In step with the world

Updated: Oct 09, 2019, 07:31 IST | Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

An Afro-Latin dance festival brings down salsa, mambo, bachata sensual, kizomba, semba and tarraxinha (phew!) artistes to give you a taste of what's burning the international dance floor

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There is an infectious energy about dance forms whose popularity transcends their land of origin. There is also a certain malleability to them, for the nations that adopt them make them their own. It is this dynamism that has come to define what are collectively known as Afro Latin dance forms. "Worldwide, there is a huge buzz about Afro Latin dancing, but it hasn't yet caught on in India. The top cities of the world have their own dance festivals. In India, we have had events in Pune, Delhi and Kolkata, but Mumbai has lacked an event on a big scale for some time," shares Shital Joshi, founder, Pure Latin Fever, who hopes to bridge this gap with the first edition of India Afro Latin Sensation 2019 starting tomorrow.

Shital Joshi

The five-day event will witness international artistes perform and take workshops in salsa, bachata, mambo, bachata Dominican and bachata sensual dance forms, which originated in South American countries, and kizomba, semba, tarraxinha and urbankiz, which have their roots in Africa. "We are also bringing down DJs who specialise in these music genres," informs Joshi, adding that the aim is to make the event an annual affair. Meet some of the artistes and know their dance forms.

Rueda salsa meets kathak

Perhaps the most popular Latin dance form in India, it wouldn't be wrong to say that salsa has as many forms as the countries that have embraced it. Certified salsa trainer and kathak artiste Nakul Ghanekar will conduct casino salsa workshops at the fest. "Performed in a circle, rueda de casino is the Columbian counterpart of garba," explains Ghanekar, who choreographed Manushi Chhillar at the Miss World Pageant in 2017. Four pro and student teams from his school will showcase a medley of salsa and bachata. "We also have a performance on the salsa version of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven set to kathak beats," he says, adding that such events give a boost to Mumbai's dance community. "For most students, performance is the driving force, whereas the focus should be on learning. Workshops of this kind should help change that."

Kizomba tunes

P Lowe
P Lowe

Most Afro Latin dance forms are intrinsically linked with their respective music styles they usually share their name with. P Lowe, an American-born kizomba artiste with Jamaican roots, will give Mumbai a glimpse of his music, known to be a blend of kizomba/zouk, rock, neo-soul, Afro-house and hip-hop.

"I started playing music when I was very young. My father was big on smooth jazz, so the saxophone was the instrument I picked up in school, which I practised for hours. Fast forward to 2011, when I travelled to Cape Verde, an island country on the west coast of Africa. That's where I learned that my music had a kizomba-zouk influence," Lowe shares his journey over a phone call from the US. Apart from his live performance at the festival, he will conduct a musicality workshop. "When people know how the music is made, they can transfer it to their dance," Lowe says about the art form that originated in Angola, and now boasts of the urbankiz form (born in France) with crisp, acrobatic movements, and tarraxinha, a women's dance style, which is more sensual.

Bachata sensual

Rithika and Cornel
Rithika and Cornel

Born in the Dominican Republic, bachata took a sensual, more acrobatic turn when it travelled to Europe. Kike Utrera, a second-generation bachata sensual artiste from Cadiz, Spain, who trained under Korke Escalona, the creator of the dance form, will be in town to showcase his moves with his Argentine partner, Nahir Romano.The festival line-up, which is a good mix of Indian and international artistes, also includes performances and workshops by the Mumbai-based bachata couple, Cornel and Rithika. "There is a growing demand for learning bachata in Mumbai," shares Cornel, adding that what drew him to it was the connection it allows with one's partner.

Kike and Nahir
Kike and Nahir

LA-style salsa

Luis Vasquez
Luis Vasquez

Known as the King of Salsa style On1, Luis Vasquez hails from Guadalajara in Mexico. He moved to Los Angeles in 1992, where he went to become one of the pioneers of the popular LA salsa style with his brothers Johnny and Francisco. Based in Malmö, Sweden, since 2010, he runs a dance academy and is now a master of ceremonies.

"I first came to India in 1999 to introduce LA style salsa to five Indian cities including Mumbai. At that time, there was nobody who was dancing salsa in India. But the LA style struck a chord because it was more theatrical and powerful. I am now told there is a vibrant salsa scene in India," Vasquez says over a phone call from Malmö. What is it about salsa that brings together people of different nationalities? "There is a lot of good energy in salsa, and the music is happy. While reggaeton and hip-hop are free-style, salsa needs you to hold your partner, which eventually makes you a more open, social and secure person," he says. "The world's missing the warmth of hugs, and tactile interaction. Salsa fills that void."

On October 10 to 14
At National Sports Club of India, Worli.
Call 9867501868
Log on to india-als.com
Entry Rs 3,500 (to watch the performances)

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