Friday, December 19, 2014

Helsinki seasons: Winter!

Perhaps you read my earlier post Helsinki all year round and Helsinki: Autumn? Now it's time to look into one of my favourite seasons in Helsinki, and Finland: WINTER!!

Winter in Helsinki!

Finland, the land of four seasons. If you're an inhabitant of Helsinki, you'll probably have a love-hate relationship with winter. You look forward to the snow that lights up the city during the dark months. And you dread the days when it's pouring rain, sleet or snow horizontally onto your face, temperature suddenly drops -25C and for the fifteenth time dig your way out of your house/to your car/to the tram. I have to admit though: I love winter!

Some of the best of Helsinki during winter: Scenes (left:) Töölönlahti, Kruununhaka, Esplanade, (right:) Meilahti, Töölönlahti, Hakaniemi from Eläintarhanlahti and harbour towards Suomenlinna.

Winter basically starts when the daily average temperature goes below zero Celsius. You can expect the winter weathers to arrive sometime between end of October and start of January, and end sometime between the start of March and end of April. You'll most likely see the picture postcard type of snow frosted sceneries in Helsinki in January - February. But as the the climate change is affecting Finland as well the weather can be quite fickle. From December to mid March you can expect anything from +10 and rain, to -25 and 1+ meter of snow. So check for forecasts before arriving to Helsinki!

Despite the extreme weather  conditions public traffic is quite reliable in Helsinki (though the locals complain even about 1-2 minutes' delays) and the roads remain open. Just be careful driving & walking out on the roads when it's dark and slippery!

While the end of autumn and early winter (Oct - early Dec) can be quite gloomy with short daylight hours, the mid and end of winter (End of Dec - Feb) are typically much more pleasant, even truly terrific times to visit Helsinki! When the snow covers the city and the daylight hours quite rapidly start to increase after the winter solstice (22nd Dec), you can experience the magical winter wonderland, right in the capital city with all its activities and services! The weeks before Christmas certainly are a great time to experience the city with its holiday lights and Christmas markets. If you want to try out winter sports, you can do all of that in Helsinki as well! Check below for more details.

If you're interested to make a Lapland visit on your winter trip to Finland, then read more on my post Fun winter week in Lapland!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Make most of your travels: 10 best tips

There are a few things I've learned while traveling.... like never ask for "spicy" food in Mexico or Thailand and don't fall asleep on the beach without 50+ sunscreen. Well, you probably know these already, don't you? Below some a bit substantial life lessons I've picked up along the way: my tried and true notes to make the most of your travels!

If you are planning a long tip, feel free to read the summary of my round-the-world trip with the FAQs and my favorite spots, or take a look at the Travel index page!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Traveling dancer's vocabulary: English - Portuguese (Brazil)

Abaixo da imagem em português!

Knowing the local language can help a lot while traveling. Unfortunately (IMO) it's not possible to learn every language of the world - but learning even just a couple key words and phrases can save you from a lot of trouble. And it always makes a positive impression with the locals!

With kind assistance from my friends in Brazil I compiled this short Brazilian Portuguese vocabulary for the traveling dancers. Thanks to Stela Regina Novaes from Studio Metrópole and Jaakko Pispala from ZK Adventures for the help!

English words & phrases are written on blue, and on their right the Brazilian Portuguese words & phrases on green!

Now t-shirts available with this print!

Conhecer a língua local pode ajudar muito durante a viagem. Infelizmente acho que não é possível aprender todas as línguas do mundo - mas pode realmente ajudar se você aprender ainda algumas palavras e frases importantes. E isso faz sempre uma impressão positiva!

Com a ajuda dos meus amigos no Brasil eu compilei este pequeno vocabulário de inglês - português brasileiro para os dançarinos que viajarão. Obrigado Stela Regina Novaes de Studio Metrópole and Jaakko Pispala de ZK Adventures pela ajuda!

Palavras e frases em inglês são escritos em azul, e do seu lado direito as palavras e frases do português brasileiro são em verde!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Break the rules, break the routines - 5 keys to being innovative

I took a break from my daily routine and headed to Slush. Not the wet snow you might find on the streets of Helsinki this time of the year, but the hottest IT start-up event in the Nordics. Though slightly off-topic on this blog (will get on-topic soon), I truly can recommend attending Slush if you are an IT innovator or investor anywhere in the world - these guys really know how to make a cool event!

Together with over 10.000 people I roamed, what I would describe, a super-sized nightclub meets science lab for two days. Four mesmerizing stages packed with key notes & seminars, a hundred+ cool stands and quite a few free macchiatos later, a person does get a little worn down with the same innovation BS. A lot of smoke and mirrors... literally. (Which they need for the 1000000 lazer beams that criss-cross the ceilings.) Nonetheless, weary or not, you always end up picking up something new and interesting, meet lots of people you'd normally never get around to see and get some valuable practice on your elevator pitches (and notice how much you're in need of that practice).

