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History of Zouk Dance

Brazilian Zouk

Brazilian zouk has it's origin in the Brazilian dance lambada.  In the 80's lambada became popular through a hit of the music group Kaoma. Kaoma was not only known for their music but also for their lambada-dancers. Lambada is a very sensual dance that was danced on the beach by girls in short skirts and topless guys. After being popular for a short period lambada soon became disreputable and was called ‘the forbidden dance’. For that reason the lambada wave found an end in the middle of the 90's and the music faded away quite abrupt. However, Lambada dancers continued dancing the lambada to other music, such as the Caribbean music styles zouk béton or zouk-love . The fast "zouk béton" was very suitable to dance the lambada on and lambada dancers form that time started to call the dance zouk to avoid the connection to the lambada. In Porto Seguro, Gilson Damasco was one of the first lambada dancers who started to call the dance zouk. He was a key figure in the development of the lamba-zouk style in Brazil. In Rio de Janairo, Adilio Porto and Renata Pecanha worked on re-establishing a good reputation of the lambada and started to call the dance zouk too. The use of  the slower zouk-love music made the difference to the lambada more distinct and soon a new, more sensual and fluent dance style, emerged. Through the years, people have started dancing Brazilian zouk to more popular music with a zouk beat whereby the connection to the Caribbean zouk music gradually faded away.

The first zouk congress was organized in Rio de Janeiro in 1997. The congress was, above all, a place for zouk teachers to share their knowledge and to build a network between dancers from different countries. Also ballet, jazz dance and modern dance influenced the Brazilian zouk. Mainly because a lot of professional dancers started dancing zouk and brought in their knowledge from other dance styles. Watching zouk, one can see very fluent movements, swaying the hair, waving the upper bodies and stepping softly on the zouk beat. The head/hair movements and the cambrés are very characteristic movements for Brazilian zouk. A difference to other partner dances is, that the leader not only leads with the hands, but uses his whole body by shifting weight or changing pressure to indicate movements. The steps can be put in the music differently depending on the zouk style one dances. While refining the technique and spreading Brazilian zouk over more and more parts of the world the differences between zouk styles got more notable.

After 2003 a variety of names were used for Brazilian zouk such as zouklambada, lambazouk, or the short zouk. We, as Brazilian zouk dancers, should be aware that the zouk music originates from the French Caribbean and that there is a Caribbean dance style that is called zouk too. Therefore, to prevent conflicts, it is better to use the term “Brazilian zouk” or “Zouk-Lambada” rather than simply zouk when referring to the Brazilian dance. In teh recently published book “LambaZouk the Technique Book” by Patricia Rezende & Claudia de Vries, “LambaZouk” is proposed as the official name for the Brazilian zouk dance. However, many people disagree with this term since it has been used a lot to refer to the more lambada associated zouk style from Porto-Seguro. Therefore, in our dance school we still use the term “Brazilian zouk” or “zouk-lambada”.
Read the article about zouk-lambada on Wikipedia

Different zouk styles

The two most important zouk styles are the Rio style and the Porto Seguro style.

The Rio style has its origins in Rio de Janeiro. In this style elements of jazz dance and ballet are being integrated and acrobatic movements are characteristic. The Rio style was developed already in 1989 and the name Brazilian zouk emerged from this style.
In the Netherlands the style is also known as zouklove and was introduced in the year 2000. The Rio style is danced besides on zouk music also on R&B, Pop or music with Arabian influence.
The Porto Seguro style is just as widespread as the Rio style. The Porto Seguro style is more similar to lambada and is mostly known under the term lamba-zouk. The reason for that is the difference in tempo. Porto Seguro style is danced on faster, preferably up beat music, which is similar to lambada music. Another difference between the two styles is how the steps are timed on the rhythm of the music. The Porto Seguro style is danced on the beats 1,2,3 (quick-quick-slow or chick-chick-boom) and the Rio style is dance on 1,3,4 (slow-quick-quick or boom-chick-chick). Generally the Porto Seguro style is more suitable for fast music and the Rio style for slower music.
Neo zouk is a more recent development. There is a neo zouk dance style and a related music style. The music style was initiated by Mafie zouker, a zouk DJ from Rio de Janeiro. The music is very intense with elements of dubstep and more difficult changes in rhythm or breaks in the music without a clear beat. Characteristic for Neo zouk dance are complicated arm position and a more serious atmosphere between the dancers.
Mzouk was developed in Spain as a fusion of Brazilian zouk and lambada with influences of the Spanish rumba. Jefferson Costa from Rio de Janeiro, who lived in Mallorca since 1991, created the technique. The M from Mzouk stands for Mallorca where the style was defined. Daniel and Leticia Estévez López are the two most known Mzouk teachers. They spread Mzouk since 1998 in the world.
Lyrical zouk developed out of the lamba zouk scene in London by Lindale Thompson. Musicality is very important in this style. Lyrical zouk is not only danced on the beats of a song but also on the lyrics. In this style dancers also use more space and the movements are bigger. Lyrical zouk can be danced on different music varying from classical music to swing.
In the Verozouk style hip-hop elements are influencing the zouk. The verozouk style is often danced on hip-hop music with a zouk beat. Renato Veronezi and Babi Pacheco from Brazil introduced this zouk style and are teaching and performing worlwide.
João Gilberto mostly known as Mr. Dragon developed the style zouk revolution. What makes Zouk Revolution interesting is the contrast between soft, fluent movements and more vigorous ones, performed with elegance, balance and control. Zouk revolution is often danced to Reaggeton music, which makes the dance very sensual. Mr. Dragon and his dance partner Bruna Sousa are currently living in the Netherlands. Zouk revolution is well known in the Netherlands and abroad.

