Difference Between Zouk and Kizomba

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Certain Latin dance styles are quite sensual, two of which are Zouk and Kizomba. Because these dance styles are very similar to each other, one is often mistaken for the other! If you’re confused over the differences between zouk and kizomba, this guide’s for you!

Which came first, Zouk or Kizomba?

Zouk came first. This dance style emerged from the Caribbean Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique during the 70s and 80s. Back then, zouk is only known as a music genre, but since people danced to zouk music, it eventually turned into a dance style. The music became a musical movement when the French Antillean band Kassav became popular back in the 80s.

Zouk, along with Semba, inspired Kizomba. Semba is an upbeat, rhythmic dance that originated in Angola. Compared to Semba, Kizomba is slower, more sensual. This dance style is typically danced to songs with slower cadence.

People often confuse zouk with kizomba simply because of how closely their origins were tied with each other. When Cape Verdean immigrants started moving to France in the 80s, they were exposed to zouk music, which eventually led to zouk, the dance style. The rhythm has inspired the father of kizomba, Eduardo Paim, to record the first kizomba music. When the popularity of kizomba spread all over the region, people started freestyling kizomba dance to zouk music. 

What makes zouk different from kizomba?


  • Typically danced sensually, with partners often in a tight embrace. 
  • Simple footwork: small right-left steps with movements focused on the core
  • Dance partners do not move around the dance floor; it’s danced in one tight spot


  • Dance partners move around the dance floor in random patterns
  • Dance is not as sensual compared to zouk
  • The footwork is similar to tango 
  • More technical compared to zouk, which has no defined dance movements

The reason for the confusion over zouk and kizomba is linked to the music by Kassav, the band that popularized zouk and spread it worldwide back in the 80s. As the band traveled, they performed in Angola and other African Lusophone countries, which influenced local musicians to create songs that were being danced to kizomba.

Kizomba and Ghetto Zouk

Most people who refer to kizomba are actually referring to a blended dance style called Ghetto Zouk. Ghetto zouk is a combination of zouk the dance style and R&B music. Ghetto Zouk music is probably one of the first you’ll hear when learning about kizomba. It is very similar to another dance style called Tarraxinha. In fact, a lot of Ghetto zouk songs have heavy Tarraxinha elements. 

As you can see, zouk and kizomba share many similarities but are quite different from each other. Kizomba is not as sensual as zouk and is a direct inspiration of zouk. But no matter how similar or different these dance genres are, there is no denying that our Yami Latin dance shoes will complete your look! We’ve got zouk dance shoes and kizomba dance shoes in any style, so go ahead and check out our latest collection here.

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