On the second morning of Slush, the United States Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck - known in Finland not only for his position in the US Embassy and local politics, but also from his charismatic appearances around the country ranging from TV cooking shows to displaying his well-shaped biceps (a life-long body builder) - stepped up to start off the day two of the event. I was definitely expecting something to wake me up. Though the crowd was clearly tired & hungover (myself luckily only the former) from the party the night before, and though the points he covered while on stage were no rocket science, his talk served as a good reminder on an important topic; how to be more innovative.

If Slush has one thing slightly in tangent to this blog, it's innovation and that particular speech. So I'm not totally off in writing about this. Below are Bruce Oreck's 5 practices to being innovative:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beyond words: Helsinki Zouk Festival 2014

It takes quite a lot of effort to create something good. But what does it take to make... magic?

I know, I know. Last year I made the statement that Helsinki Zouk Festival is a zouk event quite unlike any other. And true, the 2013 HZF was great. But indeed, the last weekend's 2014 HZF was simply beyond words.

I try not bore you with everything I've already told before. Yes, Helsinki is a cold, dark place in November. The zouk scene is small but us zoukers in Helsinki are extremely proud of it. And I think many may agree we've developed a fairly nice group of dancers here. But now, we also have one of the best zouk events in the world!

Helsinki Zouk Festival is organised by Freddy Marinho and Andressa Castelhano with their Rio Zouk Style dance school now for the third time with the same format:
  • Six professional zouk artist couples representing the best of the best in a few different zouk styles.
  • Two and a half days of workshops with only one intermediate/advanced track and one beginners' track.
  • Three nights of parties (plus separate pre & after party).
  • Family atmosphere.
In summary: Less is more. Quality over quantity.

Artists who took part in this year's event: Renata Peçanha & Jorge Peres, Leonardo & Becky Neves, Jefferson Dadinho and Kelly Palhares, Daniel & Leticia Estevez Lopez, Clinton Lacerda & Cristi Boone and the hosts, Freddy & Andressa.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Zouk dancer's challenge: Learning salsa!

A while back I decided to take on a new dance challenge: I signed up for salsa classes for this autumn season.

In other words: Salseros, beware! :D

So starting early August I've been learning cross-body salsa with a simple intention of becoming a fluent social salsera. I committed myself to this project for four months -  it will be exciting to see how much I improve during that time and how I'll feel about salsa then!

So where did I start off in August? I'm not a complete beginner in salsa or social dancing in general, as you might know. Which is a double-edged sword: I have both the luxury and the complications of not starting from scratch. While most of my knowledge in social dancing I derive from Brazilian zouk, during the past couple years I have also ventured on the salsa floors around the world a couple times. Remember when I was salsa dancing in Mexico, Bolivia, New ZealandAustralia, JapanEstonia..? Basically I've just used the little I know of the on 1 basic step and count myself to death with 123 567 while I dance. Every time I've danced salsa I've discovered something new... and realised yet again I have no idea what I should do. But now I'm learning to dance salsa, for real.

Below I talk about the challenges and rewards of learning salsa during my first two months of training!

Is this how I will look like dancing salsa... way way in the future? 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Zouk non-stop at Zouktime 2014!

A couple weeks ago, after a 3 year break, I made a return visit to Brno for Zouktime 2014. This was the fifth edition of what is among (if not the) best zouk congresses in Europe at the moment. Yes, I said it.... Zouktime definitely topped my zouk congress chart for the past couple years!

Taking place in a quiet city of Brno, Czech Republic, Zouktime attracts a couple hundred zouk dancers from all around Europe and the world. And there were quite a few names that certainly did attract the people... Zouk teachers at the event this year:

Rodrigo Delano & Ruana Vasques (Brazil), Alex de Carvalho (Brazil) & Mathilde dos Santos (France), Renato Veronezi & Babi Pacheco (Brazil), Bruno Galhardo & Eglantine Oliveira (Brazil), Freddy Marinho & Andressa Castelhano (Brazil/Finland), Luděk Lužný (Czech Republic) & Olaya Dende (Spain), Jakub Jakoubek & Pavla Lužná (Czech Republic), Adilio Porto (Brazil) & Krisztina Balazs (Switzerland) and Ronaldo Magalhães & Gabi Peres (Brazil/Hungary). Teaching samba de gafieira among them were also Adalberto Shock and Mariana Torres.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Helsinki Zouk Flash Mob and IZFM 2014

September 21st to me nowadays equals International Zouk Flash Mob! Last Sunday we yet again danced zouk all around the world. Over one hundred cities and thousands of zouk dancers hosted flash mobs with one zouk song and one choreography. And all this hard work only to share our passion for zouk!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Baltic Sensual Weekend 2014

Whenever there's a zouk event closeby - I'm there. And so I was at the Baltic Sensual Weekend in Estonia last weekend! This was the second edition of the event that last year took place in Villa Andropoff, now in Hotel Lepanina in the area of Kabli, about half an hour drive south from the "summer capital of Estonia", Pärnu, and about 180 km from Tallinn. The idea seemed to be to gather Baltic & Northern European zouk & kizomba dancers under the same roof, learn some new moves & refresh on the fundamentals, leave the city for some nature & fresh air - and of course to party until early morning!

