Brazilian and Caribbean Zouk: What's the Difference

Posted by Tina Lee-Almazar on

When thinking of zouk, we often associate it with intimate body movements and smooth head rolls while dancing in a tight embrace. But here's the thing, that's not traditional zouk. In this guide, let’s talk about the difference between Brazil and Caribbean Zouk, where the dance style originated, and what other dance styles were inspired by it. 

Caribbean Zouk

To know about Caribbean zouk’s history is to learn about zouk’s origin because the Caribbean is zouk’s birthplace.

Zouk had its start in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Lucia, Dominica islands in the Caribbean and Haiti. Traditionally, zouk is a type of Caribbean party music. It has an upbeat tempo and is often played during festivals and street parties; that’s why people from the islands associate zouk with party music. 

Because of the upbeat sound, they dance to it, which essentially led to zouk, the dance style. This dance style has no defined steps or movements. It’s very casual and danced by adults and children alike. Zouk is not romantic; it’s something that friends and family dance to during the weekends. 

Dance Moves
Although traditional zouk does not have a distinct dance step sequence, it comprises wave-like movements with elongated steps and striking hair movements for women. The movements start with side-by-side rhythmic waves followed by a forward and back wave-like motion. The body rolls are very similar to samba. The body rolls and ripples should be smooth, fluid, and slightly sensual. The end of the dance move ends with a back arch and whipping of the head backward. 

Brazilian Zouk 

Brazilian zouk was inspired by Caribbean zouk. This dance genre started in Brazil during the early 90s. However, traditional zouk music was already popular in the 70s, thanks to the band Kassav.  By the 80s, zouk music in Brazil developed a romantic undertone, and eventually, it progressed into a sensual dance genre that we know and love today, Brazilian Zouk. 

Dance Moves
Brazilian zouk may be inspired by zouk music but is an entirely different dance genre from zouk the dance style. Unlike Zouk, which can be danced solo or with a partner, Brazilian Zouk is always danced with a partner. The movements are confined in a small space, and both dancers move fluidly and sensually in unison. Music is also slower, with more pauses and changes in rhythm. 
Partners dancing to Brazilian zouk are moving at an almost “dance embrace,” which means the dancers are dancing very close together, virtually hugging each other on the dance floor. The follower’s feet are almost on tiptoes with a twisting motion to emphasize the hip movements. 

Because traditional Caribbean zouk and Brazilian zouk are pretty similar, it’s normal to mistake one for the other. To tell each dance style apart, Caribbean zouk is more upbeat while Brazilian zouk is sensual or romantic. In fact, when we think about romantic zouk, we’re often referring to Lambada zouk or zouk-Lambada. Lambazouk is danced in slightly upbeat music with a quick 1-2-3 quick, slow dance sequence. Lambazouk also features lots of hip movements and deep dips.