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Weekly Spotlight Conversation with Myron L.

This week's WSC is going to be a treat! I had the pleasure to meet Myron in Singapore when he came for Singapore Brazilian Zouk Festival 2020, and found him to be such a lovely soul. I had a feeling he had a plethora of experiences to share about dance, and upon this interview, felt SO excited.

There are so many stories within the dance scene, and my hope is that with this COVID pandemic, we learn to refocus and treasure the people and the stories in our dance community - In Singapore and beyond <3 Myron is retired & fabulous!

Started dancing 26 years ago, aged 45. Going strong till today (sans Covid) and still dancing around the world. An inspiration!

1) How long have you been dancing Zouk/dancing in general? My dance journey has been rather long and tortuous. It began 26 years ago, at the age of 45, in Johannesburg, South Africa where I grew up. At the time, I expected to be able to continue for at most 2 or 3 years. Now in that place, real men played Rugby and Cricket – they didn’t dance! When I finally found a place to learn, I quickly became hooked. The Studio, a Fred Astaire franchise, taught American Ballroom, slightly different from the English/International style with a greater emphasis on social dancing. They taught 5 Latin and 5 Ballroom dances, plus a couple of others, which is why I grew up with the idea of dancing multiple styles.

South African teachers worked incredibly hard for very little money, and at the end of a long day of privates, group classes, and looking after their students during the socials, they needed to relax the only way they knew how: by dancing. They would go out to clubs, and I used to tag along. This might be one part of an answer to the ‘dance all night’ question. Of course there were no dance clubs – we danced at the back of restaurants and bars, which gave it a slightly edgy feel.

Four years later I moved to Australia where the style of ballroom was strictly English/International, and the emphasis was on competition. I had to start all over again. It lacked the social, improvisatory aspect but it did give me some grounding in technique, as much as it was possible for someone over 50 - at least I tried to practise.

Dancing without the same social emphasis I had been used to, was very difficult, however a few years later, Lindy Hop Swing started in Melbourne. It was the first of the separate dance-style scenes, and it had a definite focus on social dancing. The swing community was very ‘open’ – participants welcome regardless of race, religion or orientation – but NOT ballroom dancers (one has to draw the line somewhere!). Nevertheless, there were socials and festivals.

Around about the same time, Salsa started in Melbourne. It was at a rare Swing/Salsa combined event that I met my Salsa teacher, Angela (Fayth), and so I was doing Salsa Swing and Ballroom, and being part of 3 ‘worlds’. Sometime later, Blues and West Coast Swing also arrived. It was with Angela, some 10 years later that I did my first own choreography and couple performance (although I had done many exams and several team performances).

As it happens, the very first time I saw Zouk was a performance by Angela at a Salsa event a few years after I met her. She and her partner did a few basics, laterals, and head flicks, which with her knee length hair were impressive, however I regret to admit that all I thought was “not another dance”. After that, Zouk teachers started visiting Melbourne, both from Queensland, where Bebe and Kadu & Larissa were based, and from Brazil. First was Bebe, then Adilio, then Gilson, and others followed. Each time there was some interest generated, which quickly died down after they had left. Something about the style had piqued my interest, but I really struggled to understand what Zouk was all about, so I decided to go to “Brazil Central” in Brisbane, a sort of precursor to the Brisbane Zouk Festival, but also including Samba and Bolero. I went 2 years in a row around 2011 and ‘12 and remember Renata & Jorge, Dadinho, Mafie Zouker, and Solange teaching there. Afterwards, I asked Izzy from Melbourne for some lessons, to cement the steps and patterns I’d learned. I put them into a sequence to the song “É Isso Aí (The Horn Blower's Daughter)” as a sort of choreography. Izzy really helped to slow me down as a start to the transition from Salsa (sharply defined layered rhythms) to Zouk (flow).

I also discovered international dance Congresses and Festivals and started to travel, first to the USA (Lindy Hop) and then to Europe. Initially, because I was still working in the corporate IT world, I used to do 3 consecutive weekend events, and take ‘two weeks’ leave to do so, arriving back early on a Tuesday morning and pretending to be awake (now that I’m 71 and retired I don’t have that limitation). Recent trips have included up to 10 congresses, marathons or festivals with a mix of Zouk, West Coast, Salsa and Blues.

In July 2013 I registered for a Zouk weekend in Zurich with Rick Torri and his partner Larissa. There was a party on the Saturday night in the basement of someone’s apartment. I still remember it as a magical turning point. Somehow that evening I just ‘clicked’ and discovered Zouk: the music, the flow, the sensuality, and the infinity of it – I had to go to Brazil!

Having heard that Berg’s Congress was the biggest, the oldest, the Source (I thought) of Zouk Congresses, I went without knowing that Berg’s was really Lambazouk. Indeed, in those days we didn’t really know the difference (strange how we learn things). I arrived to find the lessons were about a completely different dance than the Zouk that was now taking shape in my mind after Brazil Central.

So……I’ve been learning Zouk for about 7, or 9, or 10 years; Salsa for about 14, and dancing in one form or another, for 26. Altogether I have been to 9 Zouk Congresses in Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney), 1 in the USA, 2 in Brazil, 2 in Mexico, 3 more in Zurich, 4 in Barcelona, 2 in the Netherlands, 3 in Croatia, and 1 in each of Madrid, Budapest, Czech Republic, Phuket, Poland, Russia; plus of course Singapore, as well as going to social nights in many other cities.

2) What has been your favourite Zouk project/event/classes thus far?

My favourite Zouk Project would have to be dancing the Darkside song choreography with Jessica in Brisbane, and more especially, in Rio. Just to dance with her is such a pleasure, and to perform is an unbelievable privilege!

