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Finding connection between engineering and dance

March 14, 2019
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ANN ARBOR—When University of Michigan student Jac Bowman, attended her first zouk congress, she immediately fell in love with the culture of Brazilian zouk—a style of dance with a heavy focus on the axes of movement.

“Generally, they all flow together,” said Bowman, who went on to start her own zouk dance community at U-M. “There’s a big emphasis on connection with a dance partner, so the dance itself is cohesive, too.”

The different genres of zouk range from hip-hop to meditation, Latina flare to slow motion.

Before she began zouk, Bowman was a frequent salsa dancer. One of her salsa partners introduced her to zouk, and she immediately gravitated towards it.

“My mom works for an airline, so I can fly for free,” she said.

Bowman used it to attend zouk congresses around the world, flying to Canada, the Netherlands, London, Mexico and the Czech Republic to train and learn about zouk. She even received a grant from optiMize to do some training in Brazil.

A zouk congress is where people from the worldwide zouk community congregate to dance together. Famous dancers teach workshops, and the dancing usually lasts until seven or eight in the morning.
“Professionals will dance with beginners at the congresses, which is different from other types of dancing, where there’s more of a sense of expertise among the top dancers,” said Bowman. “The zouk community doesn’t care. We welcome everyone, and we’re very open.”

This same sense of openness and community is exactly what Bowman has tried to replicate in her zouk organization on campus. She and former dance student Sydney Schiff founded the group shortly after Bowman’s first congress in Canada. The dance community holds classes at Open Floor on Thursdays and Sundays, as well as regular dance socials.

For Bowman, the drive to start a zouk community in Ann Arbor comes from so much more than the fun of the dance.

“At zouk events, people sometimes do workshops about insecurities, trust, or connecting with people,” she said. “There’s a lot more to zouk than just dance—it’s like therapy.”

After she finishes her master’s program in biomedical engineering, Bowman hopes to stay in Ann Arbor for a few years to continue to grow the zouk community. Then, she’ll matriculate to medical school.

“With my scientific background, it’s cool to understand the body mechanics of it all,” she said. “Zouk is very natural. If you looked at it logistically, I feel like you could do a science project on it.”

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