What is Zouk?

Zouk-Lambada (also called Lambada-Zouk or Brazilian Zouk) is a group of closely related dance styles based on or evolved from the lambada dance style and is typically danced to zouk music or other music containing the zouk beat. The name Brazilian Zouk is used to distinguish the dance from the Caribbean Zouk dance style, which is not related to the Lambada dance style. The two dominant styles of Zouk-Lambada are the Porto-Seguro style and the Rio-style. The word Lambazouk is often used to refer exclusively to one or the other style depending on the region you live. The word Lambazouk was originally used to refer to the dance style developed by Daniel and Leticia Estévez López. The Zouk-Lambada dancing styles are among the most popular non-ballroom dances for couples in Brazil.

Rio-style Zouk (also called Carioca Lambada meaning Rio-style Lambada), was first developed in Rio de Janeiro. It is mainly danced in Brazil (Rio and Brasilia), Australia, The Netherlands, Spain and some other European countries. It uses a modified, slower, smoother, even more sensual version of the lambada.

The Brazilian zouk dance style was first developed in the Ilha Dos Pescadores in Rio de Janeiro around 1989.

Unlike salsa, which is led with the hands; Brazilian zouk is led by more parts of the body, noticeably the glued-to-each-other hips of the partners. Thus, in a basic sideways movement, it is the hips that move first, followed by the rest of the body, and this is part of what makes the dance so sensual. However, in various moves the dance partners are also connected by eye contact, legs, arms, shoulders, head, etc.

When practicing zouk in dance classes, teachers generally warn women to be very careful with their backs and necks, as two of the most distinctive and commented-on movements are the cambré (arching backwards to a greater or lesser degree, sometimes even below the waist) and the specific ‘hair movements’ or ‘head movements’ for the woman. If not done properly this could lead to injury.

As of today Brazilian zouk is becoming well known and apart from the faster original style Lambada (Porto Seguro style) and the latter development Brazilian zouk.

The most wide-spread style of Zouk-Lambada is the Porto Seguro-style. It is mainly danced in North-East Brazil (Porto Seguro), Argentina, Spain and the UK. The Porto-Seguro style is closer to the original Lambada style than the Rio-style zouk, because, just like the Lambada:

  • up-tempo music, is used,
  • the whip-like movement of the body is central to the dance,
  • the 1,2,3=”quick-quick-slow” counting is used.

One way in which the present Porto-Seguro style differs from the the original Kaoma-like Lambada style, is that the wiggling shoulder movements (also sometimes seen in Cuban-style salsa) have disappeared. Instead the shoulders are kept fixed while the hips are moving.

The Porto Seguro-style differs from the Rio-style in the way the steps are performed on the music. To put it simple, Rio-style zouk is danced on the dominant beat (1,2,3=”slow-quick-quick”), while Porto Seguro-style is danced on the small beats (1,2,3=”quick-quick-slow”). In general the Porto Seguro-style is more suitable for fast tempo music, while Rio style zouk is more suitable for slow tempo music. It is also very common practice to switch fluently between these dancing styles during a single Zouk music song.