“Be patient” - the (way too) long road from zero to hero (Part 1)

“Be patient” - the (way too) long road from zero to hero (Part 1)

“I’ve been going to zouk classes already for one year, why are the teachers still not doing any head movements?”

“Last week I was having many great dances in the salsa party but now it seems I don’t know anything, I feel like quitting.”

“I’m never going to get to that level.”


Sound familiar?

To be honest, I’m not the most patient person in the world. When I start to do something, I want to be ready now - in fact, I want it done yesterday. Even if I’ve grown to be more and more patient and more relaxed over the years, it’s hard to maintain your patience in the hectically buzzing world.

Patience is a skill we can develop - we’re certainly not born with it (think of any child you know). And, as I’ve noticed, it’s a valuable skill for dancing too! In social dancing patience is connected with being perseverant with your dance training and being forgiving to yourself. It also goes along with being present in the moment, being connected to your dance partner, being conscious about what is happening now and not feeling anxious about the future.

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What dance style to learn next? Poll results

What dance style to learn next? Poll results

September marks the change of the season for many of us. In the northern hemisphere we're getting ready for autumn & winter, and getting back to our routines after a blissful summer. In the southern hemisphere it's the time when the worst parts of the winter have been conquered and the spring is arriving. This is the time of the year when many people are looking for a life change and for most of us it equals a new hobby!

In relation to this, last month I had a lighter topic for the poll of the month. I asked you "which partner dance would you like to learn next?" I gave you some ready options; Argentine tango, bachata, Brazilian zouk, cha cha, cross body salsa, Cuban salsa, kizomba, lindy hop, rumba, samba de gafieira and west coast swing. Each respondent could only select one dance style in their response, or alternatively, they could also name a dance outside the list. 

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Be a dance superhero!

Be a dance superhero!

Wouldn’t it be great to be a superhero? To be strong as steel or to fly like hawk? I think it would! At least I’d like to try what it would be like to be one.

But in all reality, you don’t need superhuman capabilities to make a gigantic difference in other people’s lives. And that - if something - qualifies for “being a superhero” in my opinion.

This post is dedicated to all the superheroes who have and are making a difference in my life!

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Feeling or looks, what is more important in dancing? Poll results

Feeling or looks, what is more important in dancing? Poll results

In the last month’s dance survey I dove into another one of these topics that many social dancers often ponder... and argue about: What is more important in dancing - how it feels or how it looks? Both are central things in dancing!

One person may dance purely for the feeling; Think of a moment when you hear your favorite song and your body just begins to move - the feeling from the music can make you literally jump for joy or twist of agony. Or think of the feeling when you have the perfect dance in a zouk congress, connecting with your dancer partner, maybe event tapping into an emotion that plays out from the music or from that moment. There are many aspects in dance that links to 'feeling'.

Another person may enjoy dance purely for the esthetics of it - the elegance of the lines of a body, the a person can paint a picture of a song with their body and the movement. One reason surely why people love to see dance shows, go to the ballet, perform a choreography and practice their shines is for the way it looks; the visual appeal.

But what did the Zouk The World readers think when I asked them which is more important? Let’s have a look!

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Val Clemente and why "zouk needs you"

Val Clemente and why "zouk needs you"

Not many dancers are great teachers. And not many dance teachers can get you to learn and laugh at the same time! Someone who does this very well is Val Clemente - a zouk teacher from Rio de Janeiro. So when I met him earlier this year I was curious to find out how he makes this happen! 

Here’s Zouk The World’s interview with Val Clemente, where we talked about what makes a positive atmosphere, what is the most important thing in zouk and how to learn the most difficult moves, like the head movements. We also talked whether it makes sense to divide zouk to different styles and what style to learn. And of course I asked about "Zouk needs you"; how we could spread zouk!

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Who should ask for a dance? Poll results

Who should ask for a dance? Poll results

There are (quite) a few topics that split opinions among social dancers. One of them is who should ask for a dance - is it the man’s job, should women take charge in this, or does it even make any difference?

Last month I posed this question to you, hoping to get a lot of replies.
And reply you did! Thank you for taking part in this poll so actively!

