Weekly Spotlight Conversation with Sarah T.
Sarah picked up Zouk in the US a few years ago, and has sinced relocated back to Singapore. She is a part of our CWDS Zouk team and has been a joy to train with. She has one of the most unique perspectives amongst Zoukers in Singapore, having travelled around the world for Brazilian Zouk. What makes Sarah's story so special is that to her, Zouk has been a safe haven and refuge for her through her years of dancing. We hope that through her story, we will continue to grow the SG Zouk scene in a way that is welcoming and encouraging to all =)
How long have you been dancing Zouk? I started dancing Zouk in 2017.
Why did you start dancing Zouk? It’s kind of a heavy topic, but in 2017 I was assaulted in the bachata scene and I suffered from PTSD. Healing from that was a lonely and scary process and because I found it difficult to trust anyone and ended up alienating most of my friend circle.
During this time, I heard of a Zouk event in Miami and decided to check it out. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know anything about Zouk, but that event really changed my life. It was a small event where everyone got really close. I met so many genuinely kind people and artists who gave me the courage to trust and connect again. I guess you can say that was why and how I fell in love with Zouk.
What are some of your favourite Zouk project/event/classes thus far? I love the Prague Zouk Marathon Spring Edition, I’ve been there every year for my birthday since I started Zouk and it’s still my favorite event. Getting to dance in the open air vineyard, with the sun setting in the background is always such a special treat. It’s also the only place where you can social dance 18 hours a day nonstop with no classes, performances or anything getting in the way. They even serve food and have bean bags to rest on so you never need to leave the venue :)
Aside from that, I also really enjoyed Warsaw Zouk Marathon for the same reasons. Incredible social dancing and wonderful organization. For people who enjoy more intimate events, Fernando from Bremen is a fantastic organizer and so is Veronika from Slovakia. She organizes Val and Vanessa’s bootcamp in Slovakia and it’s so fun because everyone lives together in this cute hotel and you get to go hiking up the Tatra mountains and you get to live in this beautiful picturesque town which is so different from life in a city like Singapore. What makes you prefer certain events over others? For me the most important thing about any festival is the opportunity to social dance. PZM, Dutch and Warsaw have social dancing that goes on for like 18h each day, sometimes more and that draws some of the best DJs and social dancers around the world.
I think in Asia we tend to focus on the performance aspect of dancing which is nice too, but I think I truly enjoy social dancing. (Cheryl: Ahem.. working on it!!) You can learn so many things about and from a person by dancing without exchanging a single word. Dancing with different people from different countries with different teachers is also always new and exciting, because it’s so different from anything you’re used to.
I think the longest I’ve ever danced with one person was like for four hours. If I’m at a big event and want to dance with everyone, maybe I’ll dance like 30min to an hour with someone, but at a marathon, I can spend one or two hours with each person without feeling like I have to rush.
Above: Sarah performing at Singapore Brazilian Zouk Festival 2020!
You enjoy traveling a lot, and have been to many Zouk events around the world. Which events have you attended in the past? Which is the craziest festival experience you've had? Oh my gosh, I have gone to so many events I can’t even remember, but they’ve all been so wonderful in their own way. For people who enjoy taking classes and meeting all the best instructors in the world, then of course something like Canada Zouk, Dutch Zouk or Zouktime would be great. Personally, I really enjoyed Zouk Needs You by Veronika in Slovaka - this was a really small bootcamp with less than twenty participants, but because it was invite only the level was very high and it was amazing to just train with some of the best dancers in the world. Also, getting time off to chill out in the mountains and go hiking and ride sleds was so fun. Till now, the people I met there are some of my closest friends in the world.
Prague Summer Holiday the first edition was also amazing, it was held in a beautiful hotel that overlooked a massive vineyard so you could dance outdoors to the sunset and sunrise. There was also a health center attached so you could go get massages and sit in a hot tub drinking wine when you were tired. Unfortunately, I heard the later editions were really small, so I’m not sure if its as good now.
Lastly, I loved Cypress Zouk Festival. It was held on the beautiful island of Cypress and the venues were out of this world. On the opening night they held the party in this bar which had a huge pool that was lit up by fairy lights it was so magical. Also, the ratio of participants to artists was almost 1:1, so social dancing was pretty much just dancing with each artist. Compared to huge congresses in Asia where there are so many lines, I think everyone was more chill. It was a really special experience. Many dancers often struggle with jetlag when travelling for dance. What kept you going to keep Zouk festival hopping? When I started Zouking, I was working full time at an office job, so whenever I had holidays, I would take two weeks off to travel somewhere and do an event. Since flying internationally was so expensive I got so used to the life of flying back and forth to events and coming back to work on Mondays. I danced ballroom competitively in college and after I started working so I am very good at working and traveling without sleep. What is your favourite part about the Zouk/Zouk community? I think it’s meeting so many people from so many different cultures. In 2019, I left my job and traveled for almost a full year. I took a plunge and decided to do a 3 month solo trip in Europe which I thought would be really terrifying, but it turned out to be amazing. A lot of people I had met at festivals reached out to me and put me up or showed me around. You just meet so many kind and genuine people everywhere. Like, I met Joe (from Australia) at the Amsterdam Festival a year ago and we both didn’t know anyone in The Netherlands so we went sightseeing together. It turns out he loved art, so we went to all the museums and he explained all these cool art theories to me and now I’m obsessed with art. What would you like to see more in SG Zouk scene and do you have any Zouk goals for SG? Well we are a pretty new scene, but I think the biggest thing I notice is that Asian Zoukers are pretty self conscious and are cautious about making mistakes or exploring musicality or creativity. I think we tend to have that mentality where we memorize moves and want to do exactly what the teacher says. What I love about dancing overseas is that every single dance is different, you can really feel each person’s personality, and how they feel the music. I’d love for our community to be able to take what they learn in class and make it their own. And also to focus more on connecting with their partner and making sure they are leading/following a move rather than just copying what the teacher is doing. What do you do by day? I used to work in antitrust legislation but now I work in financial research. :)
Who are some of your favourite Zouk dancers/Teachers, and why? I love Michael and Aline, they are such kind and hardworking and incredibly humble people. I met them very early on before they exploded on the scene and they would both spend the entire night on the dance floor inviting newbies to dance. They’re just amazing, I love them both.
Personally I also learned a lot from Ludek and Monika. I think their background in ballroom makes them able to explain concepts more clearly than others. They are always trying to improve the comfort of the lead and follow, and they also make their students learn both the lead and follow and lamba as well as traditional zouk. All their students are amazing, respectful dancers and super comfortable to dance with. I also love Val and Vanessa. Val is an incredible teacher for being able to help you develop what feels comfortable in your body. Honestly, there is no one correct technique for head movement or lateral, if you ask any pro, they will teach a slightly different variation. I love that Val doesn’t dictate for you to do it ‘his’ way, rather he teaches you a concept and helps you find the way that works best for your body.
Are there any secrets to dancing all night?
Wear comfortable clothes and invest in really high quality shoes! I love social dancing, so when I go to a festival, I’m generally prepared to spend like 12 hours social dancing nonstop, so I can’t afford to get a blister! I wear Alvares heels and switch them out with my Taygra sneakers if I get tired.
Share a Zouk video that you really like! I’ve watched this video a million times and it never gets old. It represents everything I love about zouk, the connection, the tricks, the musicality and playfulness! When I saw this video I immediately wanted to dance with Lucas, and when I did, it was everything I could dream of and more. He is truly amazing. <3