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Before going into the details of how to avoid becoming a terrible Zouk dancer in London, I would like you to take the time to read the next part and understand who I am, what I’m not, and the reason why I’ve written this blog.
1. I’m not someone who had been involved in the London Zouk scene and that won’t change any time soon.
2. Those who do know me have most likely met me at international Zouk congresses around Europe.
3. I’ve been dancing Zouk for 4 years, mostly at international congresses and events.
4. I still go to beginner’s class and attend mainly Zouk technique and fundamental classes.
5. I’m not a dance teacher.
6. I'm a student of Zouk and always will be. Continuously learning and growing.
7. Like most new beginners starting out, I’ve had very little exposure to dance in my life prior to learning Zouk. I can’t play any musical instrument and had little exposure to dancing at a young age. I’ve only been exposed to music at the age of 16, before then, I would rather be in the park kicking and chasing a ball around.
8. What is written in this blog are only my opinions and discussions with my group of Zouk dance friends. They are based on my journey and experience in Zouk, and I am by no means an expert.
9. I've been there, I was a terrible dancer. Surrounded by the right people, I was able to quickly change my attitude before it took over my senses and prevent me from growing. By changing my attitude, I was able to discover effective ways of learning Zouk that works for me.
The big problem with Zouk dancers in London
This article is aimed more at the London Zouk scene than anywhere else in the World that may be suffering from the same issues being mentioned in this blog. I've been told by many, that the issues I will mention are a Worldwide problem and not solely London. Suffice to say, I've not traveled the whole world and cannot make this statement and only you the reader from other cities in the World can relate. If your city suffers from the same "global" dance issue, then by reading further, what I have to say will make a lot of sense to you.
Just giving you heads up that this is a very comprehensive blog and it could take an hour of your time to read and more to digest. I would urge and suggest you to finish reading this blog in its entirety and reflect on the bigger picture before making any comments.
Cutting to the chase, the majority of Zouk follower’s in London are really lacking an understanding of what is Zouk basic fundamentals and tend to have poor or dangerous techniques. and this has nothing to do with the number of years they've danced Zouk, whether they've just started dancing up to a year, for two, three, or more years.
I get absolutely no benefit having spent days writing this and I’ve never had any interest in the actual London Zouk scene. I am writing this blog to help provide a guide and more importantly educate those who really want to learn Zouk on a serious level and become somewhat good at it.
My goals are to persuasively change your attitude when it comes to learning Zouk, for your own benefit, for those you will dance with and also on a grander scheme, for the sake of the London Zouk scene. The London Zouk scene represents the UK and we're currently so behind countries such as Brazil, Czech, Poland, Germany, and the Dutch.
I've been told that in Czech Republic, Netherlands and Malaysia, they have structured Zouk classes and qualifying system in place where beginners cannot progress to intermediate until they have passed all basic Zouk fundamentals. I am sure there are many more countries that teach Zouk like this and London does not?
I'm embarrassed to say that London Zouk scene mass produces extremely poor quality dancers and I know that the teachers and those who are passionate about Zouk in London knows about this major issue.
The ratio of good dancers:terrible dancers being "Made in London" is probably astronomical, only a handful of good dancers vs the hundreds of terrible dancers. I've come to believe this is down to a mixture of the following aspects that fuelled the production of these poor quality Zouk dancers:
• The wrong attitude when it comes to learning.
• They start learning Zouk for the wrong reason.
• Lack of discipline & patience.
• Laziness to build dance knowledge and further study.
• Lack of guidance.
• Running before they learned to walk.
• Ego and overconfidence.
• Lack of structured Zouk classes and qualifying system.
To a certain extent, we all need to take some blame to this and I surely do blame myself for not having done enough and hence why I have taken the trouble of pulling together this Zouk guide that isn't only for beginners but for anyone who does not wish to be or become a terrible dancer.
I’ll start off by explaining why I think the majority of London Zouk dancers’ sucks.