The zouk dancers are quite a liberal and equal bunch. We prefer to dispense with the formalities - there’s no cabeceo like in Argentine tango or any rules of who can ask whom. But are we really completely liberal or do we want complete equality? The leader has more responsibility in the dance in many ways so should the leader also be responsible for asking the follower? Or on the other hand, as the follower should surrender to the lead, should the follower then make the decision of who she wants to follow? Like I was expecting, and could read from your comments, there’s not a 100% consensus on this.

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Salsa vs. Zouk

Salsa vs. Zouk

You might remember from last year that I started a new chapter in my dance adventures: learning cross-body salsa. I spent the last four months of 2014 learning the salsa basics and ended the year feeling quite excited about my new dance skills. My spins were faster than ever, coordination and balance improved, following skills renewed and generally I feel superb. And utterly confused.

But I had no time to feel renewed or confused. Almost straight from my last salsa class I flew to Brazil for a month of zouking, all day and night. I quite literally had to zouk the salsa out of me and fast! It didn’t take long to sink back in my comfort zone - into the arms of the fantastic Brazilian zouk dancers. The month in Brazil was like a month in *sigh* heaven, to put it short. After coming back home from Brazil I dove further back into zouk. After the bliss of Brazil I didn’t really miss salsa all that much - the zouk tunes were calling to me like sirens luring sailors to shipwreck.

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Dance event survival guide

Dance event survival guide

Off to a dance festival but don't really know what to expect? How to plan a trip to a dance congress? What do you need to pack with you? How to best prepare yourself and make the most of the event?

Lucky you, going to a dance event - they're so much fun! This is the fully updated survival guide for you who are going to your first international dance event or you who want to have remind yourself of what to pack and prepare for. First we look at where to go, then other preparations for the event, then how to survive the event itself and what to do after!

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Your best social dancing experiences? Poll results

Your best social dancing experiences? Poll results

This is the start of the “Poll of the month” blog post series!

For a long time I've wanted to hear more of your thoughts so I when I opened this new website I also posted the first Poll of the month. And I was feeling quite brave right from the start - I set out on a quest to get dancers to share their best social dancing experiences. I asked you to tell where you had your best social dancing experience and what made this the best.

Those are some tough questions, I know. ‘Social dancing experience’ is not something you can quantify. It can be a fleeting moment on the dance floor - or a lasting memory. But even if it's a lasting memory, it's rarely something you write down, or compare with other experiences.  Or do you ever make notes, such as, “I give this dance 76/100 points.” I hope not!

It felt like those were also pretty private questions - do you really want to share your very personal experiences, I wondered? And it did indeed feel like you were shy to give me your replies. But I was curious and undeterred: I wanted your stories. In this post I spill the beans. Here are your best replies and my best social dancing experiences!

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Building bridges, not fences - 10 tips on how to grow your dance community

Building bridges, not fences - 10 tips on how to grow your dance community

Brazilian zouk. A mix of emotions and memories run through my brain every time I think of those two words. Never in my life have I had such an intensive hobby. Among the zoukers I know this seems to be more the rule than an exception. I constantly hear from new dancers that "my life has completely changed since I started zouk". What is it about zouk that consumes the mind? I bet it's different for everyone -  maybe part of it is the infectious zouk music that beats into our hearts; the telepathic connection you have with your dance partner; the intricate details that keeps you on your toes even after years of dancing, wanting to learn more; and perhaps the warm, welcoming dance community?.

Being so hooked into zouk, year after year, it makes me wonder: Why is it so hard to make the zouk scene grow? Why are many of the zouk communities quite small?

Yes, Brazilian zouk is still a rather new phenomenon among the wide spectrum of dance styles around the world. In the past couple years, the number of zouk dancers and big events have increased substantially and there are some major global zouk projects ongoing, such as the International Zouk Day. But none of these have so far brought zouk real international fame or a big boom in the number of zouk dancers.

There's no shame in being small. But in order for zouk to thrive we do need more people - the more the merrier!  What can the zouk communities & the leaders in the community do to help it grow?

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Floorcraft in practice - 14 tips for the dance floor (Part 2)

Floorcraft in practice - 14 tips for the dance floor (Part 2)

In Part 1 you could read the introduction to floorcraft. 

Now let's get to work - here are 14 practical tips to improve your floorcraft! This includes some general dance floor etiquette and basic leading & following skills - all you need to make the dance floor safe and enjoyable for everybody.

Some of the tips towards the end of the list are categorised specifically for leaders and some for followers, but all are important to know no matter whether you lead or follow.