3) Why did you enjoy it so much?

It came about in this way: I had twice choreographed and then performed a Zouk piece for the “SWOUK’ festival (Zouk & West Coast Swing at the Gold Coast) together with my Melbourne teacher. My preference is to choose a song, cut it, and choreograph a ‘story’ – the pro then helps to refine how the sequences join and adds some styling. It’s about a 2/3 to 1/3 split. After SWOUK I was really keen to do something in Melbourne, my home town, but it didn’t work out. I had however chosen a song (which I’d heard at the Amsterdam Congress) and developed a choreo with my Melbourne teacher. When I saw that Jessica and Ry El would be lead teachers in Brisbane, and having spoken with Jessica one time in Croatia about doing something together, I messaged her. Immediately after, I thought I must be crazy. How was she going to learn it at a distance, by video, and how could we put it together in just the couple of weeks. I was planning to be in New York to visit my son for 3 weeks in July, but also, how could we then perform it 3 months later in November??? …..but……….she learns fast (incredibly fast!) and also made it her own.

Why do I enjoy it so much? For me, dancing is intense expression of, and communication about, an infinitely miraculous and magical subject: Music.

Music has this mysterious ability to affect all living beings. If we talk about music using words, it is somehow artificial and second hand, but through dance, we can talk about music directly (the only other way being through music itself, ie: when musicians play together). We can have a conversation about the music, learn about music from our partner, and we can experience music in a very intense and subtle way. We can also connect with our partner on a completely different level from everyday interaction, which is something all dance addicts experience, but can’t really describe. And music – what is music? This could be the subject of many lectures and discussions, but in short, it’s a miraculous phenomenon than has the ability to open an infinite number of doors in consciousness, from the fun & humorous, to the simple physical pleasure of movement, to the sensual, to the contemplative & deeply moving.

Music is a miraculous phenomenon than has the ability to open an infinite number of doors in consciousness.. from fun and humorous, to contemplative & deeply moving. - Myron

4) In Singapore, I saw that you danced all that, even out-dancing other Australians who were so tired due to the time difference! What is your secret? How do we dance all night? Music! (although, to be honest, I’m getting too old to go to all the classes and also dance all night). We’re not so much aware of the effort, as of the music; and are always looking for that perfect moment, that feeling, not of dancing, but of being danced by the music.

5) What is your favourite thing about Zouk/the Zouk community? Is there anything you hope our wonderful community will steer away from?

What I’d most like to see for the Zouk Community as a whole is that we don’t lose the beautiful warmth, supportiveness and closeness of a small, artistic community, and not become too focused on competition, as in dances like International Ballroom and West Coast Swing. I’m saddened when the public perception causes people to react with “Do you compete?” as the very first response to mentioning that you dance. In contrast, if you were to say that you played piano or guitar it would be: “What do you play? With whom? Do you play live gigs?” and not “Do you compete?” I understand that competition is motivating, and improves the standard of dance (with technique being hugely important for Zouk), but sport is not art, and if it gets to the point where the worth of a human being becomes measured in points, then something valuable has been lost.

6) Which has been your favourite Zouk event? Do you have any Zouk idols?

Favourite events:…..nearly every event has been wonderful (it’s Zouk!) but some had a special quality. Rio: overall atmosphere & dancing; St Petersburg: many teachers, high standard; Mexico: best crazy parties, Poland: small intimate group; Zouktime Croatia: spectacular, romantic venues and nice crowd.

Given the number of Congresses I’ve been lucky enough to attend, you can imagine how many favourite teachers I have. It might sound contrived but honestly, the best lesson I’ve had was with Renata – absolute clarity. Male teacher I would most like to emulate: Jorge.

7) What do you do by day? My life “during the day”:

As I mentioned, I was in the corporate IT world for many years (which also took me to some major Congresses as a weekend side benefit), but I actually started life as a music teacher. I completed degrees in Science and Music, but the latter didn’t provide a decent living (especially in South Africa) so I ended up in IT. For the last few years I have been retired and was trying to keep my life ordered and active, and I guess I now, with lockdown, I have to try harder. I’m doing some online classes, enjoying the interviews that are appearing on social media, (also some Netflix…..oops) and waiting for a vaccine!

Above: Myron & his son!

8) Are there any fun trivia facts about you that you'd like to share?

In all this time I’ve experienced many funny incidents and I said I’d include one, so here goes:

Bebe was one of the first Brazilian Zoukers to visit Melbourne and he did a Saturday Workshop, followed by a party, together with Rominita (the queen of Lambazouk). In those days we didn’t know what was Lambazouk and what was Zouk, and it was all taught under the heading: Zouk. Lamba is of course generally much faster than Zouk. During the party I felt shy and completely conflicted about asking Romy to dance. On the one hand I knew almost nothing, but on the other, it was a unique opportunity, plus she had come specifically to teach us. I was hesitant and kept missing my chances. Finally, I plucked up courage, and jumped in to ask her well before the music had started. When it did start, the song was "Gravity by Sara Bareilles” (Something always brings me back to you…), one of the slowest songs in the annals of dance music, completely unsuited to Lamba’. What followed was so awkward that to this day I avoid that song completely (though I’m happy to say I’ve since had the privilege of dancing a few times with Romy). 9) Do you have a favourite Zouk video?

RyEl and Jessica dancing “Disculpa” outdoors: The choregraphy, the song, the execution, and the filming are all perfect! Not as difficult, complex, or dramatic as some their other pieces, or those of many other great dancers, but for me: Perfect. Cheryl: This video is coincidentally filmed by my wonderful friend Glenn! Support his work here.

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