Starting a New Chapter

How scary is it to leave behind your life, your friends and move to a new city thousands of miles away?

I’ve done it 3 times in my life so far, so I am very familiar with the challenges; from the most trivial (how to find a new hairdresser) to the more fundamental (how to find new friends).

My latest move was from New York to London. It was a relocation for work, and overall an exciting adventure, but the main reason I was not scared of losing my network and friends was because I already knew that I would easily find new friends in London… of course, thanks to Zouk.

But let me backtrack. I found Zouk about 2 years ago in New York City. It happened rather randomly; I bought a Groupon for a dance school but didn’t start taking classes until the Groupon almost expired. I was always busy, or tired, or lazy, or the weather was bad…but once I actually went, this light bulb went off in my head – this is what I have been missing all these years. Naturally, I started with salsa, just because this is what I had mostly heard of, and clumsily attempted to dance in clubs with my Latin American friends. After about 2 weeks of these classes I was walking in the hallway and passed by another room with an open door. The light was dimmed, the music was mesmerizing and the couples moved in hypnotic ways. “Wow, what is THIS!?” I thought to myself. The teacher happened to be by the door (I think it was Shannon Cronyn) and by some hunch I asked, “is this Zouk”? And Zouk it was! I was in love. I took the next available class. I endlessly researched the history of Zouk online. I listened to zouk at work and at night falling asleep. Within 5 days of my first class, I bought a ticket to the LA Zouk Congress – the very first Zouk congress in the United States.

I found more than dance through Zouk. I found a family. The people I saw in classes and in socials almost every day became my close friends. We started getting together for dinners, picnics, road trips to congresses, New Year’s Eve celebrations and more. Of course, when Zoukers get together, it’s never just for food; we would usually end up taking over any restaurant with our music and dancing. It was a real blessing to be part of this special group of people, so how could I leave them behind and move across the ocean?

Again, thanks to Zouk I became connected to people not only in New York, but all over the world. I had already met Solange and Joe, and a few other dancers from London. I also knew that the scene in London was very strong, much bigger than in New York and I would meet wonderful people there.

That was my expectation. The reality overwhelmed me. There are indeed so many more people in the dance community here, that my introvert self took a longer time to form connections with. What helps is that there is a Zouk social almost every day, and the biggest one happens on Saturdays. It is called FIX, as in “get your weekly Zouk fix.” Rather clever, isn’t it? We all need a bit of Zouk fix each week.

FIX is run by Kleber Saude and Anna De Simoni. They invited me to join their Brazilian Social Dance team, which was a great opportunity to meet people, build relationships, help out in the community and promote Zouk. In New York, I was a part of the Zouk NY performance team but here I feel that I am reaching a different level. Although my role is not as visible yet, it gives me a chance to give back to the dance I love. Zouk gave me so much and I am happy to help bring it to other people, so that they can experience the magic of Zouk connection.

If socials in London were not enough, there is an endless supply of Zouk congresses in Europe and one can go somewhere every month, maybe every weekend, and some events even overlap. With the cheap flights in Europe it becomes a no-brainer. I materialized my last year’s dream to go to the 3rd International Zouk Congress in St. Petersburg, hopped on the last-minute opportunity to go to the Dutch International Zouk Congress in Breda and when visiting family in Russia I stopped by the 3rd Moscow Zouk & Samba Congress. I was being rather conservative, because I missed the last Spiral Dancers congress in Barcelona, the Helsinki congress, the one in Warsaw and many, many more.

However, this year I was lucky enough to go to the Berg’s congress in Porto Seguro, Brazil. It was a place like no other where sun, beach, tropical stars and Zouk attract the best dancers from all over Brazil and the world. I had an amazing time, but I feel twice as blessed because Berg’s sister Solange lives in London and she organizes a congress there too. The UK ZoukFest is just around the corner actually. It will take place next weekend at a 4-star hotel near Heathrow airport in London. I am sure that it will be filled with the magic of Zouk, and I will be there to cover it for Zoukology magazine. So adventures of Zouk continue and I hope to see you there!

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About: Inessa Collier

Inessa started her zouk journey in NYC and relocated to London in 2014. She has always loved dance but after seeing Zouk she became passionate about this dance. She attended numerous congresses around the world and studied with the leading teachers. She has been involved in NY Zouk performance team in New York and in Brazilian Social Dance team in London. Now she is excited to share the passion for zouk with others to help them find exhilaration of this dance and connect to the global zouk community. Inessa works full time in the financial industry. She is originally from Russia and speaks English, Russian and French. She is also learning Portuguese.

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