Please note, the list below is the extreme cases of terrible dancers based mostly from a leader's point of view. Only a very small number have I ever encountered in my years that had met all of these criteria's. However, if you can identify a few of these traits in you, then at least you'll have a fighting chance of fixing them. For the few who had ticked all these boxes, I really can't see the light at the end of the tunnel for you.
• They offer little or no connection. Do not confuse this with physical contact required for leading and following.
• They put a lot of physical strain on their dance partner. Overuse of physical strength, rough leading or overpowering frame / heavy as a refrigerator to lead.
• They need to look good on the dance floor.
• Ego’s – They think they are good, and they think that you think they are good. They’ve been in the London Zouk scene for quite some time, rarely attend classes, seem to know it all, however, they don’t seem to be developing or showing improvements. If you f*ck up dancing with them, it’s always your fault.
• Footwork is bad where they can barely hold their own weight from just doing basics or lateral.
• They don’t know or understand the basic Zouk fundamentals including what leading and following is.
• They dance on their own and do their own shit without being lead or invited.
• They tend to do a lot of ladies styling to mask how bad their following is.
• They try to lead every move in the dance. Don’t get me wrong, I like it now and again when the ladies take the lead, but please don’t take my role unless you explicitly tell me you want to lead.
• They don’t know when to switch their frame on and off.
• They’ve stopped going class after a year or two.
• They’ve danced for years and yet no improvement to any of the above bullet points.
• They complain about not getting enough dances and gets jealous when other dancers dance for several songs in a row.
• And the worse ones…. they try to teach you how to lead or follow.
I’ve probably just blacklisted myself from the majority of the London followers, but in all honesty, it wouldn't phase me at all. There are the minority who does follow and I’ve always had the pleasure of connecting with you on the dance floor. Please accept my sincerest apologies as this blog are not aimed at you, but do read on for your own pleasure. Also apologies to those who's reasons may not be to learn to dance well but rather enjoy the social side of Zouk because of the amazing kind of people it attracts. These are the people who just likes a little dance, the fun & laughter, meeting new people and without ever complaining what-so-ever.
I will be using the word “good dancer” very often which I define as a leader or follower and it’s not based on how long a person have been dancing Zouk. The definitions of a good dancer in this blog are the ones who act the opposite of how I’ve defined terrible dancers in the above bullet points.
So, why is it so important that the above bullet points needs to be fixed and I’ve had spent the time writing this blog?
1. London Zouk scene will implode and the rest of Europe will only get better.
2. First come Brexit, now comes Zouxit for London. Europe dancers will isolate Londoner’s and will dance only with the better countries.
3. The number of London beginners going to international Zouk congresses will decrease because when they go, they would struggle to dance with international dancers, and feel de-motivated especially when they see how well other countries dance. They then realise how bad they are, quit Zouk and the London Zouk scene forever.
4. The number of good dancers in London going to international Zouk congresses would increase as they go to search for better dances and hide from the London Zouk scene.
To fix this is simple, you need to AVOID becoming a terrible Zouk dancer in London and become a good Zouk dancer!
I am very glad that you have reached this far in my blog because it shows me your potential and commitment for not wanting to be categorised as one of those terrible dancers.
But first, let me explain a few other reasons you may want to become a good dancer rather than a terrible dancer. I know it sounds like common sense and obvious for some of these reasons, but trust me, it's not so obvious since there are so many terrible dancers in London.
A few reasons to become a good dancer:
• You will have the ability to create better connection, if your partner allows it.
• You could enjoy more dances with many or the same dance partner in a row!
• You will never run out of dances at social.
• Increased feeling of joy and better connection with your dance partner that will leave you both with a smile.
• Lower risk of injury to self and others.
• Receive lots of compliments from dance partners and all their Zouk friends will know about you guaranteed!
• You will make a lot of friends.
• Enjoy a lifetime of dancing.
A few reasons to become a terrible dancer:
• You will often feel disconnected with your dance partner.
• You will get enjoy long breaks and sitting out most of the time.
• You get to whinge about not getting enough dances.
• Enjoy one-off dances by yourself at socials.
