A few weeks ago I attended the Brazilian Zouk retreat in Sagunto, Spain, led by Xandy Liberato. I suspected, when I impulsively registered, that I was diving into the deep end. Generally, when you choose to work closely with a master/innovator of a form, you should know something, or a lot of something, before you show up. I didn’t know anything about Brazilian Zouk except the superficial qualities I’d ascertained from watching Youtube vids. Some were really swirly and free, and some were really crotch-grindy. I liked the swirly ones.
I didn’t know the lingo, the music, the who’s who, or the etiquette. All I knew was that I was starving to learn it. When I arrived and saw that classes were regularly scheduled until 10am until 2am (as in, past midnight) my jaw fell open. I said to Ken, “There’s no way—I can’t.” I thrive on full nights of sleep. But when I realized how much I was learning, I couldn’t bear to miss anything.
I was repeatedly asked, “How did you end up at THIS event?” This wasn’t a beginner event and apparently Xandy is kind of fringe—he’s contemporary and experimental by Zouk standards.
That’s exactly why I was so drawn to his work.
The man is a movement genius. He demonstrates strategy, sensitivity, continuity, playfulness, and humor in his dance. His slogan is in fact, “Dance to Flow." Fitting.
I was one of 48 students at this event and there was a full staff of Zouk-famous assistant teachers to demo and help out. As a female, I was automatically categorized as a follower. Though this goes against my general urge to lead and avoid gender roles, I went with it.
And you know what? It was really good for me.
My spine and shoulders have NEVER been so juicy. No stretching or mobility program can compare to the way you move after being a human flow toy. At one point, we did what I’ll simplify as “spinal manipulation speed-dating”. One person at a time moved me for several minutes. I submitted. I listened. I felt and connected.
I definitely didn’t expect I’d nuzzle and (therapeutically?) spinal wave against 20 people in 2 hours. That was new.
I discovered how each persons touch asks you to move differently. I learned how if you’re a good follow, you empty your mind, and drop your notions of how the song should be danced. You adapt to your lead. You bring their suggestions to life; you do not prioritize your own.
Some people touch you lightly and move you with flower-petal pressure. Some are heavy handed and direct, sometimes too-much, as they try to impose their prior experience on your body. Some, as they discovered that my spine moves easily, would test my reactivity and play musical ping-pong with the bones of my trunk. It was delicious.
I’ve almost always been the teacher, the dominant mover, the base, or the director. But not here. With every exhale, I let go more. I had white flags of surrender popping out of freaking everywhere.
I still have no idea how exactly this experience will inform my movement, but so far, it feels FANTASTIC. I still look like I just stepped off a boat. I’m swaying and waving as though dozens of hands are gently suggesting I move. I think I’m addicted.