I have two main dance loves: Brazilian Zouk and West Coast Swing. There are certainly other styles that I adore, but none that quite captured my heart as deeply as these two.
Zouk, with its flowing, deeply connected sensuality, creativity and exquisite sense of musicality…
West Coast Swing, with its smooth flow unique connection, creativity, and vibrant sense of musicality…
See, there’s a reason these two dances in particular caught my heart: both of them capitalize on the same parts of dance that I love so much! Both dances thrive on flowing movements, which can be interspersed with dramatic breaks in tempo, hitting a particular accent in the music, or slowing it down to match a particularly moving lyric.
Both dances also have infinite pathways for creativity. Zouk has its windows, twists, and unique ways of moving the upper body, while WCS provides an open world in which both lead and follow can input without disrupting the base of the dance.
Lastly, dancers of both genres prize musicality over moves. In both Zouk and WCS, you are dancing first with your partner, and second with the music. It is about tuning in and listening to all three parties. In a sense, the connection is extended beyond a physical touch with your partner to encompass the entity known as ‘Song’.
Don’t believe me? Check these out.
Zouk, with musicality that has captured Westies:
West Coast Swing, with musicality that has captured Zoukers:
Many songs are also transferable between these genres. While some WCS music is too fast for Zouk and vice versa, there is a sweet spot in music where the tempos can be used for either genre. In addition, both genres are used to dancing to a wide variety of modern music – from Acoustic to R&B to Pop. The same song can often be used to create both a fantastic West Coast Swing and Zouk memory.
Why does ‘Swouk’ Work?
Of course, on face these two dances seem extremely different mechanically. West Coast Swing is upright, with most of the movement concentrated in the lower body. Zouk is danced with mostly bent knees and in lunges, with the upper body often dancing more than the feet. But beyond this superficial difference, the two dances actually have the ability to be fused almost perfectly. This fusion has been dubbed as “Swouk”.
Since Zouk is danced with so much emphasis on the upper body, it becomes easy to add these signature movements on top of existing West Coast Swing footwork. It also means that you can create fantastic footwork by adding this element of West Coast swing into Zouk. Further, the counterbalance in West Coast Swing can be leveraged in Zouk quite readily – the same principle is already used very often by Mafie Zouker and other NeoZouk professionals.
The starting position is also a great point of fusion in WCS and Zouk. At the end of a WCS anchor step, the positioning is almost the same as when a Zouk dancer prepares to start their basic. The first step (forward for follow, back for lead) is also the same. As such, various patterns from both dances can be used interchangeably very simply from this starting position.
Swouk is GROWING!
The WCS and Zouk communities are rapidly embracing each other. Since Kadu & Larissa and Jordan & Tatiana started crossing over, communities all over the world have begun to cross between genres. Although this is not a comprehensive list (I welcome people to add if they know of more local or international events featuring Swouk), this illustrates that this is a growing trend around the world.
- K&L Dance (Zouk) and Raw Connection (West Coast Swing) now run Monthly Swouk Socials
- NUROC Best-Of-The-Best Congress (mainly a Westie event) has brought in Kadu & Larissa and offers Zouk workshops in the past
- Both the West Coast Swing and Zouk communities are working together to grow both genres
- Both genres are showcased at the Sydney Latin Dance Festival
- Kadu and Larissa have fused WCS into their latest routine
- Larissa recently made Intermediate ranking in the WSDC
- Oz WCS & Zouk Championships run a Zouk and WCS JnJ points weekend event
- Kadu & Larissa created the Brazilian Zouk Dance Council (BZDC) – modeled off of the World Swing Dance Council (WSDC) to monitor Jack and Jill competition points (in conjunction with other Zouk artists)
- WestZoukTime Brno in Czech Republic is a fully-fledged crossover event.
- DanceVida in Sweden organizes events featuring both West Coast Swing and Zouk
- Maxence and Virginie have been spotted fusing Zouk with their dance
- Diego & Jessica are growing WCS in Brazil, but are also Zouk dancers
- Renata Pecanha (Queen of Zouk) and her partner Jorge Pires are embracing WCS (they were spotted dancing it at the Dutch Zouk Congress)
- DJ Kakah works at both Zouk and WCS events, and also teaches Swouk at congresses.
- Vision Dance Encounter in Toronto, Canada is a West Coast Swing – Zouk Crossover event that aims to introduce dancers to fusion and provide high-level workshops for current crossover dancers.
- Xtine and Igor (Zouk instructors on the West Coast) have embraced West Coast Swing
- Jordan and Tatiana of WCS Fame have embraced Zouk, and fused it into many of their US Open winning routines
- New York is providing opportunities for events where dancers can cross-over
- Chicago’s Zouk scene was grown by a group of West Coast Swing dancers (headed by Chris Van Houten), and has socials featuring both WCS and Zouk
- Michigan’s Zouk and West Coast Swing scenes are growing together (with help from the Moy’s)
- Toronto is launching Swouk practica’s for students, and beginning WCS classes for Zoukers (dZouk Productions – my school ^_^)
- SwingDiego featured Zouk at their latest event, with many large Zouk names in attendance (Kamacho, Kadu, Larissa, and more)
- Brazilian WCS dancers Diego & Jessica often give a taste of fusion or Zouk when they travel to events
- Zouk Atlanta is beginning to have crossover events between WCS and Zouk!
- Swinging New England and the Boston Brazilian Dance Festival share the same venue!
- InterFusion Danse (Montreal) has run a congress with multiple styles, including both WCS and Zouk
I think this video perfectly illustrates just how much crossover there can be between the genres:
- Kadu & Larissa
- Jordan & Tatiana
- Stephen & Sonya White
- Darius Zi & Laura Riva
What do you think of Swouk? Leave your comments below, or share on Facebook!