Zouk in the Netherlands

Claudio Gomes and Claudia de Vries introduced the Brazilian zouk in the Netherlands in 1989. Claudio Gomes was born in Brazil. He moved to the Netherlands in 1990 when he begun to give salsa classes. He was criticized for his influences of Brazilian dances in his salsa style and he started looking for something new. That was when he decided to go to Brazil for the first zouk congress in 1989. Claudia de Vries, born in Suriname, came to the Netherlands for her studies. She started with samba classes and got fascinated by Brazilian dances and soon started giving her own classes. She was also on search for something new when she heard about the zouk congress in Rio de Janeiro.
At the congress in 1989 Claudio Gomes and Claudia de Vries met. They both returned to the Netherlands with the feeling that they could not stop dancing zouk. They started to build up and promote zouk classes in Amsterdam. Out of the dance scene that formed around them in the ensuing years several dance schools specialized in Brazilian zouk were built up. Also already existing dance school in the Netherlands started offering zouk classes within their curriculum. Claudio and Claudia also built up their own school, dance school Claudio Gomes, where they gave classes and organized zouk events. In a period when it did not go well with the dance school, Claudio Gomes moved back to Brazil. He now has his own school in Brazil where he teaches zouk to people from any social background. He is still seen as a key figure in the vivid zouk scene in the Netherlands. Claudio founded the company zouk lovers, an organisation that offers dance classes and other events in and around Amsterdam. When Claudio left, his student René de Zeeuw continued zouk lovers. Claudia de Vries went on teaching zouk after claudio had left and opened her own dance school Brasazouk in Amsterdam in 2004.  In that time Brazilian zouk started to get more popular in the Netherlands and the scene grew rapidly.
In November 2004 Claudia initiated the first Zouk/Lambada competition in the Netherlands. This event made the zouk scene of Amsterdam popular in the rest of the zouk community. Until 2010 Claudia de Vries was the organizer of the Zouk/Lambada competition. In 2011 the first Amsterdam Zouk Congress was initiated as a follow up of the Zouk/Lambada competition. The driving force behind the Amsterdam Zouk Congress is Mr. Dragon. In 2012 the first Dutch International Zouk Congress in Breda has taken place. The congress is initiated  by, Adam Dodoo, Claudia van de Velde (ZoukMotion) and René de Zeeuw (ZoukLovers).  With three yearly congresses the Netherlands has come to be an important country for the development of the zouk scene.
In September 2012, the dance became an official dance because of the book 'Lambazouk - The technique book' written by Claudia de Vries and Patricia Rezende. In the book all different styles of the dance are mentioned, but the head name is called 'LambaZouk'. However, this name is not in any way connected to a specific style of the dance. It is merely a shortening of Lambada (the dance where all the styles are originated from) and Zouk (the music that is most danced on). In January 2013, what could be considered the first feature documentary about Brazilian (Lamba)Zouk: 'Dance of Love' by Wilco de Groot won the Special Jury Award at the California Film Awards. The movie portrays four people dedicating their lives to the dance, namely Gilson Damasco, Cláudio Gomes, Shannon Hunzicker and Kwok One.

Zouk in the World

Zouk has spread from Brazil over many other countries in the world. The countries that are known for a lively zouk scene are the Netherlands, Australia, England, Spain, USA, Israel, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Poland, France and Denmark. There are many zouk congresses spread over the year where all the zouk dancers regularly unite. Zouk is still, compared to salsa for example, a quite small scene and usually one will see many familiar faces at such a congress. The congresses are usually a weekend to one week long with workshops during the day and parties and shows at night.
On the 16th of September 2012 the first international zouk flashmob was organized. Dancers from 98 cities and 37 countries took part and danced the same choreography on the same day on public places. The event was a great success and a 2nd Zouk Falshmob with even more participants from over 180 cities took place on September 21st 2013. 
 Website of the IZFM

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