Kizomba is...

"An embrace means I don't feel threatened by you, I'm not afraid to be this close, I can relax, feel at home, feel protected and in the presence of someone who understands me. It is said that each time we embrace someone warmly, we gain an extra day of life."

A quote from Paul Coelho (one of my favorite authors) that describes for me what dancing kizomba is like.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Body Aware are You? Balance [You and Your Partner]

My previous post about balance focused on stillness and your own balance. This one focuses about balance in the partnership while you are dancing with your partner.

While dancing, leads and follows are each responsible for their own balance in the dance. To truly connect with your partner while dancing, one must also start to develop an awareness of your partner's balance as well. This second level of balance awareness can take dancing to the new heights. The added awareness allows you the space to express yourself as you dance in unison with another person whether you are a lead or a follow.

Balance in motion is tied to awareness of your partner as well as the forces at work when you move together.

For example, a follow, no matter what size, can easily throw a lead off balance if either party is not aware of their balance while moving. Follows have the last action in any movement since they are finishing what the lead has suggested. This means they carry with them some force from acceleration and momentum that if they do not control by maintaining their own balance OR if the lead does not prepare for, can easily cause the lead to go off balance. The need to be aware and in control are particularly important with movements that involve rotation and speed (quicker movement than usual). The reason we don't see more spills in kizomba is that the speed and distances traveled by the dancers are slower and smaller and so are easier to control. In the event there's a balance challenge, leads and follows can still compensate for momentary lapses of balance. The result of the compensation is usually some sacrifice of grace, smoothness and connection if things don't go quite as planned.

Building awareness of your own balance and your partners' comes with practice and experience. When I start to teach kizomba, I stress that despite the close connection, the lead and the follow each are responsible for their own balance.

When you start to be comfortable in that, you can start to pay attention to your partner's balance as well. When does the weight shift occur? When is the balance distributed between both legs? What causes my partner to step?

Building this awareness allows the lead to then play with their connection in a different way: to slide or life or pivot their follow as an interruption to the base walk.

1) Slow Motion Walking: can be done along then in partnership. Alone to work on your own balance and control while in partnership to learn to listed to when the weight shift occurs.
2) Leading a Step Without taking the Step: Can you move your follow to take a step while you don't? Are you aware of what foot your follow is on and when you can sync up with opposite feet or same feet? Start with walking together and pay attention to when your partner has committed to step. See if you can lead in such a way that you make your follow step without you (the lead) actually taking a step. Do this while the follow is walking forward and backward.

NEXT: Establishing an Even Cadence

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Muito Obrigado A Toda Familia (Thank You To The Whole Family)

Kizomba Seattle has been around for almost 5 years now. Every time we have a visiting instructor come to teach and dance with us, they tell me that they love the community we have here because it embodies the spirit of kizomba.

When I embarked on this path, it was simply for the love the music and the dance. It touched me in a way that no other dance had and I really just wanted more people to dance with.

This past weekend we were privileged to have Mandela with us to teach us about Semba, Kizomba and Afrohouse. Despite his catastrophic English (he says that his english is "catastrophe!") there was no loss in communicating the spirit of the dance. We had a smaller group than normal attend our workshops and I'm pretty sure everyone left with something new and better than what they started with.

Each visit is unique because of each instructor that visits shares some of themselves with us while they are here. This one is most memorable for this moment I witnessed during one of our small group sessions:

Mandela was talking about the feeling that goes into the dance and how technique can only take you so far. We had just finished learning a pattern and he wanted the group to just dance so he could observe us and walk around to provide feedback to the couples that were dancing. After playing 2 semba songs that were playful and a bit faster paced, he put on a kizomba song that was gentle and mellow and the whole group's energy went from bright orange/red to mellow blue/grey. It felt like everyone took a deep breathe in with a long exhale to just sink into the music.

I was watching on the side as Mandela was observing the group and he was so moved. I think he would have given a shout of joy right at that moment if not for the quiet quality of the music. I wish I could have taken a picture.

What he did was stop the music and walk to the center of the group and explain how, in all the years of teaching groups, he was never more moved by what our whole group just did. To see how everyone responded to the change in music moved him.

As for me, I just wanted to shout and say "Go Kizomba Seattle!!!" Many of the people in class have learned with me, from me and all have grown in the dance over the last few years. I could not have been more proud or happy to hear us all be acknowledged by Mandela.

Oh-My-God! {as Mandela himself would say}

I will remember that moment for a long, long, time.

My thanks goes out to everyone that was a part of the weekend because everyone's participation was what made it memorable. There are a few people worth calling out tho so here goes:
  • Mandela: Thank you for your energy, your time and your generosity. It was such a pleasure to have you here in Seattle and even tho I don't speak Portuguese or Spanish and can passably understand French, you are proof 100x over that dance is an international language. THANK YOU for giving all of us your love sharing yourself and your energy.
  • Ana: Thank you for hosting our guest and helping with translation and logistics. It was very helpful to have someone who could speak Portugese be part of the experience and especially too because you and Mandela had already met before. 
  • Jessica, Mario and Landy: My other translators and general help: you guys rock! Thanks for being flexible too and working with the little adjustments during the weekend.
  • Katie: Thank you for your help over the weekend and opening your home to us to end the weekend. I think it was the best possible way for things to end.  
Kizomba more than anything is about family and I'm so grateful and proud of our family, with all its diversity.

Here are Mandela's own words:


My thanks to the whole family
The Kizomba of Seattle for caring
Thank you for the excellent weekend!!

The Kizomba family from Vila do Conde e Povoa do Varzim* will be waiting for you. 
Mandela Mandela akademia of kizomba.

*these are 2 small cities in Portugal where Mandela lives.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happenings for August

We recently had a blast dancing Kizomba from Sunset to Sunrise as we saw the last day of July roll into August. Thanks to everyone that made it out to enjoy the event. Now, here's what's up for August:
  • August 6 - Our 4 week August series starts in West Hall with Kizomba 1b from 7:30 - 8:30 and Afrobeats/Semba from 8:30 - 9:30 
  • August 7 - First Fly Friday at West Hall with DJ Mary AND special guestMandela Mandela; Drop in at 9 Dance 10p-1a 
  • August 8 - 9 - Workshops with Mandela on Sat at Salsa n Seattle and Sun at Century Ballroom
  • August 13 - 2nd Thursday at West Hall with DJ Jay 9:30 - 12:30 
  • August 15 - 3rd Saturday Late Night at West Hall 11p - 1:30a 
  • August 27 - 4th Thursday in West Hall with DJ Jay 9:30p -12:30a

and don't forget:
  • Weekly Practica on Mondays at Dimension Apartments or Metropolitan (please check group page for the latest) 8p - 11p
  • Kizomba 1b and Afrobeats/Semba (NEW CLASS!) starts Aug 6 at 7:30 and 8:30 continues for 4 weeks at Century Ballroom [dropins welcome]
  • Kizomba on Sundays at 11am in Salsa N Seattle with Mario

If anything comes up at the last minute of If I missed anything HOLA!!