Wednesday, September 18, 2019Light Snow -5°C
City

I'm a Horrible Zouk Dancer

Posted by Amie / December 17, 2012

zouk-dancing-montreal-bachata-festivalWhat the heck is zouk? I thought when I heard about the Montreal Zouk and Bachata Festival's closing party at Salsathèque a few weeks ago.

So I googled it.

Ten Youtube videos later and I was starting to get this slow, head rolling, hair-flicking, straight-arm wave-type dance with an inverted salsa basic. Seemed simple enough. Once at a salsa club I'd met this magician (literally, not figuratively) who invited me to his place to watch cha-cha videos, and when it turned out he was more into women and less into men than I thought, when you're into salsa, bachata, and merengue - the types of music that get the most play at latin nightclubs including Montreal's Le Cactus, Salsathèque, 6/49, etc. - learning another latin dance usually isn't so hard.

Except there are different styles of zouk, so when I went to the festival's closing party (a mix of social dancing, a showcase of the festival's invited guest dancers, and a Jack and Jill competition - pros paired with amateurs doing improvised dances for, in this case, a very informal panel of judges), I didn't know if I was going to have to dance Caribbean or Brazilian-style zouk to fit in. Some of the Caribbean-style zouk dances I watched on youtube resemble voodoo-style trances with women leaning back away in half circles in the man's arms, their eyes closed, seemingly in rapture. I wasn't sure I was ready for that.

Needless to say ten videos do not a good zouk dancer make. Even after arriving at Salsathèque for the event, watching the crowd for awhile, thinking I could do it (it's just following, right?), warming up with a few bachatas, my first zouk was a disaster.

I swirled and rolled and made it up to the best of my ability, but one dance and my first partner was gone. In salsa that's bad etiquette. You stick around for two before dismissing your low-level partner. But in zouk, I have no idea. A woman he clearly knew (and who was much more into head-rolling and interpretive dance than I was) scooped him up out of my arms. Though I've never felt so tossed aside on a dance floor, I felt better watching him dance with her because what they did wasn't beautiful to watch. And a few other people who danced with him also had trouble following his slow-motion action scene-inspired, esoteric zouk dancing.

A lot of zouk styles are also danced in closed positions, so you've got to get right in there with the lady's right leg glued to the inside of the man's right from the get-go, similar to getting stuck in a bachata and merengue turn. That's a pretty forward way to introduce yourself - your pelvis glued to their upper thigh. I danced with upwards of ten guys that night and only one of them actually told me his name. But I could tell that one of the others was especially happy to meet me.

When you're asked to dance you have to wait and see what kind of zouk the man leads (the sexy version or the more interpretive-contemporary version à la 'bad etiquette guy') and follow along. Seeing the Jack and Jill put that in perspective, as amateurs had to adapt to professionals' styles and pros couldn't go beyond the capabilities of the amateurs. There were lifts and splits and it was very impressive to see one tall, large Brazilian dancer make his small amateur partner look so good. Some of the male pros showed off, outshining their partners (a no-no) and a lot of the women were limited by their male amateur leads, but those who could just get up and dance beautifully (and not too inappropriately) with a person they just met were impressive.

I felt a little better about being such a bad dancer when I found out my first zouk partner was a pro. I felt even better when he was eliminated from the Jack and Jill in the first round. The girl he was dancing with didn't get his style right away either, and he didn't take his shirt off. (The men who took their shirts off and the woman in a shiny bra made it to the second round, throwing into debate the fairness of the competition.)

So I danced a lot more salsa and bachata for the next three hours and avoided zouk. During the zouk dances I watched the different dancers: A young couple - neither of latin origin - not doing anything elaborate but who had clearly danced together for a long time; the couple in closed positions who barely moved, the woman following every hip movement and shoulder movement intensely; the esoteric interpretive dancer and the one woman who could follow him; and the young pro in a white hat from Brazil who seemed too cool to not have an ego, but who impressively danced with every student there, not changing a thing in his intimate dance style whether the partner was a 50-year old larger woman with excellent hips or a 20-year old whisp in booty shorts.

And just before the lights came back on and the party ended when the music stopped at 3am, I saw the best dance I've ever seen live. It was a zouk, and it was the white hat-ed Brazilian dancing with another pro. I don't know if they'd ever danced together before, but what they danced wasn't a choreographed routine. And although was improvised, they couldn't possibly make a "mistake." She followed the music perfectly, falling into a backward bend in a syncopated rhythm, the Brazilian feeling it and helping her back up in a dramatic push precisely on the downbeat as she wanted. There were no awkward turns or stalls, and more interestingly, there was no sexuality. It was just a beautiful, heart-touching, flowing dance, and when they finished they looked at each other and they smiled, knowing they'd just shared something special that would never happen again.

It wasn't recorded, and they probably couldn't recreate it if they tried. But I saw it. And I appreciated it. And I'll never forget it. And watching this, I fell in love with zouk.

I'm now inspired to be a less bad zouk dancer. I hope more studios will offer classes for this relatively unknown dance and more dance clubs will play the music. So that one day, you too will see - or dance - a zouk as beautiful as that one.

You can take zouk classes in Montreal through Interfusion Danse at San Tropez, Club 6/49, and Café de Lima. Bachata classes are more widely available, at schools such as Movimiento, San Tropez, Dance con Migo, and Comomango.

Don't miss next year's Zouk and Bachata Festival in Nov. 2013.

Amie Watson is a Montreal-based freelance culture and travel writer. Follow her on twitter @MissWattson and on her blog, Multiculturiosity.com.

Edited photo of Pablo Schmoller and Liza Listvinsky From Zouk Nation website

Discussion

10 Comments

More Info / March 29, 2016 at 08:13 am
user-pic

I am genuinely grateful to the holder of this web site who has shared this enormous
paragraph at at this time.
Kanchipuram sarees / June 5, 2018 at 01:03 am
user-pic
nice post
Kanchipuram sarees / June 5, 2018 at 01:03 am
user-pic
nice post
golu dolls / June 5, 2018 at 01:03 am
user-pic
nice post
Kanchipuram silk Sarees / June 30, 2018 at 04:55 am
user-pic
nice post
golu dolls / June 30, 2018 at 04:55 am
user-pic
nice post
navarathri golu / December 29, 2018 at 06:06 am
user-pic
nice post
kanchipuramsarees / December 29, 2018 at 06:07 am
user-pic
nice post
kanchipuramsarees / December 29, 2018 at 06:07 am
user-pic
nice post
herbal powder / December 29, 2018 at 06:07 am
user-pic
nice post

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Toronto