I sat down with Larissa Thayane recently to talk about her historical zouk project, the Brazialian Zouk Dance Council - read more about this in the previous post.
While I had a chance to talk to Larissa, I wasn't going to miss this opportunity to hear from her what is that drove her to zouk and what drives her today. And I gave her a chance to share her advice to all us zoukers on what she feels are the most important things while learning zouk!
Zouk The World: Tell us a bit about your zouk history - how did you get involved with zouk in the first place?
Larissa Thayane: I’ve only danced zouk 10-11 years now. Before I started with ballet, jazz, contemporary, and that’s what I did my whole childhood and as a profession. When I moved to Rio de Janeiro, where I started working with a ballet/contemporary company, I started to do salsa because I just wanted to do something for fun. So latin dance was my hobby! That’s how I met different dancers and learnt samba de gafieira, bolero, forró - and saw zouk for the first time. Initially, it didn’t get my attention.
At that time I got involved with Kadu, we started dancing samba de gafieira. Kadu took me to their training at Centro de dança Alex de Carvalho and I really liked their dance company. Then one day one of the girls couldn’t dance and they turned to me: “Larissa, we need you to jump in!”. So that’s how I got started in zouk: jumping in, learning routines and learning from Alex de Carvalho and Rafael Oliveira.
After that, I also started going to zouk parties and started enjoying it more. The partnership with Kadu started to become more serious. We got a proposal to move and work in Australia after our first tour there. They already had knowledge of zouk and samba de gafieira, so we decided to really push those two styles. As a result, we pushed ourselves too and knew we had to choreograph strong routines to make a big impression. We started working on those and in turn, I began to increasingly love zouk and become addicted to the dance.
ZTW: As a person who has danced many years how do you keep zouk interesting to you and how do you keep yourself inspired?
LT: Brazilian zouk is still a young dance. At the time when Kadu and I moved to Australia (in 2007), we had the opportunity through Rio Rhythmics, a dance academy in Brisbane who hired us and gave us working visas at the time, to improve our work together as dance partners. We pushed ourselves a lot in routines and started traveling overseas more often to teach workshops and perform.
I believe Brazilian zouk has evolved a lot already from that time and we have also developed our dancing as well. To be able to work traveling around the world and to be involved in the international zouk scene, help us not only to inspire other dancers but also to bring new ideas back to Australia and as a result, continue pushing ourselves. Once you’re in Australia you feel so far away. Instead, we are able to travel and dance everywhere. It’s cool to see that our old friends from 10 years ago in Rio when we started, are dancing and living all over the world. We still get to see them in different countries, talk and learn from each other. Also our routines push us; we want to do better and better because we love to perform. Those are the things that keep us excited - we stay motivated and we want to continue and keep improving.
ZTW: What is the most important thing in learning zouk in your opinion?
LT: I think the foundation movements of the dance are the key. When you’re a student you want to learn very fast, but you need to be careful not to brush over the fundamental basics of the dance. This will lead to students finding that they are making an increased number of mistakes later on. If you go to an advanced level when your foundations aren't perfected yet, you can’t execute the moves correctly. I learnt that doing the beginner levels - and also having taught beginners for so many years that’s also what made me improve.
My advice: If you’re already an advanced dancer, do beginners classes; if you’re a follower, do beginners classes as a leader and vice versa. When you know both how to lead and follow, your dancing improves incredibly.
ZTW: How would you like to see zouk grow in the future and what is the key for that? Would you like to see, for example, more international collaboration or more grass-root work in the local zouk scenes; more events or less events?
LT: I think sometimes you’ll find too many events with too little people or that it’s the same people that go to all of the events. Instead of events, I think it would be good for the scene if the teachers would focus more on their schools and grow them. When you put more effort into your own school and focus on your students, you also get them to learn the right technique. In a festival you can’t do that. For festival workshops we come up with a sequence and teach that sequence and make sure everyone can do it - but it doesn’t mean that they can do it perfectly in a social setting. Weekly classes gives opportunity to students to practice one sequence many times, over a longer time period to really refine their lead and follow and refresh their foundation movements every now and then.
If you have a good teacher in your city then go to their weekly classes or take private classes if you can’t join the weekly classes. That’s the best way to build your dance. Just doing events is not the best way to learn; they’re fun, you learn some sequences, you get to see different instructors and dance with a lot of different people - you should definitely go to events, but don’t give up on your weekly classes.
Go back and read part 1 of the interview with Larissa Thayane, where she tells how Brazialian Zouk Dance Council was formed and why she likes to take part in the Jack & Jill competitions:
Larissa Thayane and the Brazilian Zouk Dance Council - "We want to improve the social dance skills of every dancer"