And what can I say? Mission accomplished!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Helsinki seasons: Autumn!

Perhaps you read my earlier post of Helsinki all year round? Now it's time for the first part of my "Helsinki seasons" series:

Autumn in Helsinki!

In Helsinki you'll find all the four seasons. Autumn starts roughly at the beginning of September and turns to winter sometime during November or December. In terms of climate, autumns in Helsinki can be warm and sunny, cool and sunny, cool and rainy, very cold rainy or very cold and snowy. Hmm... Prepare for everything! It's not unusual that every day (or every ten minutes) the weather is different. Average temperatures are slightly above or below 10 C. Still in September you may experience summer-like temperatures (+20 C or above), if you're lucky. Winter officially starts when the daytime temperatures go below 0 C and by then, usually, city is covered with snow.

The end of the autumn can be quite dark. November and December are considered the darkest months; day light hours hit their lowest point at Dec 20-21st but the few weeks before that can indeed be gloomy if there is no snow - with snow, things (and moods) are a bit brighter! To fight the dark & cold, people do whatever they can to keep their minds off of it; work, hobbies, going out on dinners and drinks... The Pre-Christmas party season (pikkujoulu, literally: little Christmas) starts already at the end of October and by the end of November you'll see the city sparkling with Christmas lights.

But it's not all dark, wet and cold. For many, the autumn is a season of new beginnings: school, new hobbies, healthy lifestyles, autumn fashion... Crisp morning air brings on a certain inspiration and feeling of a fresh start. And it's the season of new colors, as shades or red, orange and yellow brush over the city!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dance: It's good for you! -- 15 benefits of dancing

Anybody who has even a little bit of experience in dancing knows that it does wonders for your mind and body. But there's no harm in reminding you about it! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Zouk autumn season in Helsinki - 2014

While the summer is still going strong, the autumn season is starting in the dance schools! Oh no! Oh yesss!!

Dates are subject to change and more classes & parties are sure to appear - always check with the respective organisers for their latest schedule. You can also keep up-to-date with all the events via the "Zouk in Finland" calendar!


Rio Zouk

Teachers: Freddy Marinho and Andressa Castelhano
Dance school: Rio Zouk Style
What: Rio zouk (= a style of Brazilian zouk style originating from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).*
When: 26 Aug - 4 Dec:
      Wed 19:45-20:45 progressive course / Fundamentals
      Tue and Thu 19:30-20:30 progressive course / Team A (beginners/improvers)
      Tue and Thu 20:30-21:30 progressive course / Team B (improvers/intermediate)
Where: Etnofitness
More info and register via Rio Zouk Style site.


Teacher: Ossi Kimmelma
Dance school: Spiral Dancers
What: Mzouk (= Brazilian zouk style developed in Mallorca, Spain).*
When: Starting 3 Sep:
      Wed 19:30-20:30 beginners at SalsaStudio
      Sun: 16:00-17:30 improvers at TapahtumaSali
More info on Mzouk classes in Finland in the Spiral Dancers Finnish Facebook group.

Brazilian Zouk

Teacher: Soile Vedenpää
What: Brazilian zouk and zouk-lambada for beginners and improvers.*
When: Weekend workshops 13 Sep and 22 Nov.**
More info via Soile Vedenpää on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Helsinki all year round!

I've been traveling around the world since I was just a toddler. While I love to see new places, I love even more dearly my country, Finland, and always remember to tell all the great things about it to people I meet around the world. If you've been reading my blog, you have probably noticed me mentioning Helsinki quite often. But I think I've never taken the time to give a proper introduction! So here goes.... Welcome to HEL!

Helsinki in a nutshell

As I'm more than biased, here's in stead how my travel bible, Lonely Planet, introduces Helsinki:

Helsinki is cool without - as yet - being self-consciously so. Unlike other capitals, you sense that people go to places because they enjoy them, not to be seen. Much modern décor is ironic and humorous, and achieves stylishness by daring to differ rather than trying too hard. 

While not an ancient place, much of what is loveable in Helsinki is older. The style of its glorious Art Nouveau buildings, the spacious elegance of its cafés, the careful preservation of Finnish heritage in its dozens of museums, restaurants that have changed neither menu nor furnishings since the 1930s are all part of the city's quirky charm.

It has a very different feel to the rest of Finland, partly because before the days of the hi-tech society it was the country's sole point of contact almost with the rest of the world. Like all of Finland, though, Helsinki has a dual nature. In winter you sometimes wonder where all the people are. In spring and summer they are back again, packing green spaces and outdoor tables to get a piece of blessed sun, whirring around on thousands of bicycles and kicking the city's nightlife into overdrive.

Helsinki Market Square and Cathedral - the icons of the city.

