Olaya & Papagaio: I can feel 100 things in zouk - Interview Part 2

Time flies when you're talking with Brazilian zouk stars Olaya and Papagaio. Here is the second part of Zouk The World's interview!


In the first part we talked about what are the most important things in learning zouk and what is a typical question for a zouk student? Why pro dancers have different mentalities regarding dancing with students in the parties? What would you change in Brazilian zouk? How could we make zouk more well known - or should we? READ MORE


Now moving on to other important topics... I was curious to know what makes Brazilian zouk special to Olaya and Papagaio, how they motivate their students to practice and what does DJ Papagaio feel about the current trends on Zouk music. Olaya was also kind enough to tell me how she's been coping with her work as a dancer during her pregnancy.

Olaya & Papagaio dancing after their workshop at the Brazouka Beach Festival in Porto Seguro, Brazil

Olaya & Papagaio dancing after their workshop at the Brazouka Beach Festival in Porto Seguro, Brazil

ZTW: How has zouk changed during your dance careers, in the past 15 years?

Olaya Dendê: Because we dance lambada and later lambazouk, when we saw Berg & Solange dancing we really admired them - there was a lot of energy and it was very sensual. We looked up to Claudio and Claudia who had built a zouk community in Holland. Also when Gilson moved to Europe he was a big reference to us.

Dance is part of a culture and the people, like any other art it evolves.
— Olaya

During these past years, zouk has become more modernized. When Renato Veronezi came out with his hiphop influenced zouk style it was a big boom. And when new trends like this come up, other styles also adapt. Lambazouk also nowadays uses a lot more modern music and some of the isolations and breaks have also made their way to lambazouk, just like traditional zouk. There are no longer styles that are completely pure. But it’s part of a natural evolution - dance is part of a culture and the people, like any other art it evolves. Some changes are for the better, some for worse. Only time will tell what really stays and what was for better and what was worse.

Gabriel Papagaio Torres: I have one theory about this; zouk changed because the music changed. Also this is because internet exists - at the time when we started we had no internet. Then when we started to see videos of other masters and other communities around the world; this changed a lot how we dance.

Olaya: Yes, when we started there was no Facebook, no Youtube. So it was impossible to know what was happening in the other dance communities - we were just amongst ourselves. And now you right away know what’s going on in all parts of the world and can learn from the others and adapt. You can have the same evolution because of it.

Papagaio: In terms of music, it’s the same - evolution happens. First there was zouk and kizomba. Now there are the remixes, pop music, hiphop, etno music, Neo zouk from the DJs in Rio - music from all over the world. This changes the dancers and inspires new ways to dance.


ZTW: I know both of you are very respected among your students and the Brazilian zouk community. How do you motivate your students to learn and to practice?

Papagaio: There are different kind of motivations and different kind of students. Some people come to classes to have fun or to have an exercise, some people want to be able to learn and shine on the dance floor, some students come to socialise.

Being a professional dancer means that you’re a teacher, a performer and social dancer. But it doesn’t always go together in one person.
— Olaya

Olaya: Being a professional dancer means that you’re a teacher, a performer and social dancer. But it doesn’t always go together in one person. Some dancers are great social dancers, some are performers and really shine on stage and some are natural teachers. But we are obliged to be all of that. Personally I’m not a natural performer, I struggle with it and it has been a long process. I think I’ve improved and I’ve put a lot of effort to it. But teaching for me is more natural - I love to teach and I love the process of learning.

We give 150% of ourselves in the class and I think it makes a difference, makes people really work. So during the class I think we manage to get people to be motivated because we are motivated. Outside the classes, the motivation for people to go to parties, to events, to practice - it’s different. It’s more about people’s personal lives and their friends in class, the social relationships between the students. I can encourage and say one thing 1000 times - sometimes with no effect and sometimes it works well. I think it’s a personal thing.


ZTW: Papagaio, in addition to teaching dance, you’re also a DJ. We did a survey in the blog about what music people like to dance zouk to. In the zouk community, there continues to be discussion about should people play more original music (unremixed) or zouk remixes - what is your opinion on that?

Many modern types of music are difficult for the beginner and intermediate dancers.
— Papagaio

Papagaio: Often people don’t know what they want. It’s more important to find the kind of music that matches with the feeling of the dance. The music should be the kind that fits with the dance, with its basic steps - music that makes people want to dance zouk to that music. Many modern types of music are difficult for the beginner and intermediate dancers who just want to practice the dance. They cannot improvise to all types of music.

ZTW: How do you pick music to play in the parties?

Papagaio: I have to feel the music, I don’t know to explain it. I don’t make playlists, I’ve played for many years so I have a lot of music so I try to feel what is needed in the moment and what will get people dancing.

Papagaio and Olaya, dancing with their heart & soul

Papagaio and Olaya, dancing with their heart & soul


ZTW: Olaya, a bit of a personal question to you. First of all congratulations on your recent wedding and the coming addition to your family! I know this is something that many people must be wondering so I wanted to ask if you could share with us how has it been like to work with dance during your pregnancy?

Olaya: Interesting! Well, pregnancy itself is interesting - feeling so many different and strange things, so imagine working with you body! It's been crazy and I've learnt so much. Most importantly, each pregnancy is completely different, so you can never compare or know how it's going to be, just need to listen to your body and flow with it.

