more popular, it is being added to the roster at major dance festivals around the world.  Workshops and social dancing rooms for Zouk were just added to the Reno Latin Dance Festival earlier this year.  There are even exclusive weekend festivals dedicated to all things Zouk.  In California, there are pretty big scenes in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.  As history has been known to repeat itself, it must only be a matter of time before Sacramento is on board too!

A Bit of History

It all started with Lambada.  Now if you were in middle school in the 80's like me, you may remember a movie called, "Lambada: The Forbidden Dance" coming out in '89.  I remember it was about dancing really close, it looked really cheesy, and of course I wasn't allowed to watch it.  Little did I know, it would give rise to this great dance that I love!  Lambada was actually a very popular social dance in Brazilian night clubs back in the 80's.  In the 90's lambada music started to go away.  Dancers, being the resourceful humans that we are, turned to other music including zouk from the Caribbean.  Of course the lambada that they were doing at the time had to be adapted for the different rhythm and boom!  Brazilian Zouk is born!  It is called Brazilian Zouk to differentiate it from Caribbean zouk which is related but a completely different style of dance.   Lambada is also still around.  It is just not as widely popular any more.

A Bit on Styles

There are 3 main styles of Zouk: Lamba-zouk, traditional or rio style zouk, and modern or neo-zouk.  Zouktheworld.com explains the 3 styles this way:

  • Lambazouk (or zouk-lambada or Porto Seguro style) has the closest connection to lambada. Lambazouk dancers use 1-2-3 (or quick-quick-slow) rhythm and dance to a more upbeat music. The dance incorporates the accents of the music with hip movements, deep dips, whip-like head movements and fast turns. Exchanging partners mid-song, leading with only visual contact and strong positive energy are typical for lambazouk.

  • Traditional zouk (or Rio style zouk) is a more sensual, romantic and dramatic style of Brazilian zouk. The dancers use the slow-quick-quick rhythm, marking ‘tum’ beat in the zouk music. It is common to not use only the rhythm but also the pauses, melody and lyrics in the dance as well as utilize different dynamics in the timing. Moves such as body rolls and extensions are typical as well as movements influenced by jazz, ballet and contemporary dance.

  • Modern zouk (or Neo zouk) is a highly diverse group that sums up the latest variants of Brazilian zouk. This includes styles influenced by hiphop, street dance, belly dancing, contemporary dance, modern dance and salsa, among others. The timing is based on slow-quick-quick rhythm or contratempo. There can be long breaks in the footwork, with dancers staying on the spot, using only body movements, torsions and counterbalance to paint a picture of the music.

PSA:  Please note that the people featured in these videos are professionals and in some cases are in close personal relationships with the person they are dancing with.  In any dance, no matter how close you see professionals dance together, you can choose differently.  It is usually the follower who chooses how close they would like to dance with their leader.  And out of respect for your fellow humans, the leaders should respect the space.  🙂

Each style has something to offer beginner dancers and seasoned dancers alike.  I think most people will have greater success with this dance starting out with traditional Zouk to learn their basics.  The traditional style tends to be danced slower and has the simpler, more straightforward moves that are accessible to most people.  As a dance instructor it is important to me that my students can get out onto the dance floor right away if they would like.  Learning a few basics in any dance is a great way to do that!  If you would like to get started, I'm teaching a beginning Zouk series starting on February 6th, 6:30pm.  You can click the link for more information.  Let us know if you can make it!  https://www.facebook.com/events/158961521412737/

See you on the dance floor!

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Spotlight Ballroom 2534 Industrial Blvd. Suite 150 West Sacramento, CA 916-649-3269