• Higher risk of injury to self and others.
• Don't worry, the good news is this isolated feeling won't last very long because you will quit soon.
By reading further, you will already be 50% on your way to becoming a good dancer because you will be equiped with my knowledge and a master plan that you could follow.
You will find some of my tips & suggestions may apply only to followers and some to both the leader and the follower, but it is still worth reading them all!
IMPORTANT! - PLEASE READ POINT 23. CONNECTION AND FEELINGS. IF YOU WANT TO IGNORE ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS, JUST MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT MISS POINT 23. TAKE IT AWAY AND THINK ABOUT IT.
If you follow some of my suggestions below, I could somewhat guarantee that you are heading in the right direction and path in becoming a very good dancer.
1. Firstly, you need to acknowledge there is a problem.
2. Secondly, you are the problem.
3. Thirdly, identify where the problem lies within you. If you don’t know, then ask us where you are going wrong. I really don’t mind being asked on the dance floor during social for feedback; just don’t expect me to teach you how to dance!
4. Fourthly, work out a plan how to fix your problems; go back to beginner’s class, have private one-on-one classes with teachers but be specific what you want to get out of it.
5. Try different dance teachers, different nights, and different dance school/organisations. This benefits you by exposing you to as many teachers and other dancers/students as possible. Here's a link to find available Zouk classes in London/Birmingham/Manchester: A Beginners Guide to Zouk Classes in UK.
6. Don’t drink too much alcohol, you don’t need it to become a better dancer and would only make yourself think you dance better but in reality… you suck.
7. If you can’t let go of your ego, then at least put it aside during a dance. If you find that you aren’t developing or learning anything new anymore, then I would suggest a self-assessment to find out why.
8. You don’t need to be gifted and talented in Zouk to be a good dancer. The naturally talented dancers are a minority but having talent still requires hours of training and hard work to become a good dancer. The majority of us, such as myself are not gifted or naturally talented in dancing. For us to become a good dancer, yes, we do have to work twice as hard. I’ve always believed that dancing is a skill that anyone can learn, enjoy and become good at it. Only if you really want to.
9. Expect nothing. When dancing with someone, regardless of whether I’ve danced with them before or new. I would blank out any expectations. I don’t know whether it will be a good dance or terrible dance. There may be more connection, maybe less. Each dance is unique and will vary depending on each other’s mood, the song, ladies day of the month and many other factors. Even if you had a terrible dance with this person before, it could turn out to be the best dance you’ve ever had!
10. Aim to go to at least 3-4 international Zouk congresses a year! London teachers need to encourage this more. You should attend both the classes and party, brings lots of blue pills/pro-plus/Redbull/coffee/anything with caffeine!
I would highly recommend the international Zouk Congresses that I have attended in the past:
a. Zouktime Brno – best value, great teachers, and best parties. You will have the most amazing dances with the Czech dancers because they have the most incredible connection and a great understanding of basic dance fundamentals. I love the Czech beers and they cost less than £1 per pint and their Acai smoothie is a must try. There are also plenty of restaurants nearby that offer quality food and more beer!
b. DutchZouk Breda – the biggest congress in Europe; best for classes and a week of the worth of dancing allowing you to be exposed to thousand dancers. Build up those XP points and level up! The Dutch’s are at a very good dance level.
c. ZoukLibre Warsaw – good value and great parties. The polish girls really do know how to dance and you will level up in no time when your partner actually follows or lead the basics properly.
d. Travel to Brazil – This is actually on my to-do list, however many Zouk gave a lot of compliments and respect to the Brazilian Zouk dancers. It’s like Zouk just runs in their blood and they learn to dance Zouk before they even know how to walk! You will learn a lot!
