Larissa Thayane and the Brazilian Zouk Dance Council - "We want to improve the social dance skills of every dancer" (Interview Part 1)

If you're active in the zouk scene you've probably come across with the newly formed Brazilian Zouk Dance Council. Zouk The World met with one of the founders of the Council and a definite zouk all star Larissa Thayane recently in Helsinki and talked with her about the council, how she discovered zouk in the first place and what inspires her today.

But first, what is Brazilian Zouk Dance Council (BZDC)? On their site it says that the Council supports and promotes all aspects of Brazilian zouk and encourages the growth of the dance internationally. One of their key initiatives are the zouk Jack & Jill competitions to be hosted around the world adjacent to established zouk congresses. The BZDC also keeps a list of registered events, records of competitors and their scores as well as a registry of instructors. Let's talk to Larissa to find out more!


You can also read Zouk The World's fact-full information sheet about the Brazilian Zouk Dance Council: All the vital links, when and where to compete as well as the rules & guidelines in a nutshell!


Zouk The World: How and when did you come about starting up Brazilian Zouk Dance Council (BZDC)?

Larissa Thayane: I had been thinking about this for a year before we put this together in 2014. A friend of mine from Brazil, Guilherme Abilhoa, is a West Coast Swing dancer and he noticed we were getting more and more into West Coast Swing and the WCS Jack & Jills. When Kadu & I started participating in those competitions we saw that the WCS students were so interested in learning and improving and they wanted to make sure their social dancing was correct - this really inspired us. Guilherme then gave us the idea; “Why don’t you guys, who have a strong voice in the zouk scene, study and organise a similar structure for the Brazilian zouk scene?”

We wanted people to think about being careful and about improving their skills. Everybody wants to improve so this is a good way to get them into it.

After that I started searching information about the WSDC (World Swing Dance Council). We thought it would be good to have a similar council for Brazilian zouk and that the Jack & Jill competitions would be a good way to promote Brazilian zouk and getting the students to focus more about improving their social dancing. In Brazilian zouk you use your body in many different ways - if you don’t really know how to dance it properly you could be doing something incorrectly and as a result injure your partner or yourself. So we wanted people to think about being careful and about improving their skills. Everybody wants to improve so this is a good way to get them into it.
 

ZTW: As you mentioned, the Jack & Jill competitions are an important part of the Council. There have already been a few events with zouk Jack & Jills, such as Casa do Zouk and Zouk SEA last year. What were your and the dancers’ experiences from these events?

LT: I studied the idea for one year and then we decided to put it together and run the first J&J competition at our Casa do Zouk event. When you start organising the whole competition so that every detail is in place, there’s a lot to do and in the end you never know how people are going to find the event.

Larissa Thayane performing with her partner Kadu Pires

Larissa Thayane performing with her partner Kadu Pires

On the actual competition day we continued to keep the registration open and a lot people joined in - they were very excited. We needed to have a minimum of 40 participants entering the competition, as it doesn’t really make sense to organise it with less than that; otherwise it would be too easy for the competitors. So I ordered 100 numbered bibs for the competitors and exactly 100 people registered! I was very surprised we had that many! The event went smoothly and people had a lot of fun. In Malaysia everyone responded really well to it also. It’s a nice way for people to show their skills and to have fun.

We still have to work a lot on the judging and criteria elements. Being the first time, some of the participants were not really aware of how the competition works - they were very excited but they didn’t really read all the rules and regulations so they were left a little lost and wondering why or how results were decided. I recommend that students look into what the rules and regulations are and what judges are looking for; it is good for them to see what it is really all about. We are also working with judges, making sure the teachers know what they are looking for and have all the same criteria to follow. It was a great experience at Casa do Zouk last year - and this year people have started registering for the Jack & Jill already!


ZTW: What are your experiences from Jack & Jill competitions?

The only thing you need to do is to go there and show that you can social dance.

LT: I’ve had a lot of fun when I’m competing in the Jack & Jill competitions. In WCS competitions I started out as Novice, from the very beginning. I always have a lot of fun doing the competitions. You get a little nervous but it’s not like doing a performance where you have a lot of responsibility. The only thing you need to do is to go there and show that you can social dance. You’re going to change partners, you’ll be dancing to different songs and that’s the fun of it. You want to do your best - and to do your best you need to be a good social dancer. That’s what the judges are looking for.
 

ZTW: There are already a number of zouk events in Australia & New Zealand, Asia and North America hosting the Jack & Jill competitions in 2015. How are you progressing with registering new events and have you talked with organisers in Brazil and Europe? I noticed there are no events registered in Brazil or South America in general, and also the first event in Europe is Prague Zouk Congress in March 2016. What are the requirements for the event organisers?