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Social dancing floorcraft - dance floor survival basics (Part 1)

Social dancing floorcraft - dance floor survival basics (Part 1)

Imagine a big open space and your favorite song - you can already see yourself dancing across the floor, can’t you? I love a dance that covers the entire floor space, gliding from one end of the room to the other. But most times you go out dancing you don’t have a massive open space: you’re on a dance floor full of people.

The dance floor is open to everybody and no matter how crowded the floor is and no matter if you’re a beginner or a professional dancer, you have an equal share of the floor. So how can I get the best out of the space so that everybody on the dance floor can enjoy their moment? Well, I looked it up. Welcome to Zouk The World's “Floorcraft 101”!

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Larissa Thayane - "Foundations are the key" (Interview Part 2)

Larissa Thayane - "Foundations are the key" (Interview Part 2)

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 her, 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. 

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11 things I wish I knew when I started dancing zouk

11 things I wish I knew when I started dancing zouk

Just a short while ago I was celebrating my four-year zoukiversary! (Yes, that means it's been four years since I started dancing Brazilian zouk.) Time flies by and a lot has happened during those years, such as traveling around the world by myself as well as basically redefining myself.. no biggie! :D Never did I imagine that such a thing as Brazilian zouk would just take my life by the balls and completely sweep me off my feet. It's been a fun ride!

Reminiscing the years passed by, it's fun(ny) to read old blog post and watch the old dance videos - that is some scary stuff! But all part of one awesome journey. This lead me to think what would I do differently if I had the chance? Nothing really, I guess. But there are indeed some things I wish I knew when I started dancing zouk. Some of these are things that people did keep telling me - but at that time I didn't really sink in. Here's what I would tell to my fellow beginner zoukeiros and zoukeiras that are in the beginning of their dance journey!

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Zouk dancer's challenge: Learning salsa!

Zouk dancer's challenge: Learning salsa!

A while back I decided to take on a new dance challenge: I signed up for salsa classes for this autumn season. In other words: Salseros, beware! :D

So starting early August I've been learning cross-body salsa with a simple intention of becoming a fluent social salsera. I committed myself to this project for four months -  it will be exciting to see how much I improve during that time and how I'll feel about salsa then!

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In the flow - Zouk flow (Part 2)

In the flow - Zouk flow (Part 2)

Why is it that so often we zoukers go on about connection, the art (and mastery) of leading & following, musicality - and now about flow?

Perhaps it's because these things are the essence of zouk. They're what makes zouk so great, so magical... do I dare even to say unique? At the very least, these are the things what many of us identify in zouk and fall in love with.

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In the flow - 5 keys to the magic of dance flow (Part 1)

In the flow - 5 keys to the magic of dance flow (Part 1)

Flow is a moment in time when you’re both challenged at the activity that you’re doing, and when you also have complete autonomy in the task you’re conducting.
Everett Bogue, in The Hidden Art of Achieving Creative Flow.

Have you experienced flow? Dance flow? Creative flow?

I have. One thing that's so great about dancing - and dancing zouk is what I'm writing about here in particular - is the flowing motion. When you're in the dance flow, you will certainly have one of the most pleasurable moments on the dance floor (or anywhere).

It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

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How to improve your musicality? 6 exercises for dancers (part 2)

 How to improve your musicality? 6 exercises for dancers (part 2)

From theory to practice - how can you improve your musicality? 

“And if the music's good, you dance."
- Unknown

Perhaps you've taken a musicality workshop with your dance teacher or at a congress, and you have already an idea how to work on your musicality (I fully recommend taking workshops and private classes!). But there's plenty of exercises you can do on your own, and this will allow really to dig into details and work at your own pace. Below a collection of exercises that will flex your musical muscles! I hope you'll find these tools useful - I've worked with a variation and combination of these over the years and I feel they've helped me.

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Getting a grip with musicality - the most vague and insightful part of dancing (part 1)

Musicality is to me one of the most important aspects of dancing. The best dance partners are gifted in many respects; technique, style, connection and they are overall great people. Musicality is one important trait among those, it helps an otherwise good dancer rise to an extraordinary dancer. And for me it's the thing that makes the magic happen on the dance floor.

In the words of ballet teacher Deborah Wingert. “Musical dancers don’t just turn until they stop. They turn until they have to move on to the next point in the music. Musical dancers never get so caught up in steps that they ignore the music.”

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