A couple weeks ago, after a 3 year break, I made a return visit to Brno for Zouktime 2014. This was the fifth edition of what is among (if not the) best zouk congresses in Europe at the moment. Yes, I said it.... Zouktime definitely topped my zouk congress chart for the past couple years!
Taking place in a quiet city of Brno, Czech Republic, Zouktime attracts a couple hundred zouk dancers from all around Europe and the world. And there were quite a few names that certainly did attract the people...
Zouk teachers at the event this year:
Rodrigo Delano & Ruana Vasques (Brazil), Alex de Carvalho (Brazil) & Mathilde dos Santos (France), Renato Veronezi & Babi Pacheco (Brazil), Bruno Galhardo & Eglantine Oliveira (Brazil), Freddy Marinho & Andressa Castelhano (Brazil/Finland), Luděk Lužný (Czech Republic) & Olaya Dende (Spain), Jakub Jakoubek & Pavla Lužná (Czech Republic), Adilio Porto (Brazil) & Krisztina Balazs (Switzerland) and Ronaldo Magalhães & Gabi Peres (Brazil/Hungary). Teaching samba de gafieira among them were also Adalberto Shock and Mariana Torres.
This year the organisers were trying out a slightly modified format where each day had four workshops of 1,5 hours each (in stead of the usual 6 workshops of 1 hour each). Saturday and Sunday were the main workshop days with classes at 11:30-19:10, and in addition to that on Friday a few intro workshops were held before the opening party.
Workshops on Saturday and Sunday were running at the same time in no less than four halls. Two main halls had various zouk couples workshops (1,5 hour format). Room 3 was dedicated for styling workshops (45 minutes each; 8 workshops on both days). Room 4 had mainly samba de gafieira couples workshops, plus one kizomba workshop (1,5 hour format).
Zouktime halls (top left: 1; top right: 2; below left: 3; below right: 4). More pictures at our Facebook page!
The new structure did receive positive feedback from the participants. The teachers can go deeper into their workshop topic; in one hour you can merely scratch the surface but in 1,5 hours you can already get somewhere. It's also easier to keep the schedule on time by having a smaller number of workshops - and they succeeded in that quite well during the days.
On the downside, it does mean there is a bit less variety when there is a smaller number of classes to choose from. Surely a zouk congress of this size certainly offers enough variety - no doubt. But if you stay late in the parties and want to sleep at some point during the weekend, you'll end up missing some of the workshops; and the less there are workshops, the less you have left. Minor details though.
All in all, I'd say the new structure worked well. Also the workshop halls were definitely big enough, and all halls were quite close together (halls 1, 3 and 4 were in the same building and hall 2 was right next door). You could also buy beverages, sandwiches and even order in some lunch at the bar located at the venue (some restaurants were also closeby).
Zouktime is an all-day, all-night event. And when I say all-night, I really mean aaaaaaaall night. There are three nights of parties on two dance floors .... or you could say; three mornings of parties.
Starting at around 10 pm the dance floor quickly filled up and between midnight and 2 am the massive space was packed with people. If you didn't feel like dancing all the time - no rush; you would certainly get you dance fix as the music went on past 9 am in the morning!! When I left the parties, at around breakfast time (7 am), I certainly wasn't the "last one standing". I think you need some sort of special diet and some sort of special crazy to make it to the end... kudos to all of you who did! On the main dance floor they played zouk all night, on the second dance floor next to the bar you could dance samba de gafieira, salsa, bachata, kizomba - and even some more zouk!
Showtime was sometime around midnight (the showtime was about an hour late each night from the scheduled program). Friday and Saturday night were the professional shows and a couple of student shows. It's always great to see people shine on the floor; perhaps my favourite was surprisingly the local Zouk Mania group with their inspiring & fun zouk performance on Saturday. But the main highlight of Saturday night program for me was the Zouktime's traditional teachers' zouk Jack & Jill. Each couple is drawn by lottery among the pro ladies & gents, and the couple have about two minutes to improvise to a zouk song. For me, the winners of the night were Renato Veronezi & Olaya Dende with their cool mix of Vero and Lambazouk!
What I especially like about Zouktime is that there's always something funny going on. This year the last party's theme was "beach", so for the showtime the teachers paraded on stage in their beachwear; with board shorts and bikinis, sun glasses, pool toys, towels, beach umbrellas and lounge chairs. In mixed couples they went on to show different Brazilian dances; bolero, samba, forro, zouk and lambada. Some the ladies even dared to dance in their bikinis - well, like they do on the beaches of Brazil! :D The showtime ended with the whole dance floor on their feet, doing funkeado and axé. Definitely made me miss Brazil!
The only minor complaint about the parties would be the floor - after the first night the parquet that was laid on top of the old wood floor seemed to unhinge slightly and bent, possibly due to moisture; one area of the floor in particular was a bit bouncy. Still danceable but could have been better. Nonetheless, the floor was massive, among the biggest in European zouk congresses and there was still enough space to dance in. And I simply loved the space! High ceiling brought airiness to the space and I have to say the lighting was really spectacular. I enjoyed looking up and admiring the beautiful roof fixtures while spinning..... Almost like dancing under the stars!
Another great thing about the venue was the bar: cheap drinks (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic for around 1-2 €) and also sandwiches for the hungry, dancing-all-night zoukers. Next to the main dance floor there was also another bar selling açaí! No need to bring your own snacks, just enjoy the party and dance your heart out!
It was a pleasure to attend the parties at Zouktime. There were a lot of people, a lot of great dancers. And; enough leaders. I hardly had to look for guys to dance with - lots of interesting local and international dancers. The teachers certainly enjoyed the parties too and you could see them rocking the floor until the wee hours of the morning, just like many of us amateur zouk nuts!
Brno is located in Southern Czech Republic - about two hours drive from Prague, Vienna and Bratislava. The town does have a smidgen of the medieval charm of Prague; it is nowhere in the same league, but does offer a good base for an event like this and is definitely a cheap place to visit! The venue itself is about 10 minutes' walk from the Brno city center. Next to the venue, 500m towards the city, was the main congress hotel (Continental, four star hotel), which was definitely the best choice for the event. Modern, clean rooms and an amazing breakfast (7-10 am). You'll find some shops in the area, and everything you could need in the city centre.
Arriving to Brno that grey September weekend I was expecting nothing less than a fantastic zouk event - and got even more! I dare to say this is rising above the mark with the reasonable (cheap, even) prices, professional organisation team and their clear-cut mission to make this the most fun zouk event around. Zouktime has my vote for the best zouk event in Europe :)
Zouktime 2014 video playlist
Below a playlist of demo and show videos from Brno. If you have a video that is not on the list, type in the comments or send a message to have the video added to the list!