Facts: Helsinki (est. 1550) is the capital of Finland, stretching along the country's southern shore and bordering with the Baltic Sea. It is Finland's political, cultural and business center; it's where most people live, study and work, and you'll find the highest concentration of services and activities in Helsinki.

In international surveys Helsinki is continually ranked among the top ten cities to live in the world. Life is safe, clean and highly enjoyable - despite the fact that us Helsinki citizens love to complain about it. About 600.000 people live in Helsinki, altogether about 1.4 million in the metropolitan area that includes cities Espoo and Vantaa. This is the largest urban area in Finland. Though when you look at it from above, it doesn't look all that urban but in fact surrounded and scattered with green areas and water. The city center is compact and manageable by foot with public transportation available everywhere, connecting the city and its surroundings from all corners.

Helsinki city center and islands, from above.

You will find in this post:

Helsinki mapped and interesting parts of the city
  • Center
  • South
  • East
  • North
  • West
Helsinki by themes
  • Architecture, historic sights and landmarks
  • Eating in Helsinki
  • Drinking in Helsinki
  • Dancing in Helsinki
  • Culture and entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Helsinki al fresco and active
  • Helsinki tours
  • Best views of Helsinki
Practical information
  • Getting around
  • Public holidays
  • Climate

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In the flow part 2: zouk flow (with flowing videos)!

 Continuing from the previous post:

Why is it that so often we zoukers go on about connection, the art (and mastery) of leading & following, musicality - and now about flow?

Perhaps it's because these things are the essence of zouk. They're what makes zouk so great, so magical... do I dare even to say unique? At the very least, these are the things what many of us identify in zouk and fall in love with.

Monday, July 7, 2014

In the flow - The magic of dance flow: how to reach it and why?

It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. 
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Flow is a moment in time when you’re both challenged at the activity that you’re doing, and when you also have complete autonomy in the task you’re conducting.
Everett Bogue, in The Hidden Art of Achieving Creative Flow.

Have you experienced flow?
Dance flow? Creative flow?

I have. One thing that's so great about dancing - and dancing zouk is what I'm writing about here in particular - is the flowing motion. When you're in the dance flow, you will certainly have one of the most pleasurable moments on the dance floor (or anywhere).

To me, simply put, flow in zouk is when one move follows the other in an effortless way. You and your partner dance seamlessly together, with a gentle lead & follow or even without touch, and - as it feels like - without thought.

But what makes flow happen?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The orange Amsterdam

Q: What can you do in Amsterdam if you're not interested in "coffee" shops or peep shows?

A: Plenty.

Introducing Amsterdam: the capital Netherlands, the country's most populous city, its cultural hub and probably the most popular tourist & transit destination. Known around the world for the lenient drug (and various other) policies, the canals, clogs, tulips, windmills and a history of commerce, Netherlands is one tiny European giant. Tiny? The country is smaller than the island state of Dominican Republic and its famous capital has a mere population of about 800.000 - that is one tenth of London, one third of Paris and even slightly less than in Stockholm.

The name Amsterdam comes from Amstelredamme, as in "dam of the river Amstel". Historically the city was one the most important ports in the entire world (in the 1600s) and the global center of commerce. No wonder you find Amsterdam sights also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But enough about the history..

Monday, June 23, 2014

Zouk in the Netherlands .....gezellig!

There are a couple contenders in Europe for the title of the biggest zouk city. For quite a while Prague, Barcelona, London and Amsterdam have been at the top of the list. All the aforementioned cities have a large number of zouk teachers, dance schools, congresses and party nights and are pretty much neck and neck for the #1 zouk destination in Europe.

Lately, I've been hearing that the zouk scene in Amsterdam is not like it was in its heydays and perhaps Prague and Barcelona are now in reign...? Be that as it may, I was in Amsterdam last week and certainly had to go check out the local zouk scene!

See the end of the post for full list of zouk in Amsterdam & Netherlands!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gdansk and Sopot - Polish city & beach holiday combination!

It's been a busy spring and start of the summer for the blogger - but still time for small trips! During Easter, mid April, we headed to Gdansk (or formally Gdańsk - and in German, BTW, Danzig), Poland. My second trip to Poland this year!?

Gdansk is the biggest city in Northern Poland, located on the Baltic coast. It is Polands main sea port and home to about 450.000 people. It's also part of Tricity (Trójmiasto), together with Gdynia and Sopot. Gdansk has an interesting history, as a free city, as part of the Hanseatic league as well as under German rule. It is and has been a part of Poland since 1945.

The most famous view of Gdansk

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

AfroLatin Flow - a hot dance weekend in Helsinki!

It was the warmest weekend of May when AfroLatin Flow arrived to Helsinki. Not just hot artists and sensual dance styles but also warm weathers, yay! Those three put together means we were in for a very steamy weekend!

Helsinki in the end of May - yay!

