History of Brazilian Zouk

What is Zouk?

Zouk is a French word that means “Party”.

Brazilian Zouk is a Latin dance which began in Brazil during the early 1990s. It originated from a Brazilian dance called Lambada with influences from other Brazilian dances. 

In the 80’s, Lambada was very popular in Brazil and quickly gained worldwide notoriety through its music, especially because of the popularity of the band Kaoma, Beto Barbosa, among others, and different styles of music such as Samba-Reggae, Caribbean Zouk, Flamenco music, mainly Gipsy Kings, among others. TV shows, films and DJ’s also helped promote the dance and the music.

Lambada was a dance that dominated most nightclubs in Brazil, especially in Porto Seguro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro.

The most popular nightclubs in the 80’s and 90’s:

  • Porto Seguro – Reggae Night and Boca da Barra
  • Rio de Janeiro – Roxy Roller and Ilha dos Pescadores
  • São Paulo – Lambar, Mel and Reggae Night
  • Belo Horizonte – Casa Blanca and Cabaré Mineiro

Lambada’s popularity began to decline in the 90’s, and the remaining lovers began to use primarily Zouk Caribbean music to continue dancing Lambada. During this period people naturally began to call the dance French Lambada, because of the music being sung in French Creole. Following that the community began to call the dance Zouk.

Many other factors influenced the decrease in its popularity. It is important to mention that many Brazilian dancers/instructors were fundamental to help maintain the growth of the dance and they are dance references until today. Some of them are members of the Brazilian Dance Zouk Council such as: Jaime Arôxa, Renata Peçanha, Philip Miha, Rodrigo Delano and Gilson Damasco. Important dancers who supported and promoted the dance in their cities until today, among others. 

As a result of the Zouk music having different characteristics from Lambada, soon the Lambada dance began to adapt to the Zouk music. the dance was naturally modified, acquiring different characteristics in various states of Brazil and some places in the world, creating interpretations and different styles of Zouk. 

There was a time when several names were created making it difficult for the community to promote Zouk dance. Several meetings and debates took place and the community understood that the name Zouk was inappropriate because the dance and music already existed in the Caribbean. 

Around 2006, there was an important meeting at the Minas Zouk Congress (currently BH Zouk Congress) in Belo Horizonte, in order to define the official name of the dance and unite the community. The Brazilian Zouk name was decided by majority of votes. Until 2012, there were many meetings, lectures during dance congresses around the world to bring awareness and popularity to Brazilian Zouk name.

In 2014 the Brazilian Zouk Dance Council was founded by Larissa Thayane and Kadu Pires. The Council serves, supports, and promotes all aspects of Brazilian Zouk. We encourage the growth of this great dance throughout the world. The Council is supported by its board of directors – Gilson Damasco, Renata Peçanha, Alex de Carvalho, Kadu Pires, Larissa Thayane, Jaime Aroxa, Rafael Oliveira, Philip Miha, Rodrigo Delano, and Freddy Marinho.

In 2020 new members were added to the Council by vote. They are Andressa Castelhano, Ruana Vasquez, Bruna Kazakevic and Raquel Ramalho.

One of the main projects developed by the BZDC are the official Brazilian Zouk Jack and Jill Competitions worldwide. The Council currently develops research and new action for community growth. 

The Council is designed to:

  • Improve communications and provide information services and record keeping for the Brazilian Zouk Community.
  • Promotes the growth of Brazilian Zouk to the general public.
  • Provides a central place for information for dancers, clubs, promoters, organisers, teachers, judges, competitors and interested parties.
  • Maintains a global website.
  • Maintains a competitor’s registry showing placements from all major events, with points accumulated for each competitor.
  • Maintains a Members Registry for communication between members.
  • Maintains an Instructors Registry with a listing of dance instructors that are members of the BZDC in good standing.
  • Coordinates and maintains a global calendar listing of dates and locations that allows for better planning for organisers and those who plan to participate.

Source: Council members and Luis Florião


Important note: There are many important names that were not mentioned in this document, but will be mentioned in future documents about the history of Brazilian Zouk in each Brazilian state.

Interview Renata Peçanha
Lambada - Kaoma performance in 1989
One of first Brazilian Zouk choreographies 25 years ago