Evelyn & Derrick (Romania/Hawaii/San Francisco)
Evelyn is one of the top and most sought-after zouk teachers, performers, and choreographers in the world. Her career started in Romania (Transylvania) in her early childhood where she learned the art of body form and flow through the discipline and extremities of rhythmic gymnastics. She further developed these abilities during her school years, where she enjoyed street dancing, performed on dance teams, and created diverse choreographies. While working her first career as a professional Dental Technician, Evelyn simultaneously explored Salsa, Modern Dance, Ballroom, Flamenco, and instructed Zumba to increase her dance repertoire.
Then in 2006 she was confronted with her destiny: Brazilian Zouk. She immediately fell in love with this dance, and it has been her passion ever since. Over the years, while studying and working abroad within her professional dance career, Evelyn performed and taught in more than 30 countries all over the world. Evelyn partnered with many prolific Zouk leaders such as Pasty, Adilio Porto, Mafie Zouker, Xandy Liberato and many more at international congresses. During this time, she also added Contemporary dance to her foundation as a Brazilian Zouk artist.
According to Evelyn, dancing Zouk is “surrendering in the moment with a balanced mental and physical state, combining creativity with inner-beauty, while existing in harmony with the music.”
Evelyn embodies a unique approach to dance – an art of moving, expressing and interpreting the music gracefully and fluently. Her talents inspire dancers around the world to express their dance from their hearts.
Presently, Evelyn is still sharing her love and passion for Brazilian Zouk, gratefully combining the beauty of being in love with her forever thankful, inspirational, and beloved husband Derrick.
Paulo & Luisa (Brazil/Miami)
They are the current Brazilian champions of Zouk – Brazil Latin Open 2018 and recently were thefirst couple of Brazilian Zouk to conquer 2nd place in the most important swing event, The Open Swing Championships in the category “Cabaret”.
Gui & Valeska (Brazil/DC)
Inspired by the movie “Shall We Dance,” Gui Prada started dancing in 2004. However, it was only in 2006 that he really began to dive deep into dance as a work-study trainee of the Jaime Aroxa Dance School in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most prestigious dance schools in Brazil, which trained some of the most renowned dancers in the country. During his 6 years as a member of the school’s team, he learned all Brazilian partner dances (Forró, Samba de Gafieira, Soltinho, Bolero and Zouk) and Argentine Tango. As he matured more as a dancer, he found he preferred to focus less on the steps and more on turning partner dancing into a relaxing experience for the mind and body.
In 2009, on his first visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was introduced to the authentic tango hug – the close embrace – and all of its complexity and power to create the ultimate feeling of “conforto, cuidado e entrega” – comfort, care and surrender. After that, he continued learning from other remarkable instructors in Brazil, including Fabiano Vivas, Kelly Reis, Érico Rodrigo, Guilherme Pimentel, Lídio Freitas and many others; and went on to research the close embrace and its application to all partner dances, with the purpose of conveying a sense of well-being and relaxation between dance partners.
Apart from dance, Gui also studied and worked as a tantric massage therapist. This work helped him to create a unique perspective of human nature, as well as a deep understanding of the capabilities of the human body. His investigation of the close embrace continued over the years, and through many sources both inside and outside of the dance world. These studies guided him to form a multidisciplinary understanding of dancing and connecting in close embrace as a healing and therapeutic experience. Due to its versatility in movement, music, speed and approach, Brazilian Zouk became the perfect dance to apply this concept and explore the possibilities, which he has been doing since 2016, when he attended the first Zouk Retreat in Valencia, led by Xandy Liberato, Brenda Carvalho and Anderson Mendes. After that, his research on partner dancing took a new direction, as he continued working with Brenda and Anderson to seek for the application of the concepts explored at the retreat in different ways by using the references of the other Brazilian partner dances and tantra.
Currently, he continues to develop the idea of partner dancing as a true therapeutic experience, having dancing in close embrace and the basics as the focus point. Although Gui started his career less than one year ago, he was able to develop and improve this concept through a workshop called “The Universe Behind the Hug”, which visited 7 cities around the US and was attended by dozens of people. Besides that, Gui had the opportunity to teach in 4 Brazilian Zouk congresses together with Hannah Miller-Jones and Ashley Kent; one Brazilian Zouk retreat in Seattle; a new workshop about the origins of Brazilian Zouk called “Finding Zouk” and a new workshop with Brenda and Anderson called “Think and Feel”.
Gui spend his last year in Washington DC, US, developing the local community with regular, weekly and progressive classes. This work allowed him to acquire a rich perspective and experience in community building with focus in quality, integration and, most importantly, fun!
Valeska was born in Brasília but raised in Rio de Janeiro, Valeska’s passion for dance started ten years ago. One studio, many admirations: during four years, she had experienced Jazz, Flamenco, Classical Ballet, Tap and Hip Hop on her first contact with the art. Valeska had to stop dancing for a while, but three years ago she came back to the classroom to study modern and broadway jazz for a year, when she finally met the Jaime Aroxa Copacabana Dance Studio. There, she was a part of the team and had an intense training, learning all the Brazilian partner dances – Samba, Forró, Soltinho, Bolero e Zouk – and Salsa, Bachata and Tango. After moving to the U.S and attending the United World College, Valeska partnered with Gui Prada and together they taught several workshops around the country. Seattle, Washington DC, New York, Minneapolis, Austin were cities holding some workshops and retreats, including collaborative works with Kuna and Anderson and Brenda. Her passion and skill recently led her to become the leader of the Dance Ensemble team twice a week on the campus she lives in Montezuma, New Mexico, to study dance, including Brazilian dances.
Rachel Meth (Albuquerque, NM)
Rachel is a dedicated and passionate educator and dancer as well as the founder and director of EMBODIED LLC and it’s umbrella programs. Her deep passion is to empower others, connect and build community, as well as to inspire an embodied and compassionate life through dance, movement, and mindfulness practices. Her enthusiasm for teaching has inspired both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education.
While living in Buenos Aires in 2009, she discovered and fell head over heels in love with Brazilian Zouk, which she has been teaching and spreading around the US ever since. She had never before experienced a partner dance that embodied such flow, connection, and dynamic yet natural movements. During her dance, movement, and mindfulness journey, Rachel also discovered 5-Rhythms, Ecstatic Dance, Reiki, and Meditation. She adopted her own meditation practice and began integrating these different forms of movement and mindfulness into schools and dance teaching experiences. She is the organizer of NCZOUKFEST and other festivals including Dances of Love Festival Hawaii, Hawaii Zouk Retreats, EMBODIED Zouk Retreats, co-organizer for AZoukFest, and she is committed to offering a different type of experience at festivals and retreats that cultivates joyful awareness, loving presence, and nourishing connection with one another.
Umka Pele (Bethesda, MD)
Umka is a yogini, athlete, and movement artist who has practiced a variety of creative movement modalities for over 30 years. Umka’s athletic and creative movement journey included ballet, contemporary dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, exotic dance, and several partner dances: Bachata, Salsa, Kizomba, Zouk and West Coast Swing. Umka is a yoga teacher who is passionate about applying the principles of yoga asana to dance conditioning and using mindfulness practices for creating a greater mind, body and energetic awareness in dance.
DJ RX (Washington DC)
DJ Rx (Justin Collins) has been a musician for most of his life. His musical experiences range from composing classical music for band, orchestra and choir to songwriting and working as a mix engineer. During his time as a mix engineer he began experimenting in the world of DJing but it wasn’t until he found his love for Zouk that he really found how he could fuse his vast musical and compositional background with the dance he loved. Now, nothing gets him going like having a room full of people feeling the music and dancing the night away.