LT: We started off in Australia and held events in that region first and now we’re slowly moving to new areas. Prague Zouk Congress is a very big congress so we decided it’s best to wait another year so we can plan it properly with Carlos and Fernanda. In Brazil, Renata Peçanha is interested in hosting a Jack & Jill event along with her zouk congress and we are also going to Zouk Day in Sao Paulo this June and will meet with the organisers thereto discuss more about it.

Upcomging zouk Jack & Jill competitions in 2015

  • 10 - 13 July, 2015 at Zouk S.E.A in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • 24 - 26 Jul, 2015 at Casa do Zouk in Gold Coast, Australia.
  • 2 - 4 Oct, 2015 at Vision Dance Encounter in Toronto, Canada.

More events and more information in the BZDC fact sheet!

 

I have already talked with several congress organisers but I am not pushing anyone to do the Jack & Jills this year. Many instructors and congress organisers are coming to the LA Zouk Congress and Casa do Zouk this year and other events that already host the Jack & Jill competitions. They will be joining in with the competitions, they’ll get experience from judging and understand how it is organised from their own personal experience. This way, it will be easier for them to host the competition at their own events. Also, we first need to see how their events are being held. For example, in Brazil many events are organised quite differently and for the Jack & Jill you need to have a lot of space - there will be many couples dancing at the same time.

In addition to the floor space, you do need to have a certain amount of time for the competition as you may want to have different divisions (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, etc), but also might have several heats if there are a lot of people in certain divisions. So the congress needs to account for that in their schedule. If the organisers don’t want to host the competitions in the parties they can also hold them during the day, for example during lunch times; you don’t need to have a big audience and it’s focused on social dance.

ZTW: What are the future plans for BZDC?

This will be an incentive for event hosts to improve the level of organisation at their events.

LT: We are still talking a lot amongst the board of directors as well as with other teachers around the world. We need to promote it more so that people have a greater knowledge of it and get more interested in participating in the Jack & Jill competitions. The event organisers need to also put more time into planning their events. If they want to be able to host a competition they need to have a proper venue with a good floor, enough space and DJs prepared for the competition. This will be an incentive for event hosts to improve the level of organisation at their events.

The goal of the Council is also to get the students more interested in participating, knowing more about zouk and understanding that their weekly classes are important in building their social dance - not only parties and workshops at congresses. The idea for the future is to improve the social dance skills of every dancer.
 

The idea for the future is to improve the social dance skills of every dancer.

ZTW: How would you like the zouk dancers around get involved with the Council?

LT: Dancers are welcome to check the website, send us their questions or ideas and spread the word. Also, when they have a chance to participate in a Jack & Jill competition - participate! They have nothing to worry about, just enjoy the experience. It’s not a competition about who is the world champion in zouk. You might get a really good partner in one competition and in the next you might get a song you don’t like - what song is good for you and good for me might not be the same. In one competition you might get first place and nothing in another - like in some parties you feel awesome and in some others you just don’t. Either way it’s fun to compete, you can get feedback on your technique, improve your dancing and also meet new dancers.


Coming soon: Part 2 of the interview

In the second part Larissa Thayane tells how she got started in zouk and what got her to like it in the first place, what keeps her inspired still today and what is most important to her in learning zouk!


Get your facts straight

Get familiar with Brazilian Zouk Dance Council and the zouk Jack & Jills: Read our BZDC fact sheet! More information about when & where you can compete, requirement for both competitors and the event organisers as well as how points are accumulated.

 


Larissa Thayane Bio

Larissa Thayane and her partner Kadu Pires are world renowned Latin Dance Professionals, teaching, performing, choreographing and judging at some of the most important Latin Dance events and competitions worldwide. Since 2007 they have toured throughout Australia and New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North and South America and have been key contributors towards raising the popularity of Brazilian Zouk and Samba de Gafieira internationally. Their achievements includes several competitions wins and television appearances in Brazil and Australia including choreographing for So You Think You Can Dance Australia.

Larissa started dancing Jazz, Contemporary and Ballet when she was 8 years old in Parana, Brazil. At 17 years old the School of Classic and Contemporary Dance of the Guaira Theatre recognized her as a professional Ballet and Contemporary dancer. Following this, she moved to Rio de Janeiro to work at Youth Theatre Company of Rio de Janeiro, a Ballet/Contemporary Company where she worked for 3 years.

In 2005 she started her studies in Latin Dance and became part of Jimmy de Oliveira’s Samba de Gafieira Company and Alex de Carvalho’s Latin Dance Company specialising in Brazilian Zouk. She also started her solo career with Kadu Pires. Together they traveled throughout Brazil teaching and performing and quickly became recognized as one of the reference couples in Brazil. Since 2012 Kadu and Larissa run their own dance school and dance events under the K&L brand.