November 9-12, 2017
The memory of me rushing out of work and running eight blocks down the wet streets of New York towards the Megabus station while balancing an umbrella in one hand and a luggage full of sequence belly tops, feathered earrings and bodysuits on the other replays in my head as I reminisce on the day we left for Boston. Having to work from your laptop during a five-hour bus ride, only to find out that another 45-minute train ride awaits you to your final destination wasn’t exactly my idea of fun either.
I’m one of those people who love to sightsee when they travel. I never leave without preparing myself: looking up the places I want to see, the popular tourist’s attractions and even watching youtube videos of what their accents sound like, just so I can make fun of them when I finally hear it. However, the temperature had been dropping drastically the days before this trip and the minute we arrived in Boston I felt the cold wind run right through my layers and into the core of my bones. I knew right away that I wasn’t going to leave the hotel once we arrived. I immediately pictured us all getting snowed in and dancing the entire weekend away.
My expectations were high, mainly because I was in desperate need of a Zouk weekend getaway and this trip happened just in time. We finally arrived at the hotel; exhausted from the long journey and from having to carry all of our belongings, but there’s nothing more welcoming than being greeting by your Zouk Family Friends with smiles, hugs and kind offers to help you with your things.
After a quick 20-minute shut eye and 2 caffeine pills later we headed down to the first workshop where I met Bruno Cura from London: one of the dance instructors flown in especially from Rio de Janeiro to teach and participate at the congress. He won me over almost instantly with his quirky, humorous personality and endearing Brazilian accent. He gave helpful hints and advice and made us all laugh at the same time.
Days later, I took the opportunity to ask him what he had thought about the congress. Of course, he only had great things to say, but one of them that really stood out to me was his opinion about the cultural aspect of the event, which he said differentiated it from many other festivals. He said, “I am Brazilian and I am proud of being Brazilian. However, what makes me even more proud is seeing people like Inna, who is Russian, organizing events such as this one to help us spread the word, to teach others and show them what our culture is really all about. It is an extremely beautiful culture: our dance, our music, our people…we are rich in culture. Inna and Glenio did an amazing job helping up, spoiling us, and supporting us. It’s not just about teaching, organizing classes and making money. It’s about much more than that. It’s about showing others what our world is like and respecting it.”
After the amazing performances, some of us went back to our rooms, while others took the time to visit friends for some drinks and ‘catching-up time’ at different rooms. Two drinks and a fireball shot later, I was ready for some dancing. I had no idea what the set up was going to be like but when I saw the three different rooms, I knew it was going to be a spectacular night. There was a Kizomba room, a bachata room and a Zouk room. People were bouncing back and forth constantly, switching to different rhythms and tempos. However, I don’t care how fast people are saying Kizomba has grown the past year, I am proud to say that the room that had the most energy out of all of them was the Zouk room. Perhaps it was the water cooler that attracted everyone to our room, or maybe it was the magnetic energy you felt the minute you stepped onto the dance floor. I am not sure really, but all I know is that when I finally called it a night at 6am, things were still going strong there.
I woke up early Saturday morning, anxious to take Sofie’s Samba Carnival class since I had heard so much about this Czech protégé. However, I had no idea what I was getting into so early in the morning. The minute we got there, her satirical smirk and energetic gestures threw me off at first, until she got us moving with some Brazilian samba beats and quick steps. I hadn’t even had the chance to drink my morning coffee yet, but that day I learnt that nothing wakes you up faster than a ‘Samba no pé’ class at 10 am.
I used to visit my family in Brazil every summer and I had learned samba one year with my cousins when I was younger. They taught me step by step while we listened to “É o Tchan”(popular pagode band) on our grandmother’s porch in a small country town in Minas Gerais. Here in Sofie’s workshop, I could see that many students were new to the steps but genuinely interested in learning them.
Almost every Brazilian I have met has said that samba is something you’re born with, yet here she was, dancing as if she had sambaed her way right out of he womb and teaching an entire class of students how to not only do the steps correctly, but to have a blast at the same time, the way Brazilian’s do it. Fifteen minutes into the class you could see everyone jumping around and swaying their hips from side to side with a huge smile on their face. That’s when I realized what made Sofie’s teaching methods so special.
During our little water break, I watched as my Russian friend Svetlana Khenkina fidgeted constantly. She was anxious to start hopping around again. Her giant smile and sparkling eyes told me she was really enjoying the class. At one point she said to me (and I will never forget this), “You know, Jess, I don’t know what it is about Brazilian music that makes me feel so connected. I don’t feel the same way when I listen to Russian music and I don’t know why. Like this music we are listening to now…I hear it and I immediately need to move and smile. It makes me so happy.” Her words immediately moved me and I had to hug her since I thought it was the most inspiring comment I had heard so far. Nevertheless, I looked around at the many faces that surrounded us: different nationalities and different colors, and though they hadn’t put it into words the same way she had, I could tell many of them felt the same way.
Inna did an incredible job of bringing together some of the best dancers. Looking at the workshop line-up, it was difficult to choose which class to go to. With teachers such as; Monique & Lido, Sofie Toris from Prague, Manuel dos Santos from Montreal, Jules and Melodie, Aline Cleito from Sao Paulo, Ivo and Shani, Kevin and Jess, Marc Brewer, Bruno Cura, Lee and Kat from DC, and many other great teachers, it made it difficult to decide which room you wanted to step into. So I literally jumped from one room to the next, using photography as my excuse so I wouldn’t be ‘that’ person disrupting the class.
