Zouk in Rio - dancing like a Carioca

If you like dancing there's a place you'll fit right in. That's Brazil.

Brazilians love to dance and - as it seems to the viewer - they are also extremely good at it. Some of the most famous exports of Brazil, you might say, are in fact a number of dance styles, musicians and dancers. Perhaps the most well known dance and music of Brazil is samba. There are many styles of samba danced both in Brazil and around the world but what a person typically goes to see in Brazil is samba no pé, a type of samba you'll see in the carnival parades. And just a few days ago millions (I'd be safe to guess) travel to Brazil, and in particular to Rio de Janeiro, to see just that.

People dancing axé on the Ipanema beach in Rio

People dancing axé on the Ipanema beach in Rio

But....... 'Brazilian dance' cannot be summed up in just samba no pé and samba carnivals. While Rio de Janeiro is the place to be for a sambista, you'll be sure to find a great number of dance schools of all sorts, dance events for all tastes and - one my favourite things - exceptional & deliciously colorful dance clothes. Whether you're a Carioca dancer or a dance tourist like myself, you'll be like a kid in a candy store in Rio.

And yes: you'll most certainly find Brazilian zouk in Rio! Though São Paulo may hold the crown in the sheer volume of zouk dancers, dance schools and clubs (and as with anything, in the true spirit of the everlasting Rio de Janeiro vs. São Paulo rivalry, a Carioca may try to question that statement), Rio de Janeiro is the #1 destination for any self respecting Rio style / zouk tradicional dancer, to say the least. It's also the home of many great zouk teachers that are known around the world, such as Renata Peçanha and Jorge Peres, Lidio Freitas and Monique Marculano, Mafie Zouker, China, Val Clemente and Thayná Trovick, Paloma Alves,..... The list goes on and spans a few 'zouk generations' already, not to even mention all the top artists that have spread their wings and are spreading their zouk knowledge now elsewhere in the world.

A night out zoukin' in Rio

On my recent trip to Rio I was really looking forward to dancing zouk! And the odds were in our favour as there indeed was a zouk party --- right on our first night in Brazil! Lucky us :) Not yet feeling the jet lag I was all pumped up to get on the dance floor.

That night the party was at Renata Peçanha's dance school. I remembered the school well from my 2012 trip - and the place looked pretty much exactly the same as it did already 3 years before. It's located close to Centro and Lapa on a run-down street, in a slightly dilapidated building... pretty much a place you wouldn't think about walking into unless you knew the place. The studio basically has just one big room but it works well in parties. Well, except for the fact that the floor is slightly tilted to one side, feeling a bit wobbly as if whole place is ready to cave in (please guys fix the floor!!). But the studio has all you need: zouk music, dancers and a bar that serves cold caipirinhas! :D

The party wasn't packed that night so we had enough space to dance. You could notice there were a few other gringos there, also enjoying their zouk holidays. The local dancers mostly seemed to mingle in their own groups and you had to be quite active to get a dance there. But the guys I danced with surely seemed exited to have met us and the zouk was flowing nicely. It was a good start to our dance holiday!

If you find yourself in Rio you certainly should not miss a chance to get on the dance floor! See below for all the info you need.


Where to find zouk in Rio de Janeiro?

The most famous zoukers in rio: Renata Peçanha and Jorge peres

The most famous zoukers in rio: Renata Peçanha and Jorge peres

Below are links to dance schools that offer zouk in Rio de Janeiro as well as some of the party organizers and other useful links. The lists are by no means exhaustive; you may be able to find zouk classes in many other local dance schools. Also new teachers, club nights and events pop up around the year in Rio. But as I've experienced it can take a great deal of research to find the right names & locations if you're there for the first time - this should help you get started!

A special thank you to my friends & frequent Rio travelers Sonja-Maria Ignatius and Noora Kykkänen for helping me to fill in this list! If you have more information to add to these list, please feel free to comment on this post.



Main zouk events

Nucleo De Dança Renata Peçanha organises two international zouk events every year. The main event is held typically on the second weekend of January: on even numbered years it's the slightly bigger 'International Zouk and Lambada Congress in Rio de Janeiro'. On odd numbered years it's slightly smaller version, called 'Summer Zouk in Rio'. Typically there's also another zouk event held each year in mid July. Check Renata's site for the latest info and read my thoughts on the main event - International Zouk and Lambada Congress - which I had the pleasure to attend in 2012!


Other useful links

Hashtag Zouk
Soul Zouk
Zouk needs you (Val Clemente)
ZNL (Zouk Night Love)