Not sure what congresses coming up? No worries! Michael Jones from the Manchester Zouk scene had created this very useful Zouk Timetable. It is a webapp with the aim of helping dancers find and share zouk classes and events all around the world. ZoukTimetable
11. At international Zouk congresses, ATTEND only Technique classes such as:
a. Connection & Feelings
b. Fundamentals / Most Important Basics
e. Head movements / Boneca
h. Leading & Following
i. Lines and Shapes
j. Balance & Counter Balance (As individuals and with a partner)
k. Body Isolations
l. Body Contact
12. At international Zouk congresses, AVOID Combination / Sequence classes. Why on earth would you travel all this distance to learn moves that you could learn from watching Youtube or at your local classes!? Please tell me why so I understand?!
13. At international Zouk congresses, if there are ladies styling and technique class running simultaneously, then go to the technique classes. If you need me to explain why then you shouldn’t waste any more time reading this blog.
14. Try the different styles of Zouk. There are so many variances of Zouk and they are ever evolving and always new styles to be discovered. Or you can even create your own style by combining a few! By trying different styles of Zouk, it helps you understand you and what you like to dance to. They all follow the same basic Zouk fundamentals; however, I find certain style matches my personality better than others. I’ve discovered that I really like and dance better to lyrical style of Zouk because of the sensuality and slower pace.
For beginners, here’s a list of different Zouk styles should try, but not limited to:
b. Rio Zouk
c. RnB Zouk
e. Zouk Lyrical
f. Neo Zouk
g. Flow Zouk
h. Contemp Zouk
15. Pick a Zouk style you like and have some private classes with international teachers. Please ensure you tell the teachers that you do not want to learn combinations/sequence. Most international teachers will assume and teach you combinations/sequence especially if you don’t know what you want to gain or learn from them because it is easier to teach moves. Be specific about what techniques you want to develop.
16. Attend local parties such as Zouk Mania and RnB nights. Again, I would love to see teachers do more to help promote these community events to their students. You will find most of the London good dancers attend these two events; therefore you will certainly have more fun dancing with them and gain additional experience.
17. Zouk is enjoyed as a partner dance based on connection through leading (inviting) and following (choice). Just because the follower has the choice to accept the invitation to perform a move, does not mean you have the choice to do anything you want! I’ve invited ladies to do a simple slow turn which turns into a dangerous double spin and back dip. When this happened, you should have seen my ‘what the f*ck was that’ expression on my face. Please stop doing your own sh!t. If you plan to dance on your own, then Zouk isn’t for you and you should just go dance at a nightclub or do some other choreographed type dances. There are moments and many opportunities when Leaders will invite Followers to decorate, freestyle and break free of the leading and following rule, but when the constantly breaking free solo acts occur so frequently it will probably p!ss off most Leaders.
18. Enjoy it. This is easier said than done but I find that the more I’ve invested in my own dance development, the more enjoyable Zouk becomes. Being able to enjoy it means enjoying the dance together, not just for me but ensure the partner enjoys it also. Don’t be a selfish dancer and try to enjoy it yourself. Take a look at your partner’s face and you know whether they are enjoying it or not.
19. Dance with everyone, I mean it. Aim to dance with everyone and have at least one dance. Yes, even if you think this person is a terrible dancer, then at least you know you won’t dance with them again that night. This does not mean blacklisting terrible dancers and not dance with them forever; it means giving them every opportunity at each event and hope they’ve improved.
If you are a shy/introvert and not getting asked for enough dances, then you need to ask because this is for your own benefit. To help you, here is a blog link that I found very useful: 8 Ways to Get Asked to Dance.
20. Never turn down a dance. Even if you are tired, battered and broken, always say yes! There were times when I had to say no, however, I’ve always informed the ladies that I will find them for my next dance, and I do find them without fail. Integrity is important; it leaves an impression about a person and they’ve just added you into their queue of dancers for future events.
As part of dancing etiquette, for example, if you do turn down a dance because you don't like the song, please do not accept a dance with another person on the same song playing. This is very rude and I am sure the first person who asked you will remember and probably blacklisted you. There is a funny story to this because I had a friend who once declined a dance with a girl he didn't particularly enjoy dancing with on his favorite song. He sat out for the entire song moaning about it! Respect though, but if I was him, I would have taken my chances and danced with her!
