Zouk For All Those Young at Heart
A leading Zouk teacher once said, “you need to be young at heart to do Zouk”. I did not understand what that meant, as I was still new at Zouk, but now I do. The Zouk community (at least here in the USA), seems to attract the single young professionals, yet there is a group of 40 and up-Zoukies, who are just as committed to their dancing and have embraced the dance for similar reasons: its sensuality, its sense of connection, its variety of music and its social fun. For them, the dance does not seem to be defined by their age. Instead, their Zouk dancing has gracefully defied the stereotype image of the older dancer.
As a well-seasoned professional modern dancer, exploring other forms of dances that are equally as expressive, as technically challenging and as physically rigorous, Zouk has perfectly met all those needs for me. In Zouk there is an expressive musicality when improvising with someone, as well as a sense of achievement when the following is effortless. Combined with the sweet lingering “high” at the end of a good dance, Zouk seems to always beg for yet another dance!
This euphoric feeling is not exclusive to trained professionals like me, but it is indeed shared by all who fall for Zouk. Even the older dance crowd seems to passionately enjoy the personal challenge of mastering the dance.
Aria, a NY born and raised electrical engineer, took one Lambada class back in 1989, but it was only in the mid 90s when he finally took classes regularly from Aochan, one of the earliest Zouk instructors in NY. Soon the Lambada dance evolved with changes in its music and rhythms, and eventually adopted the new name of “Brazilian Zouk” as we know it today. To Aria, Zouk is sensual, graceful and connected. Throughout these years, those aspects kept him involved in the growing Zouk community as he joined performance groups of Tropical NY, Zouk NY and most recently Raw Zouk.
Although he likes the process of learning new and complex steps for choreography, he still enjoys the personal connection that social dancing offers. Finally, even though he feels his aging body is more prone to injuries, and has limited him from doing more flashy moves, he sees himself dancing for a long time. His aging surely has not been stopping his Zouk.
Manny, a 62-year-old widower of five years, is quite new to Zouk, having started his training early this year. NY born and raised, he grew up with Latin music and dancing as part of his Puerto Rican upbringing.
Nine months after his wife passed away, he rediscovered his interest and joy in dance when a good friend persuaded him to go out dancing. Eventually that lead him to take lessons in Salsa and Bachata, but it took him a few more years to warm up to Zouk. Currently, he is determined and committed to master Zouk dancing as it brings him a sense of connection, enjoyment, socialization, new friendships, and above all, an “opportunity to create a beautiful dance with a total stranger”. Newly retired and enjoying golf, fitness and a healthy lifestyle alcohol-free, I dared to ask him if he would ever stop dancing Zouk. His proud answer: “Never!”
The best way to improve one’s dancing is to practice with an equally devoted Zouk partner. Manny has found that ideal dancer in Nagisa. Married and a mother of two teenagers, one in college and the other still in high school, she manages to stay fit and trim with weekly ballet classes. Two years ago, after seeing a video of Kadu and Larissa, she began learning Zouk, a dance she loves for its sensuality and effortless fun. Although she has added Salsa and Bachata to her list of social dances, by far Zouk is her favorite, as it allows her to express herself as a woman. She has performed Zouk choreography with the IZFM and the ZenZouk student team.
Yet, she considers social dancing Zouk a time just for herself, where she can simply close her eyes and trust her leading partner with exquisite abandonment. Nevertheless, she enjoys applying technical details like pointing her feet, using her core and lengthening her head up, to look graceful and elegant on the dance floor. She is aware that she needs to take good care of her body to prevent injuries to her neck and back. And even though she feels many aches and pains after a social, she is determined to Zouk until she no longer can move!
Surely Aria, Manny and Nagisa are not the only ones who love to Zouk, because of the connection, the new friendships or the joy of expressing oneself. Their age and life experiences certainly should not be seen as a disadvantage on the dance floor, but an inspiration to those who dance with them and watch them move with just as much passion and sensuality as others half their age. Indeed Zouk is for all those young at heart and who simply love to dance, love to share this dance with others, and love the joy that dance brings to their life.
Photo by James DeSalvo Photography