Zouk is a fun, modern dance suitable for all ages. For many in the younger dance crowd, Zouk has rekindled an interest in partner dancing. For those who have experience dancing other traditional Latin dances (and even West Coast Swing), many of the moves, techniques or concepts from those dances can be imported to Zouk, making it relatively easy to adapt to this dance. In addition, Zouk can be danced to a variety of music and a variety of moods, making it a versatile dance to know.
In Antillean French Creole, Zouk means party! Zouk is both a dance and a type of music. This sensual and energetic dance has roots in Brazilian Lambada and Samba, while the music has French Caribbean roots.
Characteristic Movements of Zouk Dance
Zouk has a characteristic wave-like movement, elongated steps and striking hair movements by the lady. The movements are a rhythmic side to side and a rippling forward and back wave-like motion. Body rolls are reminiscent of the Samba, while hip grinds are reminiscent of the Lambada.
Accomplished female dancers roll their head in a circular motion and from side to side keeping to the rhythm of the music, and thereby creating a fluid and sensual quality to their dance. Sometimes they punctuate the end of a sequence or step pattern with an back arch and throwing back of the head. This is the essence of the original Lambada and is visually stunning to watch! (Neck or other injuries are possible and anyone executing these moves should exercise caution and good judgment.)
The embrace when dancing Zouk-Lambada is very close. The follower dances on the balls of her feet (heels off the ground — as if tip-toeing on hot sand) with a twisting motion so that her steps appear to grind the floor (as if stubbing out a cigarette). This in turn which emphasizes her hip movements.
Dance Embrace / Hold
Zouk can be danced in open or close embrace or hold. The open embrace is similar to the Salsa open embrace dance hold (with a gap between the partners' bodies). The close embrace hold is similar to a Bachata hold (where the partners' bodies touch).
The choice of hold depends on the comfort level of both partners and the type of music and dance patterns being used.
Open holds are suitable when dancing with a stranger and when dancing a fast paced Zouk with underarm turns and other patterns that require an open embrace.
Close embrace holds are suitable for partners who know each other, who are comfortable with this hold and for slower Zouklove or Zouk-Lambada music.
Men should never assume that women are automatically comfortable with a close hold. When dancing with someone for the first time, the leader should ask the follower if they are comfortable dancing in close embrace.
Samba de Gafieira is a spot dance that is danced in an elongated slot. It takes up floor space similar to West Coast Swing. The Tango-type steps are travelling steps that can be danced up and down the slot.
The inspiration for Zouk's style of rhythmic music comes from Haitian rhythms, as well as music called cadence - music of Dominica popularised by Grammacks and Exile One.
The Caribbean Antillean band Kassav' (see below) is credited as being the originators of Zouk music in the late 70s and early 80s. The band's originator Pierre-Edouard Décimus had been co-leader of a successful cadence band Les Vikings de la Guadeloupe.
Zouk music started to become popular around the time Lambada music was fading from the Brazilian dance scene. After Lambada music stopped being composed, Brazilian Lambada dancers started to use the Zouk music. Soon, an off-shoot of Zouk called Zouk Lambada was born.
The name Kassav' is a take on the Haitian dish cassava, made from manioc paste and coconut.
Kassav', the band, was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus. Décimus worked with Freddy Marshall to adapt carnival music and give it a modern feel. Their first album, Love and Ka Dance (1980), established the sound of Zouk. Later in 1985 they produced Yélélé, which featured the international hit Zouk la sé sčl médickaman nou ni. This hit propelled Kassav' to world-wide popularity.
The members of the band originally came from the French Antilles islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique where parties are called zouks. Since Kassav's music was the music of choice at the zouks, their music came to be known as Zouk music and a genre was born. By the mid 80s other Antillean bands began to cater to the demand for Zouk music and its popularity spread around the globe. Surprisingly, after all these years the popularity of Zouk is still very much a local phenomenon in some regions. In Canada for instance, it is popular primarily in Quebec.
A popular Kassav' number is Aisha.
Zouk is danced to a slow-quick-quick rhythm, the strong beats and therefore longer steps being on the first third & fourth beat of the bar.
The tempo of the dance varies from a fast Zouk-Lambada to slower Zouklove.
Zouk Dance Styles
Zouk and Caribbean Zouk
Zouk has so many variations based on the mood of the music and the area in which it is being danced, that it is difficult to pick out a consistent theme that can be described as fundamental or original Zouk.
The music has a boom-tick-tick feel to it, the tick-tick, being syncopated or cut beats. Some dancers dance all three beats, taking a long step on the boom and two quick and short steps on the tick-tick, or 1-2-3 or slow-quick-quick.
Caribbean dancers are said to omit the first tick and dance to boom-tick, boom-tick, or 1-2, 1-2 or slow-slow, slow-slow with a distinct pushing down on the weighted foot accompanied by a sway of the hips (check out the Zouk videos).
In Brazil, Lambada evolved into Zouk-Lambada. The original Lambada beat became slower and smoother. Lambazouk is a variation created in in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Zouk-Lambada is danced to a one-two-three beat. The rhythm is a fusion of Carimbó and Merengue and the dance incorporates elements of Lambada, Forró, Samba, Merengue and Maxixe.
The word 'Lambada' has Portuguese roots and refers to the wave-like motion of a whip. This flowing wave motion is reproduced by the dancers' bodies and is a characteristic of Lambada.
Zouk-Lambada maintains the characteristic close embrace, hip-grinding movements of the Lambada. The basic sideways step is lead by the hips. It also maintains the head-roll seen in the Samba and Lambada as well as upper-body rolls.
A very dramatic move that needs to be executed with care, is for the woman to lean far back lowering her head below her waist and then whipping her head from side to side. This results in her hair swishing and flying from side to side.
Zouklove and Kizomba
Zouklove is danced to slower music and it is a more dramatic and sensual style of Zouk. Zouklove has its origins in a slow tempo form of cadence sung by Ophelia Marie of the Dominica. Zouklove in turn influenced an African genre of Zouk called Kizomba which developed in Angola and Cape Verde.
Other popular Zouklove artists are Suzanna Lubrano and Gil Semedo (fron the Netherlands), French West Indian artists Edith Lefel, Nichols and Harry Diboula, Haitian artists Ayenn and Daan Junior, Jocelyne Labylle from Guadeloupe, and African artist Philipe Monteiro.
Gaining popularity in Brazil is Soul Zouk, a style of Zouk that can be danced to a variety of music including, R&B and Hip-Hop.
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