In 1996, or 24 years ago Aochan Nagamoto was the first Zouk (lamba) teacher in North America giving regular classes in New York City. His dance school in NYC was known as “Tropical New York”. He gave his classes with his former student turned partner Mari Hodges. His classes took place on 8th and 55th street at Serena’s Studio that is now Ripley Grier Studios. He would host Brazilian parties here and former students remember the Thai restaurant that the group would frequent after his socials.
He had moved to New York from Tokyo, Japan. He trained with Braz Dos Santos, Didi, Patricia Cruz and Gilson Damasco. According to his former students in New York, his classes had a very welcoming environment. His class usually started with a warm-up. Normally the length of a song, always playing zouk music (French Caribbean). He would be in the front of the class and students would follow along and practice basics. He always had a smile on his face during the group classes. One former student, Milt Aguire noted that he really felt the music.
Saturdays were a big day at Tropical New York. He would host at least three classes then the group would go out for dinner together. After the dinner the group would go out to a Brazil themed location called Sounds of Brazil. His former students mentioned it felt like a marathon on Saturday’s, the group loved it.
In 2004, at the first Zouk congress in Barcelona, Spain, both Aochan and Mari were official teachers at this milestone event. Aochan was also an influence with several of his students going on to teach for possibly the first time in various countries around the world. One of his students, Apple Busakorn, went off to teach for the first time in Thailand. His former student, Liza Listivinsky, went on to possibly teach for the first time in Israel.
NYC teacher, Hisako Izutsu was one of his students during this time and also spent some time as his roommate. She lived with both him and Mari. She remembers fondly his curry cooking and mentioned she still uses his recipe to this day.
Aochan also lectured in psychology and mind-body communication. He has taught and/or lectured in Israel, Brazil, Australia, China, Spain, and Vietnam. He was also a teacher at Berg’s Congress in Porto Seguro, Brazil.
He ended up leaving NYC around 2002 and returned to teaching in Tokyo, Japan. He also teaches Salsa, Samba and Merengue. Mari Hodges is now back in Argentina.
Aochan in 2006 at Bergs Congress, Porto Seguro, Brazil