Shani Mayer (Los Angeles/Israel)
Igor & Christina (NYC/Brazil & Los Angeles)
Christina found Brazilian Zouk in 2014 where she immediately fell in love with the dance. She furthered her training with Igor Fraga in Los Angeles, California as he partnered her to compete at the 2nd Annual US Zouk Open Competition where they received 1st place in the Semi-Pro division. Since then, she trained with various international artists and received certifications for completed teacher training through Zouk NY and the Dutch Zouk Congress Teacher Certification program. Her passion for the dance lead her to begin teaching Zouk in Los Angeles, California and since has been hired to teach at various events throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Brazil with her partner Igor Fraga. Most recently, they taught and performed at Renata Peçanha’s International Rio Zouk Congress. Christina also competed in the Intermediate Jack & Jill at the International Rio Zouk Congress where she took home 1st place. In 2018, she opened her company Zouk Babes, a performance group which empowers followers through dance and training technique. Christina‘s goal is to spread her passion for Zouk to the dancer inside everyone.
Igor Fraga, originally from Minas Gerais – Brasil, started his zouk journey in 2012 based in New York. He trained as a Zouk NY instructor and held weekly classes in Manhattan and, for a brief time, also in LA. Always looking to do his best, he collects awards from various competitions. Nowadays he’s been working as a traveling instructor doing various workshops and teaching at congresses around North America and the world. He’s also responsible in leading the Dare 2 Zouk program at NYC Zouk Festival, which offers a full on immersion and training in the fundamentals of the dance.
Elizabeth Brewer & Gabriel Fends (Brazil)
Coming from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gabriel Fénds and Elizabeth Brewer work together to transform lives while teaching Brazilian Zouk and the power of Loving Kindness. As one Spread Loving Kindness (SLK) student in Rio de Janeiro has shared, “You will leave their workshops with a greater sense of self worth, love and appreciation of self, and learn to develop a deep sense of understanding and compassion for who you truly are. This will transform the way you approach, listen, respond and connect with others.”
Professor of Brazilian Zouk and six-year company member of CIA Renata Peçanha, Gabriel Fénds was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Gabriel’s father, who has since passed away, studied with Jaime Arôxa, the first man to bring Zouk lambada to Rio. In honor of his father, Gabriel grew up studying Zouk brasileiro with Renata Peçanha, who systematized the set of movements used today in Brazilian Zouk & the creator of Traditional Zouk. Gabriel has danced in two companies in Rio, and enjoyed teaching Brazilian Zouk as a side job… until the day he first danced with Elizabeth Brewer.
Ballerina, Movement Therapist, CPT, YACEP-RYT Yoga, Meditation, Breathing, and Pilates teacher, wellness and fitness professional Elizabeth Brewer left everything behind in the United States to study Brazilian Zouk, dance in CIA Compania Renata Peçanha and teach at Peçanha’s school. It was there that Gabriel fell in love with Elizabeth’s connection and loving kindness at first dance. With Gabriel having never taken an English class, and Elizabeth having never taken a Portuguese class, communication felt next to impossible… at least, until the music came on. It seemed magical that two people from two different countries around the world could communicate with a language much more intimate than English or Portuguese. That language was Brazilian Zouk. Together they developed a way to communicate through the universal language of the eyes, smile, kindness while dancing Brazilian Zouk. This universal language allows one’s partner to feel listened to, respected and cared for, which results in feelings of compassion, understanding, and unwavering trust.
This vision and teaching, the two wholeheartedly believe, has the power to create a happier, healthier, more loving and kind world. It is this world that Gabriel and Elizabeth seek to help create with their teaching and dancing. Today, after walking away from his life as a lawyer, Gabriel now joins Elizabeth full-time in their shared mission to Spread Loving Kindness around the world through Brazilian Zouk. Elizabeth teaches Self Loving Kindness at Renata Peçanha’s Professors Course, and together, Gabriel and Elizabeth have their very own five-day Spread Loving Kindness ‘SLK in RIO’ Congress, lead ‘SLK Retreats’ in Brazilian National Forests surrounding Rio, teach workshops at Brazilian universities, and will be teaching at the VII International Rio Zouk Congress. The two will be traveling to North America this fall to teach in both Canada and the United States. They cannot wait to stop in North Carolina to share the love at NCZOUKFEST 2018!
Bruno & Fae (Denver/Portugal)
Atoro & Firefly (Atlanta)
Atoro, born and raised in Northern California, is a passionate and soulful dancer and teacher. Before discovering Zouk while still in its infancy in the US, Atoro was a trained teacher of Latin and Ballroom. After that chance encounter he dedicated himself utterly to the forms of Zouk and after years of study began teaching in DC. Over his 8-year career as a Zouk teacher he has taught, DJ’d, and performed at Zouk and Latin congresses throughout the US and internationally. He founded and co-founded the Zouk dance tribes in DC and Atlanta respectively – both of which have grown into beautiful and thriving communities of which he is very proud.