21. You seriously do not need to know many moves to enjoy Zouk as you would think. I actually have a memory of a goldfish and know only 8 moves that I would recycle and apply all types of techniques and musicality to it.
Don’t worry, I have been in your shoes and have tried to learn 20+ different moves over the years but being the very untalented dancer that I am, unfortunately, I could only remember 8 moves.
This isn’t the end of the world! I had learned to apply different techniques and musicality to my 8 moves over and over again without ever boring myself or the ladies. This isn’t an exaggeration; I’ve recently been back from Brno dancing from 10pm - 8am in the morning using just these 8 moves!
You are very lucky that I’m actually saving you a lot of time and money by giving you all my trade secrets. Here are the 8 moves that I know:
(1) Basic step back forth
(3) Basic turn
(4) Washing machine
(5) Boneca / Head movements
(7) Body roll, waves & sway
22. What are the basic Zouk fundamentals? I've been asked a number of times by beginners to elaborate what are the basic Zouk fundamentals and why is it different to Zouk basic steps.
Zouk basic steps form a part of what I call the basic Zouk fundamentals and is a terminology that I chose to use. I will describe from my own perspective what the basic Zouk fundamentals are, but this varies from teacher to teacher, and what they see as important basic Zouk fundamentals for their student.
The following is what I believe form the basic Zouk fundamentals:
22-A. Basic dance knowledge - Leader and follower responsibilities, how to lead, how to follow, what is connection, how much physical contact is required for physical connection (not a lot is actually needed, light vs heavy), touch on topics of other connection types (ie. visual communications, feelings, eye contact), dance etiquette.
22-B. Basic movements and understanding of the body mechanics - Basic footwork (shifting weight and center of gravity), basic frame, basic embrace, basic back & forth, basic lateral, basic turn.
22-C. Basic techniques - Basic musicality, when to turn the frame on & off, basic balance & counterbalance, basic lines & basic shapes.
If you are a beginner and able to understand, apply and execute the basic Zouk fundamentals on the dance floor, you are superb!
It would be a very interesting discussion if teachers could share what they believe should be taught as basic Zouk fundamentals to beginners. Could teachers please comment?
Here's a blog by Jukka Välimaa called "Zouk: Back to Basics". It's emphasizes the importance of continued development of your basic Zouk fundamentals.
23. Connection and Feelings. I've saved the best and most important point until last. Being human, it naturally means we want to share our feelings through connection with people. We are social creatures and it's in our nature to express/communicate our feelings, otherwise, all that bottled feelings inside will only drive us insane.
First, I'll elaborate on what I've been taught and believe to be a connection and what it's got to do with feelings. Second, I'll explain how this tie in with mastering the basic Zouk fundamentals (refer to point 22). Please note I will be referring to bullet point 22 and their sub-points many times and will mark them in brackets with the bullet point's reference. eg. (22-A).
Dancing is a way for us to express/communicate our inner and maybe even deeper feelings with another person without the need for words. Dance conversations are based on actions through visual movements, contact & feel. We can express different emotions by varying the movements, through touch & pressure, shapes and speed we move our body parts including facial expression, be it joy, happiness, sadness, anger, peace, love, etc.
The reason why I still dance is being able to express my joy and the natural high I get when connecting with another person, especially with strangers since I am the curious type of guy. I can't dance when I am sad, and wouldn't be in the mood to do so, hence why I only dance when I am in a happy mood. This does not mean I will not express the feeling of sadness when dancing to a sad song!
I believe connecting your feelings with yourself, your partner and the music is the most important reason for dancing Zouk. Without feelings and connection, you aren't dancing Zouk; you are just throwing a bunch of moves on the dance floor. Zouk is all about feelings and connection, hence why it's known as the "Dance of love" for its sensuality.
It helps to understand how feelings flow based on the connection and bandwidth. The bigger the connection bandwidth, the more feelings both dancers can share with each other. The connection is part of the basics Zouk fundamentals (22) and learning how to create the connection with your partner. Once you have the connection, then you are able to share the different emotions and feelings at that moment created or emphasised by the music with your dance partner.
