I just got back from Finland and it’s time for another festival review because I went to Helsinki Zouk Festival. It’s one of my favorite Brazilian zouk events and this is already my 4th time participating. In total, I have been to 14 international social dance festivals and by writing festival reviews I hope I can give you an idea of what to expect, as well as help you decide whether it’s worth participating next year. Let’s go!
The quality of the workshops is one of the reasons Helsinki Zouk Festival is so good. Freddy & Andressa invite the best zouk instructors in the world to give workshops but keep the festival small. This means the teachers can go around the room, help and give personal feedback, which in turn makes the classes extremely valuable. It’s also easy to ask questions during the class.
Most classes were open level and they also had some advanced ones. I loved how in the open level classes the beginners could focus on learning the steps but the instructors gave enough additional details so that intermediate/advanced level participants could perfect their technique or learn some new variations. There was only one workshop happening at a time so you were not forced to choose between any.
I liked that there was both more classical and also urban style taught, which showcases how different the flavors of Brazilian zouk can be.
Festival took place in Helsinki Dance Central studio. It’s easily accessible by public transport, close to the city center (or is Sörnäinen already considered center?) and has loads of great restaurants and grocery stores nearby. Tons of vegan & gluten-free options available as well.
The studio is spacious and has a nice lounge area with couches and chairs for resting. There are changing rooms for men and women and also a kitchen corner with small tables in case you wanted to have your lunch at the studio.
Parties happened in the same studio as the workshops so there was no need to find multiple locations. I appreciated that instructors danced with students during the parties. I believe most of us were able to get a dance with at least 1 instructor. At Friday’s party there were a couple of beautiful shows and then a fun instructors demo.
Music was great and there was enough variety – from mellow songs and ghettozouk to lambada, to hardcore moombahton (my favorite probably haha). In the DJ booth there were Kakah, Paloma, Val and others.
During the socials I appreciated that I was being led both Rio zouk and also lambazouk/lambada. Would have wanted to dance more urban as well.
Classes took place from 11.00 to 18.00 on Friday and from 12.00 to 19.00 on Sat and Sun. Parties started at 22.00. I feel like this is a perfect festival schedule since you have enough time to sleep in the morning and enough time to get ready for the party in the evening.
Lunch breaks were pretty short though, under an hour, so you had to pick a restaurant nearby or bring snacks to not be late (I still was though).
Everything ran smoothly. Even if there was a delay in the schedule because of an instructor taking longer than an hour, it was only about 10-15 minutes and was balanced out with shortening the lunch break. The instructors had handwritten A4 paper signs with “5 MIN (DEMO)” or “10 MIN” to signal to each other how much time they had left.
All the small details were taken care of. I love that in addition to opening the windows they also had air conditioners AND fans to try and keep the rooms cool. There were always enough paper towels and soap to wash your hands.
The only strange thing was that there were no signs outside to help find the studio in the building, and let me tell you it is NOT easy. I’ve been there many-many times so it was fine for me but I don’t know how the new people managed.
Something I missed but saw later on Instagram is that they made an all-teachers demo at the end of the very last class. I think this such a great way to round off an otherwise awkward end to the festival workshops.
After not being able to travel to zouk festivals for 3 years I was glad to experience very good level of leading again. Zouk dancers really do pay attention to safe and efficient dance and leading technique, which makes doing difficult stuff enjoyable. I’d say most participants were at least intermediate level dancers. All nice and friendly people : )
Another thing I was grateful for was that there was a relatively big group of Estonians joining this year (my local community) and even a zouk show from Estonia for the very first time.
In workshops and parties there were often more followers, but the gap wasn’t too big, and it didn’t seem to affect the parties, at least for me. I didn’t get invited to dance much at the Sunday party, but I think there might have been other reasons (like the fact that I was tired AF and had no energy to be a good follower haha).
The instructors all seemed to be good friends, respect each other’s work and learn from each other, which made the vibe of the festival great. They had also probably discussed the teaching schedule together so they were able to refer to each others classes.
I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about this festival, it has been 10/10 in all aspects consistently every year and I’d recommend it to any zouk dancer. As a participant you can get a lot more value out of smaller high quality festivals, which Helsinki Zouk Festival definitely is. Would I go again next year? Probably yes, it has become more like a habit already : )
For photos, videos and additional thoughts on the festival, follow me on Instagram @jettence and find “HZF 22’” at my profile’s highlights section.
I paid full price for this festival and all opinions are my own. If you’d like me to visit and cover your festival, contact me at email@example.com