I wasn't able to look people in the eye before I found dance, let alone have a meaningful conversation. Dance was always easier than speech for me, but it helped me become aware of my communication style, my emotions, and others'. Whatever style it is, I feel the most connected when I dance - no BS, only authenticity and expression.
At the end of the day, I think the meaning of life is to create meaningful connections… and partner dance is one of the most powerful ways I’ve found to do that. After a long chapter in competitive ballroom dance and a lifetime of dancing in the rain for the joy of it, I realized that what I really love most about dance is the ability it gives us to connect to other humans. Through social dancing, we use body language as a common tongue to create together. That experience can teach us profound things about how to express ourselves, how to listen, how to deepen our capacity for empathy, and ultimately how to connect.
Dance has been my first love since I performed on stage as a 3-year-old, without a care in the world. Fast forward to today, and it still brings me the same happiness and joyous feeling. Dancing allows me to be free- physically and emotionally. My dance journey began through Bollywood but partner dancing (especially Latin) is a dance form that I gradually grew to love due to my wholesome experiences after every social!
Our teachers' stories
How did it start?
Hundreds of group and private Brazilian Zouk classes, within the US, in Brazil, and in Europe, taught me (besides, of course, a lot of Brazilian Zouk) that most dance teachers across the globe were teaching in the same way.
I was seeing myself in that process, and many other students around me. This dance was (and is) beautiful and amazing, but the process of learning it was (and is) tedious, unrewarding - it was proudly referred to as such by many teachers until this very day.
Indeed, any new skill takes heart. We have to be able to face mistakes and constantly prevail. We have to believe that it will get better, and we keep remembering why we do it in the first place.
It's hard...but does it have to be that hard?
Is there a way to cater to those who haven't had a background of prevailing over challenges (like sports or other competitive backgrounds)?
Questions about the way we learn (and teach) dance were forming:
Why are so many people convinced that they can't dance?
When has one of the most human activities become a "pros only" activity?
Can we make dance more accessible?
Can we teach dance successfully with fun and community as the priorities?
Can we make use of what we already know, and not have to get extremely technical?
It took years of experience as both a student and a teacher, Inspired inspiration from a master teacher named Shabba-Doo, and rigorous research of teaching methods, to conclude:
We can do better than that.
Let's acknowledge that nowadays, with the modern lifestyle, it is much harder to be casual about intense commitments.
Many of the old methods of training (in dance, but other movement practices as well) require high effort, over long periods of time, with little reward. This is an extremely effective way to become amazingly proficient - if you have lots of free time, a very strong drive, and incredible resilience.
I found that many of the most amazing dancers I know trained that way and that they train others in the same way, passing it along as is. Heck, I trained that way as well, and at first, I tried to pass it on "as-is" as well, with all the intensity.
My student and I learned that this kind of pressure is not for everyone, and we learned it the hard way.
For many people, this method doesn't work.
More specifically - it doesn't work for the average person, who's trying to just dance for fun, connect with people, and have an hour a week that is mostly moderately challenging.
I find it incredibly inefficient to train hobbyists with the same training system, and expectations, that one would have from those who try to be pros.
The Sotaki Method
The major issues with the current way of teaching dance, as I see them, are:
1. Too much emphasis on movement technique
Less emphasis on connection means we learn to execute moves, instead of dancing with humans, and we forget why we started dancing.
2. "Information dump"
Too much information and details out of the belief that information = understanding, but understanding are abstract, and you cannot simply tell someone to "engage their core", when they only heard about it 2 weeks ago, and expect them to execute it.
3. Lack of "Operational Instructions"
Every time you hear a teacher trying to help by saying "just feel it", and you're not sure what you're supposed to feel, it's not your fault.
As long as everyone can dance together at the party, we are happy.
To solve those issues, I understood that I need to:
1. Less information in every class
2. Move more, talk less
Practice human connection, and have a light, fun atmosphere.
3. Use what we already got
Existing movement examples from everyday life to accelerate and optimize the learning process.
4. Teach using intentions, instead of complicated instructions
Work much harder on HOW to deliver the material, rather than on WHAT I teach. Teaching body mechanics and complex understandings, means I have to understand them first as a student, and then also learn them a second time as a teacher.
Classroom management, philosophy, and planning methods (like UbD and Essential Questions)
Influences from my master teachers
Topf Technique & Dynamic Anatomy
My "Dance is a language" project (empathy and emotional awareness practices and research)
Lots of experience teaching many different things (from radar systems, through DJing, and to dance) in many different settings.
My journey started with questions, and I continue to learn every day and evolve, but some answers are already here. The Sotaki Method works.
We can tell our students that it's all about having fun. We can tell them "screw the mistakes" - but with current education structures, we don't model what we expect, if most of the emphasis and attention goes to moves & other technical aspects!
We set out to change that.
If you're looking to connect with other humans, have fun, and not take it too seriously and stress over dance - we are here for you.
It IS possible to learn better and get all the tools you need to have a fun, safe, comfortable dance, without having to invest years until you see results. Our teachers are working with you and for you.
We learn hard and prepare, so you can focus on the fun!
Training & Experience - Tom
Over 400 hours of training (mostly private programs, also including teacher training and special workshops) in Zouk, mostly in Rio, with top teachers (Renata, Val & Vanessa, Kamacho, Mafie, Dadinho and more)
Over 100 hours of training in Locking, including a teacher certification program with Shabba-Doo, of the original Lockers. This training included most of the dance theory that I teach the "Dance is a language" workshops.
Over 500 hours of training in Urban styles (Hip Hop, house, Dancehall, Popping etc.) in private settings and in groups.
Zouko Israel (6 months), first generation of instructors.
SMDC in L.A (2 years), put entire education syllabus in writing and helped create a structure for the school.
SMDC Sacramento Co-Director (1 year), creating a scene from scratch, first step training, teacher training, performance team training and more.
Training instructors in Portland, and Houston
Over 4 years of constructing educational material, teaching methods, presentations and training soldiers and officers and civilians regularly on new software systems, procedures and more.
Training & Experience - Taylor
I’ve put more than 10,000 hours into dance training.
10 years of competitive ballroom dance, training under world renowned coaches Jose DeCamps & Joanna Zacharewicz, Steve Vasco, and Felipe & Carolina Telona
2x US and World Cup Rhythm ballroom Champion as an amateur
Professional Rhythm Star Tour Finalist
Co-Director of the Stanford Salseros performance team
Co-Director of the Daniel & Desiree SF Bachata performance team (Co-directed the team through the launch and the first 2 years)
Director of “Moxie” ladies fusion performance team
Coach for Mambonova salsa performance teams in San José and dance partner of Hector Reyes
Dancer in Afinkao dance company based in Oakland
12 years experience teaching partner dance
Passionate for dance
Attends many classes
Feels no progress
Forgets why they started dancing
Student leaves dance/community
Want Sotaki in your town?
We have all that you need to start a dance community:
Complete teacher training program, from start to certification
Progressive course in 6 levels
Open classes (for all levels, no commitment)
Community guidelines and protocols
Sotaki teacher community - share knowledge with others
Class management tools
Specialty workshops in many topics
We have the whole package, from start to finish.
Affordable for any aspiring community leader!