Zouk in Dublin - interview with Juarez Weiss and Mona Byrne

Mona Byrne and JuaRez Weiss - photo by Chambeth Photography

Mona Byrne and JuaRez Weiss - photo by Chambeth Photography

Zouk The World is all about spreading the love for Brazilian zouk - as well as spreading information! One of our projects is to map and present every place in the world where you can dance zouk. In this effort, we’re presenting people that make zouk happen around the world - we invite active dancers and zouk teachers to share their story and also give the best information about their local zouk scene for anyone planning to make a visit.

One of the first people we are talking to in this series are Juarez Weiss and Mona Byrne who run Zouk Ireland in Dublin. So who are Juarez and Mona and what's the scoop on the zouk scene in Dublin - I’ll let them tell you!


Zouk The World: Juarez and Mona, tell us a bit about your dance histories - and when & how did you come across Brazilian zouk for the first time?

Juarez: I’ve danced since I remember. Dancing was always something very present in my family, so when I was young I tried lots of different stuff: from hip hop to street dance, to contemporary. When I was around 20 I started to actively dance and do training in ballroom dance, more specifically forró, samba, salsa and bolero in Florianópolis, in the Ritmo Cia de Dança. I was presented to Brazilian zouk only about five years ago, and at first sight I didn't actually like it. But after dancing zouk, one can't simply resist to its enchants, so I fell in love with it.

After dancing zouk, one can’t simply resist to its enchants, so I fell in love with it.
— Juarez

Mona: I started dancing at age of 4 with traditional Irish dancing. I did this up to the age of 12 and from there I moved to ballroom dancing and continued to take classes to the age of 16. Then I started college and other interests took over for a while but the love of dance always remained. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to return to dance again so I started learning salsa and then moved to bachata. By pure accident I took a zouk-lambada class that one of my instructors persuaded me to try and I became hooked. I fell in love with zouk immediately and started to immerse myself within it completely.

ZTW: The two of you are currently teaching zouk in Dublin. Can you tell a bit about how the partnership came about?

Mona: I met Juarez about a year and a half ago when he moved from Brazil to Dublin. We met in a dance class and became instant friends.

Photo by Fergal O'Rourke

Photo by Fergal O'Rourke

Juarez: I had just recently arrived in Ireland, and I was desperate trying to find a place to dance zouk. After looking for it, I went to this class and met her there. After some time I started teaching zouk classes in Academia Brasileira de Dança, Brazilian Dance Academy, and Mona was always present and very participative at all times. You know that type of person that you instantly "click in"? Every time I danced with her I felt a strong connection, something very deep and sincere.

We then started to teach and we founded Zouk Ireland at the end of last year and since then we've been dancing and training and become very good friends. She's an amazing person, very honest, very open, what you see is what you get. She probably has no idea how much she helped me here in Ireland, a place where I have no family, no help, nowhere to run, a place where I had to start walking entirely on my own. I'm forever grateful to her in many aspects.

Mona: I have to say I was very surprised that he asked me to be his partner because he is a gifted dancer and teacher and has been dancing zouk much longer than I have. After thinking about this for a few days, I decided that to accept this opportunity and it was the best decision I've ever made! I can honestly say that Juarez is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. I feel blessed to have him as a friend and as a dance partner.

ZTW: What makes zouk special to you?

For me zouk is freedom and surrender at the same time.
— Mona

Mona: Wow – where do I start? For me zouk is freedom and surrender at the same time. As the follower you must surrender to your leader and for me that is where the freedom lies. It is the one place where us ladies who are so used to being in control are no longer in control at all. The freedom comes through the music and the expression of that through fluid movement. Once zouk casts its spell you become truly enchanted with it.

Juarez: It's hard to explain, actually. I don't know if it's because of the strong music that always reach you very deeply, or the fluid movements, or both of it. For me zouk brings together two different aspects of a couple dance: the connection between the couple and the "showtime" part. I simply love that.

ZTW: Could you share your most favourite dancing memory?

Juarez: Probably the best memories I have with dancing are the ones when I was part of a zouk performance group back in Brazil. The training, the friendship, all the learning, the traveling, the performances, I have lovely memories from that time and I'll never forget.

Mona: This is a hard one as I am very lucky to be able to say that I have so many amazing dancing memories but if I have to pick just one it would have to be when Alisson Rodriguez Sandi asked me to dance with him at the Prague Zouk Congress earlier this year. Alisson and Audrey are hugely inspirational for me and to have the opportunity to dance with Alisson was just amazing! He was so kind and also took the time to give me constructive feedback. It is a dancing memory that I treasure.

Mona and Juarez take centre stage - Photo by Mark Comiskey

Mona and Juarez take centre stage - Photo by Mark Comiskey

ZTW: How is the zouk scene in Dublin?

Juarez: Zouk in Dublin is still very small. The strong rhythms here are salsa and bachata. Kizomba is slowly getting its place too, and we are actively working to make zouk as present as possible in the dance scene. We feel we are in the right way because of the feedback we're getting, and we're gathering more and more zoukers as we speak. Last year we took part in the International Zouk Day, and that helped a lot on the visibility. This year we're participating again, and we hope zouk gets a quantum jump and explodes in here! The other dance parties are slowly including zouk in their playlists, and we try to do a zouk social at least one a month. The work is hard but very gratifying.

ZTW: What are the best social dancing places in Dublin?

Mona: Dublin has a lot of monthly social dancing parties to choose from:

Zoukiera monthly social by Zouk Ireland at Turks Head (Parliament Street, Dublin 2)

Strictly Salsa at National Stadium (145 South Circular Road, Dublin 2)
First Saturday of every month
Music: Salsa, mambo & bachata

Strictly Bachata at Toast Café (196 Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6)
Second Saturday of every month
Music: Bachata, Salsa, Mambo, Kizomba, Zouk

Bachata Fever, Dirty Dancing Social at Merchants Arch
Every third Saturday of the month
Music: Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba

ZTW: Where can one find your zouk classes?

Photo By Carolina Custoias

Photo By Carolina Custoias

Mona: We are on FacebookInstagram, and on our website, www.zoukireland.com. We currently run two classes every Wednesday in Liffey Trust Studios (117-126 upper Sheriff Street). We will be starting a new six week beginner course in early October and we are taking part in the second annual Dublin Fever Fest on September 18-20, both teaching and performing. And of course we are also practicing the flashmob choreography to the International Zouk Day every Saturday at 3pm, at St Stephen's Green, at the Pavillion besides the lake. Looking forward to performing this on the 19th September along with all the other cities across the world!

ZTW: When you're not dancing, what's your favourite thing to do in Dublin?

Mona: One of my favourite things to do is to visit Howth – a small fishing village about 10 miles outside the city. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit and you have the view of the whole of Dublin Bay from the top of the mountain. There is an amazing coastal trail that takes you from one side to the other and there is nothing in the world like a sunset from Howth Pier.

Juarez: When I'm not dancing I usually like to go to a park and just relax, or go to cinema, or any other relaxing program, since our lives with Zouk Ireland have been really crazy - in an awesome way!


Have a story to share?

Are you an active zouk dancer, teacher or event organiser and work with Brazilian zouk? Do you have a story to share about your local zouk scene? Or want to recommend someone for an interview? Click here to contact us!