Sorry if it sounds a little repetitive, but I really want you to understand that this is what Zouk really is about. It is also important that you understand that feelings and connection can be created with anyone, whether they know how to dance or not.
Once you are able to tap into each other's feelings, your body will automatically generate movements that express this mixture/whirlpool of exchanged feelings. By mastering the basic movements (22-B), understanding body mechanics (22-B) and basic techniques (22-C), you will be equipped with the instruments to express this huge range of infused feelings.
There is absolutely no point in mastering the basic movements & understanding body mechanics, basic techniques if you don't know how to create connection and have feelings to interpret. You should take the time to fully understand the basic dance knowledge (22-A) because you will learn how to create, build bigger & stronger connection with your partner by applying it to the basic movements and basic techniques. After that, you will get the most joy out of Zouk.
Food for thoughts; Do you still want to learn so many combination / sequential types of classes? Whose feelings are you really expressing when you are executing a pre-planned set of moves? Are you really connected to your partner when you are executing a pre-planned set of moves?
Here are some final thoughts for you to take away. If feelings through connection are not being exchanged, and the dance is disconnected because leaders are not leading and followers are not following, then you are not dancing Zouk. It is very possible to have the best dance in your life with someone based on pure connection alone.
For every dance, focus on building that connection, if possible with your partner. However, be very careful again because you can be the most technical dancer and be the best follower or leader, but failing to connect with your partner, you have completely lost the plot of dancing Zouk and what Zouk is about. You'll be the dancing robot, emotionless and connectionless.
If you want to understand a few ways to improve your connection, then here's a blog that's worth 15mins of your time. 7 ways to improve your connection while dancing
23. Other Useful Resources.
We are all responsible for the London Zouk scene; however, there are some people who may influence it more than others.
Here are some of my suggestions that could help support and improve the London Zouk community and prevent it from imploding and self-destroying itself.
• Teachers have a major influence on their students, especially if they’ve gained respect from their students, so this shouldn’t be a problem by telling their students they need to work on their Zouk fundamentals which include the basic steps & basic turn (not spin). Explain to the students that they will get the most enjoyment out of Zouk once they’ve invested the time to understand and master the basic fundamentals of Zouk.
• Good dancers should attend classes and encourage beginners to spend more time focusing on getting their basics steps right and understanding the basic Zouk fundamentals. As a reminder, I'm using the term “good dancers” instead of “intermediate dancers” or “advanced dancers”. Just because you went to classes at those levels does not necessarily make you a good dancer.
• Teachers should suggest to students to take one-to-one classes with them to help them improve, or create smaller group workshops (eg. 2 followers, 2 leads) for those interested in having a thorough class in basic Zouk fundamentals. Obviously, prices can be charged at a higher rate to balance out the cost required.
• I’ve probably mentioned this several times now, but teachers need to teach in-depth the basic fundamentals of Zouk and not just basic steps. Students need to understand and grasp the dancing fundamentals including but not limited to just leading and following before progressing any further. Many followers don’t even know how to hold a frame, how to turn the frame on and off, the aim of light leading and following and what body parts should be leading certain moves. These are just a few examples of basic Zouk fundamentals.
• Good dancers need to stop masking the errors of bad dancers. I am very guilty for this in the recent years and probably did more damage than good. In the past I’ve been covering up ladies who don’t follow by making it look like they are following and that I’ve to lead the moves. However, from this day on of writing this blog, I will stand like a rock if you do not follow. Heed my warning, if I am standing like a rock, it means you aren’t following.
I’ve had comments back that I need to hold them tight and force them to follow. I disagree because isn’t that the same as forcing the ladies to do a move that they not willing to do? Leading is inviting a movement, and the following is the freedom of choice to accept the invite of the movement. I will not force you. However on an extreme case, if you continuingly insist dancing on your own even while I am standing still as a rock, then I will walk away so you could dance alone.
• I’ve noticed there are factions between the different London dance schools and their students. More collaboration is required to grow this community which would ultimately be the dance school’s benefits.