AfroLatin Flow is a three-day festival for the kizomba, zouk and bachata dancers, organised by IDNZ. There was quite a number of talented artists involved:

Kizomba, Semba and Tarraxinha: Sara López, Mafalda Amado & Alphonse Delette, Zé Barbosa & Marta Miranda, Rui & Catarina from AfroLatin Connection, Jazzy Cubango & Giselle Dias, Nemanja Sonero & Laura Zaray, Greg Martin.

Brazilian zouk: Pasty Pieternelle & Josta Ruby, Kwok One, Ossi Kimmelma.

Bachata: Carlos Cinta, Iñaki Fernandez, Andre Haikal & Arina Vesman

From the line-up you could notice that the kizomba-semba-tarraxinha team was the biggest one! It certainly was the main style in the parties but in the workshop tracks you could spend pretty much the whole time doing just one style (kizomba, zouk or bachata) - but surely those that wanted to mix styles got the most out of this event!

I was "taking it easy" that weekend - which meant I only signed up for the five night party marathon, and skipped the workshops this time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Zouk summer season in Helsinki - 2014

The summer has started in Finland! This summer-loving country pretty much slows down to a halt ... but we keep on zoukin'!

Check out below the summer schedule for zouk!

Dates are subject to change and more classes & parties are sure to appear during summer - always check with the respective organisers for their latest schedule.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

50 signs of zouk addiction

For my fellow zouk dancers.... I was going to make just a short list. But hey, I managed to stop at 50!!?!

1. You go shopping for clothes or shoes and see something you like. The first thing you think is "but can I dance in this"?

2. The clothes in your wardrobe are getting a lot smaller, shorter, lighter and less modest.

3. You become to know a new level of how bad your shoes can smell.

4. (Zoukeiras:) You start looking at other people's long hair with admiration and envy.

5. Most of the websites you visit contain the word "zouk" or "dance" in their url.

6. You've already decided to shut your laptop but then you think "I'll just watch one more dance video".

7. You have to get a new hard drive because your old one runs out of space from all the dance videos you have.

8. You start changing your user IDs and profile names to something that contains the word "zouk".

9. Your ringtone is a zouk song.

10. You think it's completely normal to get extremely close A) a person you don't know at all and B) a completely sweat-drenched person.

Friday, May 16, 2014

International zouk competitions

The dancers are a competitive breed of people. And why not? If you got skills, step up and show them! There are a couple of international competitions coming up in my favourite dance form, Brazilian zouk Sign up and be a zouk star!

May 30 - Jun 1 2014: Zouk World Cup

in Zurich, Switzerland held at the Zurich Zouk Congress (KSG, Limmatstrasse 114, Zürich), organised by KriZouk.

Qualifiers on May 30, 11:30 pm: Improvisation to 2 songs, one slow and one fast. All the competing couples will dance at the same time.

Finals on Jun 1, 11 pm: The finalist couple perform a choreographed zouk show (2-4 minutes).

Criteria: Musicality and rhythm; Creativity; Harmony; Use of space; Clothing.
The judges award 5-10 points for each criteria for every couple. The finalists will be chosen by the highest accumulated points of the qualifiers. Points from the qualifiers and the final will be summed up to for the total points for each couple.

Judges: Renata Peçanha, Jorge Peres, Rodrigo Delano, Renato Veronezi, Babi Pacheco, Bruno Galhardo, Eglantine Oliveira, Leandro Wakko, Masha Oliveira and more.

Prizes: Full passes of international zouk congresses.

Registration: Fill in the form here.
Registration fee: 50€ (includes entrance to Friday and Sunday parties).
Registration deadline: May 20 2014.

Note: The competition will be held only with the registration of 6 couples. Otherwise the competition will be canceled and registration fees refunded.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Styling for the whole body (and mind): Part 2 of zouk ladies' styling tips

This a follow up to the part 1 of zouk ladies' styling. There I looked into various parts of the body and how to best style them. Here I attempt to summarise the key ideas in styling - "styling for the whole body (and mind)".

If you have ladies' styling tips of your own please share to them to us here, or on DTW Facebook page! I'm always interested to hear about ways to become a better (and a better looking) dancer :) 

<< Missed Part 1? Go to previous post

Zouk styling summary

Less is more

After all the styling tips, there's one that I don't want you to forget: Less is more. It looks messy if you do all kinds of styling at the same time; run one hand by your side, the other around your head, the hip is turning, head going around.... And you look more like "I'm itchy" than "I'm sensual". A better way is to do the styling moves separately - you can even connect them: Turn the hip. Then place your hand(s) at your hip and run it (them) up your side, then around the head. Leave the hand(s) gracefully on one shoulder or open downwards and then roll the head around (relax the neck).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Zoukeiras, it's our time to shine! Part 1 of zouk ladies' styling tips

One of the first things someone told me about zouk is that the main job for the leader is to make the lady look beautiful! Probably everybody wouldn't agree that it is t-h-e main thing (but it sure sounds nice in my ears). But it's not only the leader's job to do that, it's also the ladies' job - and styling certainly makes a big impact in that.

