Learn from nature: training methodologies and insights

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

"Look at how trees grow. The bigger and more impressive the tree, the thicker its roots, trunk and branches. There is no shortcut to growth, it takes years of nourishment."


Similarly, our capacity to become a great dancer is rooted in our foundations; the stronger and broader our base, the greater our potential to support expression and styling. I’ve been dancing Brazilian Zouk for nearly 10 years and one thing that has become important to me is codifying the learning process into a clear set of basic steps and techniques. Brazilian Zouk can appear a complicated dance if everything is piled on at the same time, my goal is to make the learning process as simple as possible!


To identify how to improve your Brazilian Zouk foundations, consider the structure of a tree:

Roots

Physiology that is the shape, size, strength, flexibility and suppleness of our body.


Trunk

Psychology that embodies our openness to movement, music, connection and instruction.


Branches

Knowledge of the five most important steps, and five most important techniques.


Leaves

Experience of the infinite variations of how the body can move.

"How the tree moves when the wind blows, in other words, our ability to express ourself in dance, is an accumulation of everything above."

Let’s look at each of these four sections in detail:


Roots Physiology has a huge impact over our expression of dance. Our shape, size, strength, flexibility and suppleness will influence the type of movements that feel comfortable to us. This is not to say that everyone has to be of a certain geometry to be a great dancer, but it is realistic to acknowledge that our limitations are guided by our physiological capabilities. If you happen to notice that some movements are uncomfortable or difficult to learn, scan your tree roots and see if there is anything physiological to work on first. Examples include strengthening your legs, arms, core, back or neck, losing excess weight and improving joint flexibility. The deeper we work on ourselves, the more impact it has on subsequent layers.

Trunk Our openness to movement, music and instruction is going to influence situations in our dance journey, such as willingness to listen, confidence, creativity, practice, and muscular habits that impact frame and connection. Essentially our capacity to listen, move, interpret music and connect with others are learned behaviours that developed in childhood and adolescence, therefore as adults it is more a case of unblocking them, rather than learning anything new. The difficulty with training our tree trunk is that is requires a conscious effort to work on such things, and often we ourselves can’t see what is holding us back. Examples include releasing tension in certain areas of the body, overcoming shame, listening to others, accepting criticism, focus, discipline and dedication. Don’t ignore these qualities, working on our psychology is often the most rewarding part of learning anything at all, especially dance that is a full mind and body experience.

Branches Now we arrive at the more juicy and controversial topic of learning Brazilian Zouk. In my experience of learning and teaching, content that belongs in the next section (leaves) is frequently mixed up with the fundamental steps and techniques that make up the core components of the dance (branches). This guide below is the simplest way to understand the fundamental Brazilian Zouk steps and techniques.

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT BRAZILIAN ZOUK STEPS


  1. Basic step (passo básico or frente e atras)

  2. Little turn (viradinha)

  3. Lateral (lateral or corredor)

  4. Simple turn (giro simples)

  5. Boomerang (bumerangue or bônus)


We could divide them further and say that considering the followers footwork, lateral is the same as two little turns, and boomerang is the same as one and a half simple turns with half a basic step. However, I find that considering the practicality of teaching, the leaders footwork and the construction of more complicated sequences, these steps are best kept in their packaged forms. The detail of each step can be found