The kizomba craze

Updated: May 24, 2019, 07:39 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

Ahead of a weekend session, we try out a sensual couple-centric dance form from Angola that's all the rage among Mumbaikars

The kizomba craze
Lobo (right) tells us that the posture is crucial. Relax your body and make sure your shoulders aren't arched. Stand upright and don't slouch or bend your knee too much as that looks sloppy. Take small steps which are in proportion to your structure and axis. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

First there was salsa, and now there's kizomba — the slower and romantic cousin of the semba, another Angolan dance form. Both rely heavily on the beat of the music, with kizomba catering to Portuguese folk songs that are percussion-heavy and based on the count of four. Shivaji Park resident Mary Lobo, who picked up the dance form during her travels to Europe and has been teaching it since 2018, will instruct enthusiasts this weekend. She will be partnering with Hyderabad-based dancer Chandru Cassy. Ahead of a two-day workshop, we head to an Andheri space to give kizomba a shot ourselves.

"The word translates to 'party' and is essentially a couple dance where you use the rhythm of the song to connect with your partner," explains Lobo, before we begin our half-hour-long session, at the end of which we learn that timing is everything in this dance style, as it demands a great deal of improvisation.
We start with the first step, which involves moving to the beat on the spot, starting with the right foot for ladies and left for the men, completing one set in four counts. Though we aren't sp­orting heels, which is prefe­r­red, we begin by pressing our toes into the ground and moving the body to the rhythm, with the feet joined together. We bend our knees a bit to help transfer our weight from one foot to the other. That's when we hit our first roadblock — for we can't isolate the top half of our body from the lower one, which is required for the movement our bottom is su­pposed to make as we dance. But we do manage to reach a relatively fluid flow in 10 minutes.

It takes months to know what to do with your hands while practising solo. Hold them close to your body so that they aren't flailing around. Form loose fists as if you're holding drumsticks and move them in a way that adds fluidity to your movement.

Up next is a seemingly simple side-to-side step, where we have to make sure we slide our feet and transfer the weight of the body from the stationary foot to the other-starting with the right one for women, and left for men. Large steps are not recommended and you shouldn't raise your foot too high or else you end up looking like you're hopping.

You need to connect with your partner using the forearms. The person leading should wrap their arm lightly around your back, and not the waist. The follower needs to keep their hand on the shoulder and not slide onto the shoulder blade. 

The third step, where you take two steps backward and then forward (for women), before we pair up, doesn't require deft footwork. But you do have to focus on putting your full weight on the foot you're moving, while also making sure you're in sync with your partner. We learn that looking down to track our partner's footwork will only end up injuring ours as we need to read the body language of our partner, who was leading in this instance. We get a hang of it, and even le­arn to improvise.

This transitional move has the follower facing away from the leader, as both your hands meet on the follower's tummy. It's a combination of the first three basic steps, but in reverse. There has to be a certain amount of tension where your hands clasp together, but avoid squeezing your partner's hand or it will limit their movement. The follower has to be willing to be led. It's crucial that the person leading gives the partner some space.

The last step we learn is the women's saida, which is a walk in dance form. While the steps are simple enough, it's the woman-centric movement called jinga that we struggle to grasp. In it, you move just your bottom wh­ile keeping the rest of the body in place. "This is a sensual, yet comfortable aspect of the dance. It's not sexy," says Lobo. We'll be back to tackle this move.

ON May 25 & 26, 6 pm
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