Atoro’s personal dance-style is a form of NeoZouk centered within deep and honest connection, as well as the present-moment improvisation and breaking of patterns that comes from being entirely in the moment. His area of particular expertise is the internal form of lead and follow called Suwai and the corresponding flow-state achieved through silent mind and deep body listening. His teaching emphasizes going beyond the repetition of patterns, to understanding the flow and soul of the movements. He is currently based in Atlanta and teaches with his wonderful partner, Firefly.
Ebonie (aka Firefly) has trained extensively in a diverse range of dance modalities. Growing up in NYC influenced her eclectic worldview. Pursuing a B.A. in Japanese, Ebonie lived abroad in Kyoto in 2005-06 and studied classical Japanese dance. Upon her return to Williams College, Ebonie pursued African, Latin, contemporary Indian, and Modern dance. She moved to Washington, D.C. to immerse herself in an evolving arts community, working and dancing at the Dance Exchange and the D.C. Dance Collective.
Eventually, Ebonie added Contemporary, Jazz and Blues to her repertoire. Ebonie joined Tanya Kianda Fiske’s all-female YemaShun Dance Company, studying and performing Mambo and Afro-Latin dance with Fiske and Psyon D. Scott. Introduced to Brazilian Zouk in 2010 by Atoro, Ebonie immersed herself in the form. Upon her return to NYC in 2012, Ebonie received the Zouk NY teacher certification through Kim Rottier. She served as Teaching Assistant to Rottier, Henri Velandia and Jessica Lamdon (ZenZouk). She also studied Contact Improvisation with Jesse Johnson (Dancing with Gravity). In 2016, Ebonie partnered with Atoro and teaches with Zouk Atlanta.
Ebonie is invested in improvisational dance and a breadth of conscious movement techniques, and incorporates a variety of dance styles into her movement. She believes in the power of dance to connect and communicate, and the nourishment that creativity brings to life.
Ashley Kent (Washington D.C.)
Ashley has been dancing from an early age, including training in jazz, tap, ballet, modern, west African dance, salsa, kizomba and Brazilian zouk. She got hooked on afro-latin partner dancing while living abroad in Ghana and Sudan, but when she was introduced to Brazilian zouk in 2012 in DC she fell in love with it. She has studied with top instructors from Brazil, Canada, Spain and the US and has traveled to Brazil to attend several of the most well-known Brazilian zouk festivals.Ashley co-founded District Zouk with Amy White, Valentine Luu and Bianca Desroches and they have been teaching weekly Brazilian zouk classes at DanceSport Dupont Circle since June 2014. In addition to these weekly classes, District Zouk offers weekly and monthly dance socials and periodic workshops with guest instructors they bring to Washington DC. Together with Kianda T (aka Tanya Fiske) they co-organize the White House Kizomba/Zouk Summit, a spring dance festival that includes a full weekend of workshops in Brazilian zouk and kizomba with instructors from around the world.
Rachel & Zan (Durham & Albuquerque)
Zan is an avid student and teacher of Brazilian Zouk. Having traveled to congresses from LA to Miami and Mexico, Zan has learned from over 40 instructors to form a wide portfolio of Zouk experience. As a teacher, Zan focuses on principles for lead and follow that increase understanding and creativity beyond set patterns and allow dancers of any kind to communicate dynamically. Zan trains and teaches in NC with Rachel Meth, growing the Bull City Zouk scene to be the greatest of all time.
Rachel is a dedicated and passionate educator and dancer as well as the founder and director of EMBODIED 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.
Lydie & Robert (Durham, NC)
Lydie has been dancing since she was introduced to Jazz (or twirling around in pretty clothes) at Dancentre Studio in Chapel Hill at the ripe age of 4. She stumbled upon salsa dance in high school, and continued to explore latin dance through college. From there her passion for social dancing has only grown, to include explorations in fusion, blues, tango, and more. She fell in love with Brazilian zouk and began teaching under the tutelage of her personal hero, Rachel Meth. She is a co-founder and teacher for Triangle Zouk and is delighted to help nourish the North Carolina zouk community with this fantastic event.
Kelly Marshall (Honolulu, HI)
Kelly has been studying movement since she was a child. Growing up dancing, she was fascinated by what the human body is capable of. Her affinity for anatomy and physiology drew her to study Kinesiology at Kansas State University and she was certified as an Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has experience with various styles of dance including Modern, West African, Japanese Yosakoi, and Breakin’. Her love for yoga was sparked in 2005 and this has been an integral part of her life ever since. Leading people through yoga asana has been a means for her to blend the health sciences with Eastern thought in an effort to guide people during their unique journey on this earth. Over the years she has blended her knowledge of biomechanics with Energy Anatomy and the Hawaiian concept of Hoʻolōkahi to create a style that nourishes the physical AND subtle bodies and encourages people to cultivate harmony between their outward existence and their inner Self.
DJ Fraga (Brazil/NYC)
DJ Fraga started his career in NY back in 2013. He started getting recognition thanks to his well selected playlist and knowledge of the dance floor. He’s played at every major zouk congress/festival in United States, and continues to bring the best music to his set all over North America.
Founder and director of ZoukTopia, he aims to always create a great environment at parties and to keep everyone dancing non stop with the latest and hottest music in the zouk world.
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.