From the moment I met Joan at Danzaire Studio, I noticed a unique energy about her. At first, it seemed like a kind of quiet, friendly, charisma on the outside. But the more that we talked, the more I understood that there was an even bigger and ‘louder’ depth of character looming inside of her. And boy was I right. I soon learned that there was remarkable story of strength and resilience behind Joan and her dancing, a story of courage and inspiration that I am so honoured to be able to feature in the form of an interview here on Dance Me Free.
Kizomba. What is it, and why are more people talking about it? The word itself seems to stir up a whole range of reactions from those who have never danced it. Some of my favorites are:
“Oh, is it related to Zumba?”
“You’re referring to that NEW dance, right?”
“Yeah, I think I’ve seen it and it reminds me of high school dancing. Not much to it.”
“Oh, I can’t do THAT, being glued to a partner that way?”
I laugh, not just at the reactions, but at how I can relate to them because, before I started learning kizomba myself, I’m sure some of those thoughts ran through my head as well. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that there is so much more to the dance than what it appears to be from the outside. In fact, all of those perceptions above disintegrate when the magic of the true kizomba takes a hold of you. The small, subtle movements, as well as the close connection, require a control and sensitivity, as well as a trust and surrender that are not as easily attained as one might think. And as far as the “newness” of the dance, tell that to the kizombeiros and kizombeiras, as they are properly referred to, who have grown up with the dance in their families for years! What makes it ‘new’ to us is our lack of familiarity with the dance in this part of the world. But to the dancers in areas of Angola, West Africa, where the dance originated, as well in Portugal, where kizomba later spread, kizomba has a history. It is not just this dance that we have come to have a fascination for most recently. It goes back much further with roots from dances that a lot of us here have never even heard of.
That must have been why it didn’t sit right with me one day when I heard an organizer of a dance studio refer to kizomba as simply ‘African tango’. A couple had walked into the studio inquiring as to what was going on that night. And after seeing a sign for a kizomba social, they asked, “What is kizomba?” Of course, I understood that the organizer was trying to give the couple something that they were more familiar with to relate to, in order to picture this ‘mystery’ dance in their mind. And having danced some tango myself, I could see some of the tango nuances that were often used by kizombeiros in the dance. But I also knew kizomba was not tango and that not all kizomba dances had tango elements in them. I definitely did not have all the answers. In fact, I had very few. But knowing how kizomba had affected me very deeply in such a short period of time, I felt like it deserved to be recognized for what it truly is. Kizomba made me feel so alive, in a way that was different to anything else I had experienced before. So I knew it had to have a life blood of its own, an identity, a history, and an essence that was individual. I was touched that kizomba had invited me in, embraced me, welcomed me with open arms and heart, without even having known me. And so, I felt I owed it to kizomba, to get to know it, not for what it might resemble, or what people might guess it to be. But for what it really is. I wanted to learn its story, and help share it, because with every dance, I could hear it whispering that it had a story worth telling. And the whispering just seemed to get louder the further I was drawn in.
But in order to tell the story accurately, I needed to find someone who had years of experience in it, someone who had a deep understanding of kizomba and who knew it well.
To read the original, full article, including answers to the questions posed above through my in-depth interview with the amazing Kizombeiro Eddy Vents, please visit Industry Dance Magazine by clicking on the following link: Kizom-what?
“Dancing means absolutely everything to me, and I love to just watch people dance because each and every person has their own distinct style. Dancing gives people a chance to express themselves in whatever way they want to… And that’s what I love about dance- the fact that it can’t be confined into a box and that there isn’t a right or a wrong way in doing it. Yes, every style of dance has its basics, but once those basics are learned, everything from then on is limitless. The routine can go as far as the choreographer’s mind allows it to go. Like any art form, you start out with a blank slate and you let your creativity run rampant based on the state of mind of you as a dancer, how your body moves, and how you interpret the music. I just love dance because the possibilities are endless.
…Sometimes, I dance just to clear my head. When I dance, nothing else goes through my mind except the music…Nothing else matters except that moment in time. Dancing has changed my life and is something that I can always escape to whenever I need to.”- Jimmy Sojan
“… I just thought about it, and I thought, what else could I do that will make me happy? And there was no answer. There was NO answer. It did not exist. Nothing makes me happy the way that dancing and singing and acting does. Nothing else makes me happy that way. … I knew, as soon as I could know, that I was a dancer. I was a dancer in the womb, you know what I mean? From a very young age, probably about three years old, was when I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And I never wanted to do anything else.” – Mary Antonini