History of Zouk by Renata Peçanha – Brazilian Zouk Dance Council

We are going to talk a little bit about the history of Brazilian Zouk.

Where did this dance that we all love come from?  For those that don’t know, Brazilian Zouk evolved from a Brazilian dance called Lambada.
Lambada grew fast, it was a fever especially in Brazil, however at the beginning of the 90’s it started to lose its popularity.  While it was popular, Lambada was a dance that took over most night clubs in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro.  Night clubs played only Lambada. One day the DJ’s started to feel uncomfortable about all that success and decided to get together to deflate the music.

This initiative from the DJs contributed to Lambada’s fall.  Another important reason was the fact that it was a fast dance style, which made it harder for people of all ages to learn.  Dance classes that taught Lambada started with a large number of students and got smaller due to its intense body movements and fast speed.  In Rio de Janeiro there were many Lambada lovers who wanted to continue dancing the style.  This is when the History begins. Brazilians discovered the Zouk music, the rhythm.

The reason why the “Lambadeiros” began to dance Lambada to the Zouk music was due to its similarity to the rhythm.  The Lambada music had many influences from Caribbean rhythms, from Cumbia and Merengue.  Due to this the Lambada dancers were able to continue dancing Lambada to Zouk music.  Soon the Lambada dance started to adapt to the Zouk music, however the Zouk music was slower than the Lambada, so it was necessary to make alterations to the dance including to its basic steps.

This transformation happened in many states in Brazil, but I will talk specifically about Rio De Janeiro, which is where I am from.  I started dancing Lambada. Then in 1993 I joined Jaime Arôxa’s Dance School where I Learned Dança de Salão, which includes dance styles such as Samba de Gafieira,  Bolero and Soltinho.  I also started to improve my technique. At Jaime’s school I met Adilio Porto and we started dancing together.

Together we continued to develop the Lambada dance to the Zouk music and we realised that in class it was difficult to teach the Lambada basics on the spot with all the hip movements.  For the students to execute it properly it was very challenging.  So then with the influence from the other Brazilian dances such as Samba de Gafieira, Bolero, Forró, with basics going forward and backwards, we decided to use the same technique to help the students learn it.

The linear Salsa also influenced us to create linear movements like “Lateral” and “Bônus”, because the Lambada movements were all circular.  The “Lateral” is a linear movement which helps the students learn.  Following that other movements came up such as “Raul or Elástico” and “Bonus”, which gave origin to our popular basic kit.

At Jaime Arôxa school we had many teachers and students who contributed to the development of this dance style.  It wouldn’t be possible to do it on our own.  Jaime also incentivised and supported us.  With this support we were able to spread this new teaching methodology to other schools, other cities and also around the world.

In other states such as Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, the transformation of Lambada to Zouk originated in different ways creating different styles/lines of Brazilian Zouk.  In the beginning in São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, they were dancing more Lambazouk, which is a line that maintained strong influences from Lambada, while in Rio de Janeiro we worked with what we call Traditional Zouk (Zouk Traditional), which has a different dynamic timing, it has influences of Jazz and Contemporary.

There is also a line of Zouk which has influences from different dance styles such as hip-hop and contemporary.

Let’s remember that all styles continue to evolve along the years.  All dancers and teachers are always looking to improve their dance techniques.  All styles influence each other.  You can find more information about the styles and phases of Brazilian Zouk on our BZDC website (www.brazilianzoukcouncil.com).

All Zouk professionals decided to call this dance style, Brazilian Zouk (Zouk Brasileiro), with the objective to protect our own culture because this dance evolved from Lambada, which is a Brazilian dance.  It is not because the name is not Brazilian that the dance will not be from Brazil.  Also with the objective not to interfere with different culture’s interpretations of Zouk.

To conclude, the most important thing is that all professionals that have been working with Brazilian Zouk should continue to study and look for ways to improve their techniques.

Teaching the correct technique will help the dance continue to evolve and grow with quality around the world.

Renata Peçanha

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