|Alisson Sandi - three-time world champion in Brazilian Zouk (Photo: Alisson Sandi)
But how did a Brazilian dance get a French name? Alisson Sandi, the three-time world champion in Brazilian Zouk, explained: “Actually, this is one of the things that confuses a lot of people because if you look up the word ‘Zouk’ on Google you are going to find a lot of things coming up that have nothing to do with Brazil. They will be French or Caribbean because the word Zouk means ‘party’ or ‘celebration’ in French. So what happened was, in Brazil, we have the dance and music called Lambada, but there was not a lot of new Lambada being released by artists or stations.”
“So the dancers started looking for different music that would match, and they found French Caribbean Zouk. It started by dancing Lambada to Zouk, originally French Zouk music, and then over time, they started dancing differently as well. And then with dancing differently, they started calling it differently.”
Brazilian Zouk is the result of an evolution of dance. In addition to Lambada, it is also influenced by other Brazilian and European dance styles. There are movements that, to the eyes of a novice, may resemble other genres. Yet when you take a closer look, Brazilian Zouk still has its own flavor that makes it one of a kind, Alisson said.
|Brazilian Zouk may resemble other dances to the untrained eyes. (Photo: Attribution license by Berg Chabot)
“For a while, there was a bigger difference, but in the last five years or so we’re seeing a trend that is going back to the roots per se. But still, when you watch and look at it, you might be able to pick up the differences. Lambada is usually more high energy, fast speed, whereas Brazilian Zouk can still be high energy but less than Lambada, and the movements are more elongated, and the steps are bigger.”
“You can see a lot of hair flying this way because as the dancers are dancing, they are up straight, and their movements have a little bit of body tilt. Imagine if you want to roll your head around, your hair is flying around. That is something that you don’t see in other dance styles that when people see Brazilian Zouk, they get really intrigued by it.”
There is no doubt Brazilian Zouk is growing rapidly in popularity. International Zouk Day, for instance, is an annual event first held in 2012 and has since attracted people from more than 30 countries to join in a Zouk flashmob. As for Alisson, he has instructed people of all ages, ranging from the 20 somethings to those well over 80 years old.
Health benefits aside, the adaptability of Brazilian Zouk is also what draws people in. Alisson said that as long as the music has the right rhythm, Zouk can be danced to any genre.
|Brazilian Zouk can be danced by anyone and to any genre of music. (Photo Attribution license by Berg Chabot)
“You can pretty much get music from anywhere, even local Vietnamese music and dance Zouk to it naturally just as it is, or you can add some instruments on top just to give a different feel. The beautiful thing about Brazilian Zouk dance is that it’s a very new style. It’s just under 30 years old.”
“To be more precise, I think it was really called Zouk at the end of the 90s, so that’s 25-26 years old. And because of that, the influences from all different dances and from all music styles made this a very rich dance. You really can dance from a lyrical, very romantic type of music, all the way to electronic music. It depends on the taste of the crowd or your own personal taste.”
Brazilian Zouk is a partner dance. And just like many other partner dances, some of the moves are intimate, or even daunting. There are a lot of light touches and close contacts between the partners, yet this choreography is not at all awkward for them. Once people are in the dance, all they can think of are the movements of their body, the timing, and the technique behind it. In an era where automation prevails and human connection is often overlooked, Brazilian Zouk provides a healthy way for people to socialize. The beauty of Zouk, according to Alisson, lies in its intimacy.
|To the three-time world champion, the beauty of Zouk lies in its intimacy and human connection. (Photo: Alisson Sandi)
“There’s an aspect of the dance that is closer than others. The movements have a look that may be sensual, but once you’re in the dance and doing it, you don’t feel that it’s sensual. Of course, at the beginning, just holding somebody’s hand can be a little bit too much. You know, holding, touching somebody’s back, or being so close to somebody can be a little bit uncomfortable. But what I find is that it’s uncomfortable because people are not used to it, not because they don’t want it or don’t like it.”
“Most people come to Zouk and fall in love with it so much because they lack that emotion in their daily lives. They lack the touch. They want to be able to hug somebody like a friend, and not be seen as doing a wrong thing. You’ll find that at first when you go to see Brazilian Zouk, or a lot of other dance styles as well, people are more touchy, more vulnerable, more open to emotions, and I think that’s something everybody’s looking for.”
As an instructor, Alisson has strived to spread the beauty of Brazilian Zouk by teaching dance workshops around the world. In 2024 he has big plans: Alisson is bringing BraZouky, the Brazilian Zouk Dance Festival to Hanoi for the first time in June. If you haven’t got any plans this summer, you’d better grab your dancing shoes and try this captivating dance.
|(Photo: Alisson Sandi)