Zouk in Hanoi - interview with Binh Mai

Binh Mai (on the right) with Phuong Vu and Xi Trum 

Binh Mai (on the right) with Phuong Vu and Xi Trum 

Want to travel around the world and dance Brazilian zouk while you're at it? It's possible! Zouk has already spread to almost all corners of the world. This month I had the pleasure to catch up with Binh Mai, also know as Deepwell Zouk, who works to spread Brazilian zouk in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This is another edition on Zouk The World's project to map and present every place in the world where you can dance zouk! We’re talking with people that make zouk happen around the world, inviting 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! See our previous story about Zouk in Dublin with Juarez Weiss and Mona Byrne

But now, let's travel to Hanoi and talk to Binh Mai about zouk in Vietnam!
 

Zouk The World: Tell me a bit about yourself and your dance history? When and how
did you come across Brazilian zouk for the first time?

I tried and failed and tried and failed. The cycle repeated until I found comfortable with the basic steps.

Binh Mai: I started dancing hiphop in 1994. I danced and taught hiphop for 5 years then I quit because of my fulltime job. I resumed dancing again in 2008 with salsa, and then in 2011 when I first saw a performance by Kadu & Larissa, I felt in love with Brazilian Zouk immediately. I started to look for zouk training videos on Youtube, and began practicing the basic steps by myself. It was difficult. No one was there to show me which was right which was not right. I tried and failed and tried and failed. The cycle repeated until I found comfortable with the basic steps.


ZTW: How did Brazilian zouk get started in Hanoi?

Binh: After some months practicing by myself and knowing the basic techniques of zouk, in 2011, I started to teach zouk, first with one gentleman and two ladies. The four of us practiced by ourselves for nearly one year. And then, people started to know about my class and got curious about what Brazilian zouk is about, and joined my class. In the summer of 2012 I had five more couples in my class, and then by September 2012 the number increased to nearly 20 after the first International Zouk Flash Mob. Also, thanks to the IZFM 2012, Mzouk teachers Antonio and Alba knew about us when they visited Hanoi, so they trained with us for several sessions. Training with them helped us a lot in correcting our mistakes and getting a deeper understanding about lead and follow.

Zouk dancers in Hanoi on the 2015 International Zouk Day at Ly Thai To park

Zouk dancers in Hanoi on the 2015 International Zouk Day at Ly Thai To park

Since then, zouk continued to grow steadily in Hanoi. My class got more students. In the summer of 2013, we were lucky to have Ken and Kathryn with us, who danced zouk for some years in Australia and were in Hanoi for a visit. They joined our class and showed us many new things. They also helped my students to put together a performance for the 2013 Zouk S.E.A. congress. It was the very first zouk event that my students and I attended, and such an event greatly increased our exposure. We met many new friends, talented zoukers, amazing DJs and excellent instructors and after that more zoukers joined my class.

In November 2013 we organized our first annual event named Z-Factor 2013, with Anthony Brega and Maria Louise who were visiting Hanoi. The event was a success and thanks to it many more people in the dancing community knew about zouk and started to join us.

Since then, we have been hosting many other foreign friends and zoukers, including Javi Santos and Samantha Ho, Willemijn Passtoors from the Netherlands, and Alisson and Audrey who came for our Z-Factor 2014, to name a few. We are also the very first to bring kizomba in Vietnam by inviting Nelson Campos and Agnes Tan to host bootcamps in Hanoi and Hochiminh city.

At first the leaders do fine, but when it comes to boneca, for example, they can not do it properly and as such, they quit.


ZTW: What have been the biggest challenges in growing the zouk scene in Hanoi?

Binh: The biggest challenge for us is the lack of male dancers. People in Hanoi are more used to salsa which was introduced a decade ago, thus most of the men are used to leading by hands. As you know, with Brazilian zouk, we lead more with our frame, our upper body and teaching the male dancers to lead by their body takes a lot of time, effort and patience, and not many guys have that much determination. So we see that they attend our basic class, then jump right to our intermediate class. At first the leaders do fine, but when it comes to boneca, for example, they can not do it properly and as such, they quit.


ZTW: Let's talk a bit about Brazilan zouk; what makes it special to you?

Binh: I like the music, the movement, the connection. I like that in zouk the dancers can play with the music and it gives me a lot of freedom to express myself.

I like that in zouk the dancers can play with the music and it gives me a lot of freedom to express myself


ZTW: As a dance teacher, what makes you happy?

Binh: As a dance teacher, I like to see the development of my students - from someone who is doing basic steps to someone who leads or follows smoothly. It is hard to describe, but when you see a person in the basic class struggling with the 'boom chick chick' counting  then one year after the same person is doing such techniques as boneca in a proper way, well, that makes me happy and proud.

Also, at our HeartZouk Dance, we focus more on the social dancing side. What I mean is that we teach our students so that they can dance socially in a proper way rather than focusing on the performing side, so another thing that makes me happy is to see my students play with the music on the dance floor.


ZTW: I know many people are interested in visiting Hanoi. Can you tell for us dancers what are the best social dancing places in Hanoi?

Binh: Now in Hanoi one can find Argentine tango, salsa, bachata, zouk, and kizomba. The best place is to go to La Bomba Latina (46 Ngo Huyen street). This bar is owned by Enrique Mendez who is from Cuban. La Bomba hosts parties every night; Wednesday and Saturday are zouk social dancing, Sunday is a kizomba night, the rest are salsa and bachata social dancing.


ZTW: And where can one find your zouk classes?

Binh: We have our Brazilian zouk classes every Tuesday and Thursday, both basic class (7-8:30 pm) where I am teaching with Ha Hoang and Hoa Nguyen, and intermediate class (8:30-10 pm) where the instructors are Phuong Vu and Ha Tong. The location is 5F, Mayfair building, 20 Hang Tre street, Hanoi. You can find more information via our Facebook page and group.


Thank you Binh Mai for the interview! I leave you here with this video of the Hanoi zoukers dancing on the International Zouk Day:

 

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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!