That’s the question I asked myself when I first heard about this dance. Actually, I didn’t hear about it, I read something about Zouk in a social network picture, back in 2006. The description of my friend's picture was: “Dancing with my friend all night long. The best feeling ever after having a Zouk night!”
When I read it, I asked myself what is Zouk? It really made me curious. By that time, I was taking Brazilian Ballroom Dance classes like Forró, Samba de Gafieira, Samba-rock and Bolero. I asked my beloved teacher Gisele Souza if she knew what Zouk was. She opened a big smile before she started talking about it: “Off course I know. I go Zouk dancing every Thursday at Carioca Club. It is so good! I love that place!” I asked her if she could start teaching it and lucky for me she said yes.
I remember my first Zouk class. Just listening to the warm up song made me fall in love. It was literally love at first sight, when someone sees something and feels their heart beat faster, a feeling of contentment and a craving for more and more of that music and body movement.
It wasn’t easy to learn Zouk. I remember when I just couldn’t get how to do the head movements. But I didn’t care, I was so in love that I just wanted to keep learning it.
Unfortunately it was a series class so after one month my teacher switched the dance style and I couldn't find a place to take private lessons or classes. By this time, I was married, my ex partner didn’t like dancing Zouk and I couldn’t go out dancing by myself. Therefore, I had to take a break from dancing Zouk
Every once in a while I would take Zouk classes and dance with other students during socials/practicas, but I never went out to practice in a Zouk nightclub. I was used to learning and dancing only Traditional Zouk so there was much more out there for me to discover and learn.
In 2012 I finally went to Carioca Club, a very famous club to dance Zouk in São Paulo. It was one of the best nights of my life. Seeing that entire crowd of around 700 people, dancing so connected and beautifully, made me to learn even more. I wanted to dance like them.
I started taking private classes and going out to dance Zouk probably 3 nights a week. It became my addiction. My family and friends would make fun of me, saying that I was crazy. They never really understood my passion.
That’s when I truly started to understand the different Zouk styles. It was really challenging to follow different leaders and their own style on the dance floor. It was tricky and hard but it never discouraged me, it actually made me persistent and focused on learning it.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2013, I was lucky to find Ivo and Shani so I could keep learning and practicing. My husband who never danced before started taking lessons with me and he got hooked.
By the end of 2014 I moved to Portland and to my dismay, there was absolutely no Zouk in the entire state of Oregon. For 4 months I couldn’t dance and it was driving me nuts. I missed Zouk so much. There was only one night that I was able to dance Zouk and that was when Ivo and Shani were in Portland. Ivo and Shani came to Portland to teach Kizomba Workshops and I finally could dance with them. That’s when I met Carolina and Jamal.
By the end of January 2015 I decided I had to do something and bring Zouk to Portland. I contacted Carolina asking if she knew someone who could be my dance partner because I wanted to practice and eventually start teaching Zouk in Portland. To my surprise, she told me she was about to open a studio and invited me to teach there, which I will always be grateful for.
Since February I have been teaching Zouk in Portland. I am so happy to be able to relate to my students and see their smile and eyes shining every time they execute a movement. I feel a great connection with students that come to talk to me to express how much they love the Zouk music and dance. I always say “I feel you, I know exactly what you mean”.
I am also supportive and I make sure to tell them that I have been in their place before and I know how hard it can be to learn Zouk. There is a lot of body and mind preparation, things that will come with practice and time. It is a process that every student goes through when they start learning a new dance style. I am myself a student and I know that there is a lot more to be learned.
Today, Portland has a Zouk scene, we made it! Now it is time to make it grow and hopefully we will have a big Zouk community here. I’m 100% focused on continuing to learn and progress as dance instructor. My first goal which I have already accomplished was to spread my passion for Zouk and make people feel that same incredible feeling.
If you had never heard about Zouk before reading this post and would like to know more about this dance style, I would be more than happy to introduce you to this beautiful world.
Thank you to everybody that has been part of my Zouk journey and as I always say, let’s keep Zouking!
Written by Nathalia Carbajal
She teaches Zouk at VMAC every Saturday at 4:30pm