In this post I will share the tips I've collected during the years regarding zouk ladies' styling. There are some universal ideas of what movements look nice and what don't - but still, the two important things I think you should remember in styling:

First of all: We are all unique and have your own individual style! Don't be stressed about not looking exactly like your zouk teacher, about moving just like her, having her physique, flexibility or looks. Be proud of your individual style!

Secondly: Every zouk style has different styling, to some degree. What fits one style may not fit the other - but learning more than one way to style does not hurt! Some concepts still remain the same in all styles and I try to focus on these here.

“It's better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Below a number of "key concepts" in the follower's styling in zouk, as simply written as possible. Many of these have notes also about dance technique in general, how to move in a way that helps you also follow better and make your movement feel & look more elegant. These tips here have helped in my dancing and would say apply to any zouk style (zouk-lambada, Rio style, hiphop zouk, etc). I've included some style specific tips too!

If you have ladies' styling tips of your own please share to them to us here, or on DTW Facebook page! I'm always interested to hear about ways to become a better (as well as a better looking) dancer :) 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brazil on the Baltic Sea!

Brazil, the Baltic Sea. What does the two of them have in common?

Well, two weeks ago a group of us went on a Brazil themed cruise over the Baltic Sea, from Helsinki to Stockholm - that's what!

There are a tens of cruise liners crossing the Baltic Sea between Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Germany and Russia every day. Brazil was (and still is) a seemingly popular theme on the cruise liners Viking Line and Silja Line this spring! I obviously JUMPED on this like the Brazil, samba & zouk fan that I am, and organised a little trip for the group of us dancers!

So what's in a Brazil cruise on the Baltic Sea?

Obviously a big fat Brazilian buffet! The picanha wasn't as delicious as in Brazil (could it really be?) - but at least they had the picanha, yummy. The food was great, the selection was enormous and the company was fantastic!

Samba and capoiera shows! There was a couple shows each evening in the night club by a Brazilian dance goup. The samba costumes were quite beautiful actually!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How to improve your musicality? 6 exercises for dancers

There I discussed about musicality in dancing, how to define it, the theories involved in general, in zouk and in leading and following as well as what musicality means to me.

From theory to practice - how can you improve your musicality? 

“And if the music's good, you dance."
- Unknown

See my zouk music playlists

Perhaps you've taken a musicality workshop with your dance teacher or at a congress, and you have already an idea how to work on your musicality (I fully recommend taking workshops and private classes!). But there's plenty of exercises you can do on your own, and this will allow really to dig into details and work at your own pace. Below a collection of exercises that will flex your musical muscles! I hope you'll find these tools useful - I've worked with a variation and combination of these over the years and I feel they've helped me.

NB: If you're worried about wearing out your favourite song in the exercises below then by all means pick song that is not your most loved tune. I wouldn't worry though; the song may wear out for a while as you do this, but you will get more kick out the exercises with a song you really enjoy and will probably in the end love it even more. And after intensive listening sessions you can take a little break from that song and it'll be sure to regain its power.

Ok, lets get to work!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting a grip with musicality - the most vague and insightful part of dancing

Musicality is to me one of the most important aspects of dancing. The best dance partners are gifted in many respects; technique, style, connection and they are overall great people. Musicality is one important trait among those, it helps an otherwise good dancer rise to an extraordinary dancer. And for me it's the thing that makes the magic happen on the dance floor.

In the words of ballet teacher Deborah Wingert. “Musical dancers don’t just turn until they stop. They turn until they have to move on to the next point in the music. Musical dancers never get so caught up in steps that they ignore the music.”

Theories on musicality

Musicality - no matter how important it is to me - is something that I've always struggled to really explain or quantify. Even some of the definitions I've come across are extremely vague, such as this by choreographer Wade Robson: “Musicality is understanding music on a technical level, and then dropping all of that knowledge so you can sit deep inside the music. It’s dancing inside the music, as opposed to floating on top of it.”

Well, how is dancing "inside" the music more musical than "floating" on it?? Or if your dance teacher tells you to increase pace or make a movement bigger it is usually quite clear, but if he or she would tell you to increase musicality, what do you do?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 zouk congress calendar - updated!

This is an update to the extremely popular 2014 zouk congress calendar! The list below includes all major* zouk events around the world during 2014. Most of the events are now confirmed, even up until the end of the year! Those that are not confirmed are also on the list with their 2013 dates. The cancelled events are at the bottom of the list. If you'd like to see the previous version of the 2014 zouk congress list from Sep 2013 you can still view it here.

To help you plan your personal "zouk world tour" all the links and dates have once again been checked & updated, and all the events that appear for the first time in 2014 are marked as NEW. Also a couple new type of events have been included in the list - these are events that are designed to be "only" big international zouk parties with no or very limited amount of workshops. On the list these are marked with PARTY. My blog posts of the events can be also seen along the list! Any questions? Dig in!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fun winter week in Lapland - where, when, how?