I have this feeling that each dance schools all hold tight onto their students, which impedes their growth rather than for the student’s benefits. How many London dance schools can honestly say they encourage their students to expand their horizon by attending other dance schools and international congresses to help them improve and also learn the pleasure of dancing Zouk? It makes me feel like the students are being milked like in an industrial farm caged animal. We know that the free-range chicken allowed to roam freely lays better quality eggs.
I would suggest some sort of collaboration such as an equal number of student exchange program to ensure fairness in income generation and that the dance school could grow as a business. This would greatly benefit the students because they are broadening their knowledge through different teachers as well as being exposed to more students and dancers.
Teachers could run one day a week adopting course style teaching from the Dutch and Czech only for those serious beginners/intermediate who wants to excel. I’m not sure what methods the Brazilian uses to teach, but they are also amongst my favorite dancers along with the Dutch and Czech ladies.
• I’ve read on Facebook comments that the London Zouk scene demands fancy moves rather than taking the time to learn and refine a new skill such as dancing. I still think this is somewhat bullshit because I don’t know anyone who would invest so much time on a hobby just to look good knowing it can’t be used for social dancing. The type of people who just wants to look good and show off doesn’t last long in the community before they realise how bad they are and quit. I don’t even want this community to be filled with this type of people who started dancing with such attitude.
Just a thought, but if there are lesser combination/sequence classes and more technique classes being taught, would this not attract good dancers back to classes? And if the good dancers are in classes, would this not help the beginners have decent partners to practice during classes?
• I call out to you students and students-to-be and voice out to your teachers. YOU WON'T GET WHAT YOU WANT UNLESS YOU ASK! This is on you and your responsibility as the students to tell your teacher what is it you want to achieve from dancing. Do you want to look good on the dance floor or do you want to become a good dancer in Zouk?
Only when enough of you make them aware of your real needs, then teachers could change their programs accordingly to market demand. Dance classes are small businesses and need to teach what the market demands in order to grow and prosper. I know teachers aren’t going to get rich doing Zouk nights and they have been doing this for many years for the love of dancing.
• Change from a "looking good" to a “do it right” attitude. Zouk is not about styling. This also does not mean knowing how to do basic steps, it means knowing how to do “basic steps” correctly based on basic Zouk fundamentals. Still, don’t know what are the basic Zouk fundamentals? Then you really should ask your teachers to teach you this.
• Work hard during your beginner stage, your efforts will not prevail and you will shine. Just showing up at class is never enough, you have to question everything and do some homework by reading tips, blogs, and youtube videos. Apply them through practice, practice and more practice.
Here is a link to a very comprehensive list of howto latin dance videos by Ashlee Dawson and Henri Velandia. Very useful for beginners and I've used a few of their moves on their dance floor such as the wave and sway!
No matter what level you are dancing at, I would highly recommend that you visit zouk-germany.com. It's a great place to spend your off-the-dance-floor time and solidify what you've learned in class or to refresh your memory. Fernando and Claudia had really outdone themselves to produce probably the most organised, clear and comprehensive set of Zouk tutorials. The planning, detail, and effort that had gone into creating their site and videos must have had been immense. Judging by the content on their site, you could actually sense their love and passion for Zouk, and how much they care for their students. Teaching not only to dance correctly but with the right attitude, expectations and as a philosophy of life. This includes but not limited to showing mutual respect and consideration for your dance partner (him or her) with the aim of making them feel good by the end of the dance.
Warning: I would only suggest applying very simple moves that you can learn purely from video. You should practice with care and not use untested moves on the social dance floor as you will risk injuring yourself or worse, your dance partner. Particularly dips, cambre, or large movements are high risk and should preferably be learned in classes. I tend to use the videos more as video reminder and point of reference for moves I had previously learned in class. REMEMBER, Classes are very very very very important and don't expect to get or be good by just youtube education!