Personally one of the most interesting and first things I discovered was feeling the baby moving for the first time when I was less than four months pregnant. When I told my mum and doctors they said it was too early to feel her, but when I explained what I felt they were amazed that it was exactly what you normally feel at first; the bubbles, like a fish swimming. They said that maybe because you are so connected to your body, you have more attention to your body, you’re able to feel more than usually. I was happy for that but then I thought, if I feel more, I’m going to feel the good and also the not so good. So I wasn’t sure if it was going to be such a positive thing! But I know of other dancers that haven’t felt the baby so early, so it’s not something that only has to do with dance. There is no "normal", everyone is different.

In order to feel well I need to be calm, I need to feel well in my mind and heart.
— Olaya

In general I’ve felt pretty well, with of course some discomfort, but I have been able to adapt the shows and my own dance easily. Your body sends clear signs, you just need to listen to them. What I didn't expect so much is that it has changed my state of mind. I’ve discovered that in order to feel well I need to be calm, I need to feel well in my mind and heart, I need to feel well treated, to be kind to myself and to feel kindness from others. I've been able to be ok if I had all that. At moments when don’t feel so comfortable or something upsets me, before I could just ignore and move on, but with pregnancy it really affected me - not so much emotionally but physically. My emotions are also felt by the baby; I can deal with them but the baby doesn't know how to, and when she feels uncomfortable it affects my body! So it's been an interesting and unexpected journey not only physically - which I already expected - but also emotionally.

I have to say I feel so lucky that my dance partner, organizers, most of my dance colleagues and students in general have taken care of me so much. I have been able to go through the struggles always with support and love around me.

Olaya on the fifth month of her pregnancy, dancing with Papagaio at Brazilian Dance Festival in Amsterdam

Olaya on the fifth month of her pregnancy, dancing with Papagaio at Brazilian Dance Festival in Amsterdam

ZTW: What at the moment are you expecting or looking forward to the most from combining dancing and motherhood?

Olaya: I'm trying not to expect or look forward to nothing. It's difficult because you imagine so many different things and at the same time I try to be realistic. I don't know how the baby will be in each moment of her life - they grow so fast! -  and I don't know how I'm gonna feel. I'm trying to keep an open mind, especially this first year I will try to flow with life. I will concentrate on my baby and myself, start training when I feel I can, for the new shows and projects. Looking forward for this new chapter of life!


ZTW: Finally, a question to you both: What makes Brazilian zouk special to you?

Olaya: One of things that makes me love Brazilian zouk is that it involves all of my body and all of my mind. The other things is the energy, the flow and the music. Sometimes I go to give a class and feel pain somewhere or my mind is distracted but when I put on zouk music all of it disappears. Maybe it’s not even my favorite song - it’s not about a particular song - it’s the energy, the mood and the flow.

I can feel 100 things in zouk; I can feel sexy, I can feel like I’m flying, I can feel energized or calm.
— Olaya

Another things is that I can feel 100 things in zouk; I can feel sexy, I can feel like I’m flying, I can feel energized or calm. It’s very dynamic and can depends on the feeling, the music, the partner. I can feel every part of myself when I dance zouk.

I care much about zouk because I don’t want to it disappear - it happened with lambada.
— Papagaio

Papagaio: It’s special because it’s a special dance.. For me the dance is complete and I identify myself in it. I care much about zouk because I don’t want to it disappear - it happened with lambada and we don’t want it to happen once more. We believe in the dance and the way it is. And this dance we can help to preserve.


Go back to Part 1 of the interview with Olaya & Papagaio: Anybody can learn zouk

Hmmm... what are the questions I never dare to ask the international zouk pros? And who do I know that would give me straight up answers?

It’s a rare and precious experience to get to work with something you love - and with people you admire and enjoy spending time with. Olaya and Papagaio are one of my first zouk idols - their dancing swept me off my feet in 2011 and the feeling hasn’t faded over the years (quite the opposite). So when I finally had a chance to interview them, I jumped to the opportunity with all my long thought-over questions; ... READ MORE


Olaya & Papagaio

Olaya Dendê was born in Barcelona, Spain and has been dancing since she was 4 years old. In 2000 she fell in love with the world of Brazilian dance and immediately started performing and teaching. Always willing to learn, she’s combined her University studies together with Fitness instructor qualification and Dance Training (Ballet, Contemporary and Jazz). Olaya is considered one of the best Brazilian zouk teachers, known for her colorful metaphors and clear explanations - always making sure her students work hard, learn and laugh! It's also hard to miss her radiant dancing & big smile on dance floor. Olaya’s passion is dancing and teaching, doing anything for her students learn how to dance well, spreading the love and energy of dancing!

Olaya, Papagaio and Noora from Zouk The World at Brazilian Dance Festival in Amsterdam

Olaya, Papagaio and Noora from Zouk The World at Brazilian Dance Festival in Amsterdam

Gabriel Torres, most well known by his Capoeira name Papagaio, was born in Recife and spent his childhood in Fortaleza, Brazil. In Spain he trained as a Physical Education Monitor and later as a qualified Physiotherapist. Living in Barcelona, he’s not only a dance teacher and “Capoeirista” but also a very popular DJ. He pioneered the promotion of lambazouk music and classes in Barcelona, and in 2005 began giving classes together with Olaya. Gabriel is a very creative dancer and all his energy goes into the dance floor!

Olaya & Papagaio have given lambazouk workshops and shows at congresses all around the world and taken part in the organising team for DansaBrasil congress in Barcelona. They also work on several projects and have classes all year long at DancEmotion School in Barcelona.


Thank you again to Olaya & Papagaio for taking the time for this interview and for your tireless contribution to the Brazilian Zouk scene all over the world!