Yep. I spent my winter holiday in Kuusamo, in Northern Finland. It is the home of about 20.000 people, and one of the largest ski resorts in Finland, Ruka. 34 slopes with 21 lifts and 205 kilometers of ski tracks of pure bliss!

Picking your destination...

A fun week in Lapland is really not that hard to achieve! All you need to do is pick a nice spot and get a good group of friends, and you're pretty much all set.

So what are the nice spots in Northern Finland? There are many! Best bets for winter fun are the ski resorts. The biggest ski resorts are Levi (near Kittilä), Ylläs (near Kolari) and Ruka (near Kuusamo) where you find the most slopes, ski lifts, cross country ski tracks, organised activities like snow safaris - and also many shops, restaurants and a busy nightlife. All this is surrounded by pleeenty of peace & quiet and untouched nature. There's really no mountains in Finland but the fells are quite picturesque:

Slopes at Ruka and Levi

I like Ruka and Kuusamo area because there's plenty of things to do, it's still peaceful enough during off-season and its location at the southern edge of Northern Finland makes it easier to reach; you can drive there and not kill yourself of boredom in the process.

If you prefer an even more serene location, head out to some of the smaller ski spots, like Iso-Syöte, Saariselkä, Pallas, Pyhä, Luosto, Olos or Salla, just to name a few.

Lapland extends also over Sweden and Norway, covering areas mainly above the Arctic Circle. It is not only a geographical but a cultural region - with plenty of interesting places to choose from! Some of the famous spots outside Finland are the ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna in Sweden and Svalbard, the northernmost permanently settled place in Europe, in Norway.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Social dancing in Helsinki - where to dance salsa, bachata, zouk and kizomba?

If you're looking for where to go dancing in Helsinki you've come to the right place! The social dance scene is booming in our little northern corner of the world!!

Below a run-down of all the parties and socials for salsa (Cuban and LA), bachata, Brazilian zouk, kizomba and semba happening in Helsinki at the moment:

Monday's Afrolatin Night at Uggla - the upstairs salsa room

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

London Zouk Fest - a happy meeting of zouk styles!

Back-to-back festival weekends take a toll on any dancer. But I'm not any dancer, I told myself - I can take it! :D So just a couple days after Tallinn Salsa Festival I repacked my bags for London Zouk Fest. I had been looking forward to this lambada-zouk & Vero zouk weekend for quite a while - both my favourite zouk styles under the same roof!

Park Inn hotel close to the Heathrow airport was our home for the past five days. The event itself took place on Fri-Sun, with the artist line-up including such zouk stars as Solange Dias & Joe Koniak (the organisers), Renato & Babi, Alisson & Audrey, Xandy & Evelyn, Daniel & Leticia, Braz & Josy, Carlos & Fernanda, Jakub & Lucia, Ludek & Pavla, Yuval and many more. So not only was there lambada-zouk and Vero zouk, but also Rio style zouk, Mzouk and new fusion styles. A number of London-based teachers were also giving workshops and performing at the event, including Arthur & Aieste, Pedrinho & Linda, Davi & Sara and Gary & Marisa, to name a few.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's time for carnavaaaal!

Carnival! The most colourful, indulgent and rambunctious time of the year! Carnival is a festive season which occurs according to the Catholic calendar before lent, setting this year at around 28 February - 4 March. Depending where you go you may see different types of events - but you can expect massive street parties and spectacular parades. Costumes and masks are worn, and in fact historically they served a purpose: behind those you could hide your true identity, race and gender.

The Brazilian carnival (or carnaval in Portuguese) is perhaps the most famous of all carnivals. Millions of people travel to Brazil for this crazy week - Rio de Janeiro has undoubtedly the number one carnival in the world. The carnival preparations can start even a year before and the celebrations can go on a couple weeks. It all culminates on the samba parade where the best samba schools in Rio sing, dance and party their way through the Sambadrome, Sambódromo (the samba exhibition area designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer) in front of over 50.000 spectators. Samba schools spend thousands of hours and reais (even millions) to produce the massive floats and detailed costumes each year. BBC just last week posted an interesting video of how the Mangueira samba school in Rio de Janeiro is preparing for the carnival: see the video here.

The parade schedule in Rio de Janeiro Sambódromo in 2014:

  • Fri 28 Feb and Sat 1 Mar: Samba schools in the Access Group compete to get a spot on the Special Group on the following year.
  • Sun 2 Mar and Mon 3 Mar: Samba schools in the Special Group - the twelve (six on each night) most famous samba schools - parade with thousands of dancers, outrageous costumes and massive floats. This is an intense competition for fame, glory and position as the best samba school of Rio de Janeiro.
  • Sat 8 Mar: Winners' Parade - the best samba schools from the Special Group parade once more.

