Moves that Bachata Dancers Should Learn From Zouk

Sensual bachata has now started using many moves from brazilian zouk, but from what I have seen, they sometimes don’t teach the correct technique of them. The consequences can be injuries, mostly for the followers but also leaders. I repeat – injuries. This is not a joke and should not be taken lightly. 

Zouk instructors pay a lot of attention to teaching the proper technique so that everybody would be able to dance and nobody would get hurt. Brazilians already learned it the hard way with lambada (the precursor to zouk) – this dance style had many crazy spine twisting moves that left dancers with sore backs after parties.

So for the safety of our dance community I wanted to make a post about three moves that require special attention to technique, therefore should be learned from zouk instructors or professional bachata teachers.

Cambré/Dips

Technique for cambré aka the backbend requires the leader to have a stable base so that he is able to support the follower at all times. He should never lead a deeper cambré than the follower is able to do. The follower should be able to stand in cambré on her own, just in case the leader doesn’t offer enough support. Zouk has double protection happening here – the follower keeps her own weight and leader is there to support if anything goes wrong. The follower also needs to know that she should push the hips forward and bend from the upper back, never the lower back. A preparation is also needed so that both dancers can take the correct positions.

Head Movements

It’s required to understand that head movements come from tilting the upper body – everything below the ribcage is in straight neutral position and the neck is just following gravity. The followers need to keep their neck long, chest open and shoulders down in order to not crush the neck vertebra. In some cases (eg when you have bad posture or weak neck muscles) when the head is tilted back, you shouldn’t completely relax your neck, but hold it straight and simply look up. There also needs to be a small preparation move.

Tilted Turns

Tilted turns are also tricky since the follower has her upper body and head tilted to the side where it’s very easy to lose balance or get dizzy. Weeks of practice are needed to keep balance in a position like that. Chest needs to be open and head tilted exactly to the side or even a bit diagonally back, otherwise it looks super ugly. Leaders need to show the follower clearly whether it’s a traveling turn or turn in place and lead without putting any strain to follower’s shoulders. And again, you need a preparation and followers should be able to keep their own balance.

The most important thing to understand here is that these moves are advanced. Even if people know the correct technique and have taken a few classes on these topics, some followers’ bodies simply might not be fit enough to handle these moves. They need a very strong core, a flexible upper back and strong neck muscles to execute these moves without hurting themselves. 

Even though you might be dancing with someone who can do these demanding moves it should be taken into account that they require a proper warmup. Social dancers are not accustomed to doing warmups before going to parties, so the most considerate thing to do would be to lead these moves to someone who arrived to the party a while ago and has already been dancing. Before any physical activity and sports you would need 8 minutes of warmup – for dancers at party this would translate into at least 4 songs including breaks. So please, no cambrés for your friends who just arrived! 

I’d recommend taking some zouk workshops that cover these topics or at least ask a good zouk dancer. There are also some bachata teachers who teach the correct technique, so look for high level professionals that have education in human anatomy and dance.

After perfecting your own technique, I’d suggest leading these moves only to your dance friends whom you know well and are sure they are able to execute advanced stuff. With people you are not so familiar with – there are so many other moves to use in your dance to have fun and express the music.

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