As we stepped into Bandra's House Of Wow, a performing arts space, we were transported to a Parisian setting with whitewashed walls, floral upholstery, fairy lights, bird cage lamps as well as a fireplace in the dance hall that lent it a classy vibe. Playing in the background was the rhythmic French Caribbean Zouk music — a blend of Congo beats and guitar.
Attempting a Kizomba dip with Elvis Mascarenhas (extreme right). Pics/Datta Kumbhar
The dancers, Namrata Wittke and Elvis Mascarenhas, were draped over one another and swayed to the Trance-like rhythm. Trained for a year in New York, the co-founders of Rare Grooves Dance Company were performing the globally popular dance Kizomba, that is being introduced to the city through their weekend sessions.
A to Z of Kizomba
Before we put on our dancing shoes, we were briefed about the history of this culturally rooted dance form that literally means 'party' in Kimbundu, a language spoken in Luanda in Africa. Originating in Angola, Kizomba is derived from another dance form, Semba (not to be confused with the Brazilian Samba), which is in turn derived from Merengue, and Masemba, the traditional African Folk dance.
A partner dance form comprising four levels of learning, Kizomba is all about connecting from the upper body, where the man leads the woman through the touch of the belly button. Unlike, say, the Tango (which requires a stiff posture), this dance is more of a street-style form where the woman tilts towards her partner with a focus on thigh-to-thigh connection and footwork. A good cardio exercise, we thought.
One, two, three, Marqa
We began with the basic moves — Ida e Volta, that means forward and backward. Though an African dance form, the terms used in Kizomba are mainly in Portuguese, since the form gained popularity in Portugal around the 1950s. This was an easy three-step walk to the beat of 'one, two, three, marqa', placing one foot ahead of the other and finally, getting both in position. Adding a sexy twist to this walk, Wittke asked us to swerve our hips a little during the walk. We liked!
Once we mastered the basic technique, we proceeded towards dancing with the partner. Kizomba requires the woman to place the left hand firmly on the partner's nape while holding the other hand slightly away from the chest, for support. Meanwhile, the man holds your waist with the thighs crossing each other's. Though we felt a tad conscious at first, Mascarenhas took the lead, slowly leading us through the steps. What followed was an easy couple dance, moving forward and backward to the rhythm of the music.
A foam springboard, ensconced under the teakwood flooring, added a little bounce to our moves, making the experience smoother. As the music reached a crescendo, we even attempted the Kizomba dip, that included gently leaning your body against your partner as he attempts to sweep you off the floor, literally!
Mastering the moves could take a while and works best if attempted with your own partner due to the intimacy involved. However, we loved the music and we also liked the fact that the instructors came equipped with a thorough understanding of the dance form. They also showed us a glimpse of Semba, which will be taught in the sessions, too. A more playful dance form, Semba includes teasing moves like gripping your partner's leg as she walks or gently pulling her by her dress. If you're looking for new moves to seduce your partner or are keen on some bonding time, Kizomba is a must-try.
On Saturdays and Sundays (for two months)
Time 7 pm to 8 pm
At House of Wow, 10, Natraj Building, Hill Road, opposite St Stanislaus school, Bandra (W).
Cost Rs 600 (drop-in class), Rs 2,500 (for eight sessions) and Rs 3,000 (for 10 sessions)
Know your moves
Basic footwork in Kizomba
* Ida e Volta: Forward and Backward
* Marqa: On your mark
* Sahida Mullier: The man gently pushes the woman away from him and then pulls her in.
* Sahida Homem: The man moves away from the woman and then brings her close.
* Virgula: The partners attempt to form a comma through a semi-circular movement.
* Estrella: The partners attempt to form a star on the dance floor through the moves.
The dance form provides a lower body workout due to the frequent footwork as well as the flexibility of the hips and knees