• My first 2 years, I’ve picked up many bad habits by not learning correctly when I was a beginner. It is much more difficult to unlearn and then relearn to fix the problems in the long run. This had nothing to do with how my teacher’s taught me but by the attitude of wanting to be good quick.
• Unfortunately, there is no shortcut and I’ve obviously had to learn this the hard way. Now, I take my time to study and try my best to understand how to use each technique to create a better connection. It’s amazing how much better each dance feels by applying knowledge with techniques and it decreases the chance of injuring your partner. Trust me on this one; you should see the smile on their faces these days.
• Learning to dance Zouk is similar to traveling. It’s not about the destination; it’s all about the journey. Love every moment of it.
• For the London Zouk community to thrive and be recognised as a place to be respected by the other Europeans or even the World, then the responsibility lies in all of us. We all have to take action and start with changing our attitude and mindset in the way we learn. Learn from the Brazilian, the Dutch and the Czech dancers, they have the right attitude to learning and improving. Fast tracks and laziness are not a very attractive trait and frown upon, so why do we do it. It’s time you change the attitude and start learning the right way.
CONGRATULATIONS! You are 50% on the way to becoming a good dancer.
Thank you for taking your time to read and digest all of this information. You will most likely need to revisit and action some or all of my suggestions that interests you, so bookmark (Ctrl + D) this page.
Sorry for the long post, but this subject is very complex and I can assure you are very close to the end of this blog! I could have probably written this in shorter summarised form, but I did not want to miss any important details or thoughts behind each intention.
It is obvious in everyone's own mind that they will try to categorise themselves as a "good dancer". We instinctively try to do things right the first time and we don't intentionally set ourselves up to fail. Another issue is that we all think we are learning correctly without prior knowledge or experience; we don’t always know whether the way we are learning is the right way. This is one of my reasons for writing this blog, to share with you the journey that I had taken in order to figure out what had worked for me, so I could continuously develop my Zouk dance, and become an even better dancer.
Remember, the path of becoming a good dancer or terrible dancer is really up to you. It’s your choice.
I would like to thank the London teachers, event organisers and Zouk DJ’s who have work extremely hard and passionately to grow the London Zouk scene and community to where we are today. Because of their dedication, we could dance Zouk nearly every night of the week.
I know some teachers who are working very hard to come up with a solution to resolve some of the issues highlighted in this blog. Some of their plans I am very excited to see what they have planned for us and some of their plans are already being implemented.
London does have a wonderfully diverse set of dancers from all backgrounds and culture. We are a leading city in the World, and it would be a pity for not being the go-to-place for Zouk dancing. The same way I envy the Brazilian, Dutch, Polish and Czech dancers, wouldn’t it be nice for Europe to be talking about London Zouk dancers for being good dancers?
Publishing this blog, I know I’ve put myself in the firing line and to be hated by some. My choice of words describing 'terrible' dancers may not be most political but it's probably the most accurate. I am doing this for your sake and the London Zouk scene.
I’ve never really contributed much, and never had any interest in the politics. However, London does need people like us who have been sitting on the sideline to help take action. I’d rather take one for the team, play that bad guy, shoulder all that hate, be isolated by the haters and have nothing to gain at the end. But my goals and intentions are the same as many who are passionate about Zouk; to push changes into the London Zouk scene so it can become the best it can be!
If these problems are Worldwide and lacking resolve, then starting in London we should aim for a Zouk revolution. Rather than accept that it's a Worldwide problem, let's focus on making positive changes in the London Zouk scene and lead by example that we are not bound to this rule. And then, we can hope that the World will also follow suit.
My final notes, just so you understand, I've never ever once thought of myself as someone with expertise or a great dancer. I'm still a student and will always be. For those willing to listen, I will continue writing and be sharing my knowledge as I continue my Zouk journey.
Please share and feel free to comment. I would love to hear back from the good dancers, the terrible dancers and even the teachers in London. What would be particularly useful are feedbacks from International dancers, students & teachers comparing London Zouk dancers to their Country's Zouk dancers (if they have a Zouk scene).
Again, thanks for reading.
Adventurer and Blogger
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