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After the workshops, the naps and quick meals, everyone started getting ready for the second night. I was really looking forward to the performances since buzz got around that it was going to be phenomenal. For me, the most memorable routine was that of the Samba Dancers. Inna brought together some of the most beautiful and talented dancers throughout the country. It was awesome to DC Samba Divas united with Boston Samba Divas and have them share the stage with the amazing Sofie Toris from Prague and Aline Cleito from Sao Paulo. One of Inna’s former samba students, Jasmine Plummer, who later moved to Washington DC came back to Boston specifically to perform the routine with the ladies. Inna put together impromptu choreography followed by free styling solo of each dancer, which all ladies learned when they arrived on Friday. They not only mastered the steps, but were also able to look the part with their extraordinary, colorful costumes and head pieces that made you feel like you were in the middle of Rio de Janeiro during Carnival.
I asked Haylee Cohen from Washington DC, one of the dancers who participated in the Samba Parade, what she enjoyed most about the congress and she responded, “I really enjoyed the opportunity of joining together with samba dancers from all over to celebrate our art in Saturday nights samba parade.” She also mentioned that “…one of the most fulfilling and beautiful aspects of the festival was the sense of community among the dancers and festivalgoers. The free flowing exchange of ideas and energy created a FUN and inspiring environment.”
That night, the Zouk room had moved up one level and was joined by Kizomba, which was a great way to bring both worlds together since I find both dances to be inspiring to one another. Downstairs were the Bachata and forró rooms, where two forró bands had come exclusively to participate in the festival, Banda Anodae and Johnny Costa Band. The stage was set up with bright lights, amazing musicians and a Brazilian country feel only forró can provide. You know your night was a success when you finally step put of the room to see the sun beaming through the reception windows wishing you a good morning sleep as you wobble with your aching feet towards the elevator doors to get to your floor.
The following morning I ran into Monique and Lidio in the waiting room and took the opportunity to ask them what they thought of the event so far. I’m lucky enough to be able to speak Portuguese but anyone who has spoken to Lidio knows it’s not even necessary to understand his words to know what he is trying to say. His talent is not only dancing, but also using his facial expressions to communicate with others. Even when he is teaching his classes, he says everything in Portuguese and yet everyone manages to understand and laugh at the exact moment he hits the punch lines.
He was excited to tell us his opinion of the event. He spoke about the positive energy him and Monique felt from the crowd when they performed Friday night and of how extremely welcomed they’ve felt since the moment they arrived. Monique mentioned how hard it can be while traveling sometimes, but that here (in Boston) she felt right at home. She was extremely happy with the acceptance they received from the students and teachers. She said there were a lot of teachers she had never met before, but there was a sense of unity that could be felt amongst everyone, teachers and students…”E a união traz a forca,” she said. (“Union brings strength”)
I knew exactly what Monique was referring to. That magnetic attraction and feeling of being a part of something beautiful was probably what influenced to change my bus ticket and stay later. I was supposed to leave Saturday after the workshops and even though people had said I wouldn’t miss out on much if I couldn’t make the Sunday event, I knew I still wasn’t ready to go. Those who were able to stay enjoyed one last night together Zouking and Kizombing till 2am at Fire & Ice, where the very first event had taken place Thursday night. We all showed up, running on little to no sleep and once again carrying all of our luggage to make the 2am bus ride back to NY, just for a couple more hours of dancing. Clearly, we can never get enough.
Inna seemed to be glowing that night. When I asked her if she was happy with the results of the event she said, “It was a lot of hard work and a big risk as well. At first you think, ‘what am I doing? Is this even going to work? …but when you see the final results: everybody coming together from different cities all over US and Canada to enjoy an event you worked so hard on, it brings you so much joy. It’s so hard to create something new from scratch, but its rewarding to see how happy it makes people when they all participate and dance to whichever style they are passionate about. I personally get most inspired when I see the drastic improvements of my beginner students after one short weekend of dancing. This is why we bring all of the amazing talent from all over the world to inspire and make people try new things! Once they try it, it ends up becomes part of their social life. They make new friends, they socialize, and even go out together to share their common passion for the dance. So far it has worked really well. I am definitely looking forward to doing it again!”
This was Inna’s first event and I am sure all of the attendees are looking forward to see how next year will turn out. Like Paulo said in his interview with me, “If you didn’t get to go this year because it was the first one, you missed out on the most amazing congress. But I am sure the next one is going to be even better, because if the first one was this good, imagine what the next one will be like, and the 3rd and the 4th….”
Thank you Inna and Glenio for an amazing weekend of laughs, dance and great vibes.
We are very excited this year to offer Master Classes with top artists in each dance style! For the 1st time in Boston Isabelle &Felicien from France, Andrea & Silvia Sensual Bachata from Italy and of course zouk gods Kadu and Larissa from Australia! Get your master class pass at the buy passes page now while they last!
Jessica Carro, Editor-in-Chief of Zoukology
Jessica Carro is the Editor-in-Chief for Zoukology Magazine. She is also Lead Correspondent for Zoukology/ZoukLive. In addition, Jessica is a Post-Assistant Producer for the HBO Series VICE and works as a freelance writer, specializing in South American issues. She has a Bachelors Degree in International Relations and Spanish from Wagner College and a Master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Check out the beautiful article written by the talented Jessica Carro on last year's event!