I got to see the 2012 Winner's Parade in Florianopolis - it looked something like this:

But it's not just the parade with tons of glitter that makes the carnaval. The true heart and soul of the week lies in the working class neighborhoods and favelas, Rio's hillside 'slums' (a number of them have been "cleaned up" and made safer for the residents and tourists alike). Many favelas house their own samba school and the people there are proud supporters and members of that school. A visit to a local samba school before the carnaval is recommended! You can find also street parties all around the city, organised by the blocos. These are casual & crazy events packed with people partying with their friends, some wearing costumes and performing smaller street parades.

While I was in South America in 2012 I made sure I was in Brazil for the carnaval. I decided to head to a smaller city, Florianopolis, avoiding the most expensive and most packed events in places like Salvador or Rio. And I wasn't disappointed! Read about my entire carnival week in Florianopolis - it was quite an experience!

Street party in Florianopolis!

The stylish Tallinn Salsa Festival

It has been a busy start of the year - but I'm not complaining!

Last weekend I made a detour to the Tallinn Salsa Festival, to see my friends in Estonia, and to see if I could still dance any salsa!? The artist line-up was an interesting mix; Terry & Cecile (LA salsa), African Jet (LA salsa), Erodys & Tenna (Cuban salsa), Mark-Anthony (NY salsa), Felicien & Isabelle (kizomba), Andre & Arina (salsa & tango), Nemanja & Asya (salsa & kizomba), Joseph Davids (salsa & bachata), Xandy & Evelyn (zouk), Marco Zanella (salsa & bachata), San Miguel (Cuban salsa)... So I was expecting a nice combination of different Latin, African and Brazilian dance styles!

Party time! ¡Bailamos!

I was in fact going to the festival just to party (- am I getting lazy?). The organisers had managed to get an impressive venue for Friday & Saturday nights: The Estonian National Opera House! There were two dance floors: the lofty main room was for salsa - it was spacious and in my opinion one of the most beautiful party spaces I've seen at dance festivals. But very very hot! Despite the heat I had a really fun time dancing there. The bar had lots of very reasonably priced drinks so the crowd was well served.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Warsaw: Shine bright like a diamond...

I spent a January weekend in Warsaw, dancing at the Zouk Libre Festival. But that's not all, I had some nice moments enjoying the winter Warsaw!

One thing is quite evident is that they must love Christmas. Or decorations. Because still in the middle of January the city was full of holiday light fixtures and ornaments. I think you may see Warsaw up from space from all the lights they've used to illuminate the old town! It was quite cute though, and I guess it helps you not notice how cold and dark it is this time of the year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Zouk Libre Festival 2014 - Polish zouk makes a big impression

On the spur of the moment I booked tickets to Warsaw for the 2nd Zouk Libre Festival. From the looks of it, the event seemed like a nice zouk festival on the small side: five international teacher couples (Pasty & Josta, Alisson & Audrey, Daniel & Leticia, Freddy & Andressa and Xandy & Evelyn) and a rather new zouk nation, Poland.

Boy was I wrong.

Yes, it was nice. But it sure wasn't small! Zoukers from all over Poland and all over Europe found their way to Warsaw on this rather cold & dark mid-January weekend. Coupled with the central location (easy connections within Europe), good artist line-up and crazy cheap prices this was a win-win-win for many.

Poland is still quite a young member on the zouk world, in its toddler phase (less than three years old). But the scene is growing - strong! There's lots of great - even spectacular - dancers, groomed by a team of local talent as well as regular international visitors. I didn't get to go to any of the weekly regular parties but I would be surprised (after this) if they were anything but fantastic!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Best of travel 2014 - top destinations from around the web, and around the world!

Google & I made a virtual trip around the world past weeks, scouring a number of "best in travel 2014" lists by various news outlets and travel experts. My first thoughts of the lists were something like:
"Oh, so you took a map and some darts..."
"What ever happened to cool places New York, Tokyo, Barcelona...?"

But I do get it, the idea is to recommend (mostly) fresh or less known places, since  people who travel a lot and read these lists want to see something new. And what looked like a whole bunch of randomly picked places did eventually lead me to find some clear trends in the top picks!
Scroll to the end for the complete set of travel destination lists!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Zouk classes in Helsinki - spring 2014

It's now the start of another new dance season in Helsinki! Below a summary of classes and regular parties you'll find in Helsinki this spring.

Dates are subject to change and more classes & parties will be added during the season - always check with the respective organisers for their latest schedule.

But, what is zouk? Read more here!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas in Vilnius

December was dark and rainy in most of Northern Europe. It felt like such a chore to get up in the morning and step out of the door .. somehow the blankets get so much more comfier in the middle of winter. So what to do to cheer up? Take a little holiday!

Thanks to the long Christmas break we had time for a small impromptu getaway. Destination: Vilnius! This lovely capital of Lithuania (yes, that's the southernmost Baltic state) is home to roughly half a million people - and many many Baroque buildings. The entire old town, Senamiestis, is in fact on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Did you also know that it is claimed that the geographical centre of Europe lies in close to Vilnius?