If Kizomba dancers were cakes, what would be the key ingredients needed to make a really great kizomba dancer? The answer is simple – connection, musicality, and solid foundations. But what do I really mean by that?
The first thing that makes a great kizomba dancer, and indeed a great kizomba dance, is connection! Connection really is key! Establishing and maintaining a strong connection with your partner throughout the dance actually does a lot of the work for you. As a leader ensuring you have a balanced upright yet relaxed posture with good chest, arm, and leg connections with your partner will enable you to clearly communicate and lead moves seamlessly, fluidly, and comfortably. As a follower, holding your own balance and upright relaxed posture while reciprocating those points of connection and engaging in leg tracking and searching for those points of connection in your movements throughout the dance enables you to follow in a smooth, light, and responsive way. Closing your eyes and remembering to breathe also helps you to really tune into all those points of connection. By blocking out the visual distractions, your body automatically focuses on the points of connection for all of your information.
When both partners lean into the connection everything becomes a lot easier. But building and leaning into that connection with each different person also calls for an exchange of trust. The follower is trusting that the leader will communicate the direction, tempo, and steps they are going to take together and offer a feeling of security throughout the dance. The leader is asking the followers to trust that they will gently and clearly guide and look after followers throughout the dance. And this is not the only connection which exists, the leader and follower must also connect to the floor. Kizomba is an incredibly grounded dance and the weight transfer and energy flow in kizomba require us to stay connected to the floor. Rather than lifting your feet off the floor as you would in salsa or bachata, it is almost the opposite in kizomba, we press into the floor to change our weight, just as we do when walking.
Before you can connect fully with someone else, it can be really helpful to connect with yourself first. Connecting to the sensations within your own body, including your breath/breathing can help you to relax and to connect more easily and calmly with your partner. Because there is so much connection in kizomba, it’s easy for a leader to tell when a follower is feeling stressed during the dance, and vice versa! Sometimes when we’re concentrating, we’re focusing so hard on trying to lead or follow really well that we actually forget to breathe! And this deprives our body and muscles of vital oxygen making them tense up and this puts us under extra strain, often making our frame tense up! Taking a nice deeply calming inhale and exhale is often the answer. It immediately relieves the tension in our bodies and minds, and allows us to relax enough to lead and follow in a fully present way.
The other incredibly important area of connection in addition to the floor, our breathing, and our partner, is the MUSIC. And this ties directly into the musicality ingredient. If we do a series of moves, brilliantly led, one after another but which have no connection to what is happening in the music, it’s all a bit pointless… A great dance is one in which the leader and follower really tune in to what they’re listening to and allow the music to offer suggestions about how fast or slow, how much or not they might want to move. And great musicality cannot be achieved without the third vital ingredient: solid foundations!
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Find a teacher who really knows how to drill down into the anatomical level of the basic moves of kizomba. Someone who will not only show you how to do these moves one way, but will teach you how the move itself works and the multiple ways you can vary the movement as well as how to adapt all of the basic moves to different timings in the music, effectively how to take the basics, really understand them and then make the basics your very own.
To become a really great kizomba dancer you want the basic movements to become so embodied within you, that if someone dragged you out of bed in the middle of the night and said “do a basic two!” you could just do it. My advice for anyone wanting to become a great kizomba dancer – become intimately acquainted with every aspect of the basic moves and you will become a masterful dancer.
There are at least two reasons for this. If you can really master the basics from every available angle, you can then go and learn any move, no matter how difficult or complex, from any teacher worth their salt, anywhere in the world because you will always understand what is underpinning the move. It’s just like building a house, you can build anything you want on a completely solid foundation. Kizomba is no different! The other reason to master your basics is that once you have really mastered them, then you will have unlimited brain space and attention to give to creativity and musicality. You will eventually make the basics completely your own and once you have done that you can get as creative and musical as you like because you don’t have to waste time thinking about how to do each step or what to do next, it’s already embodied and imprinted deeply within your muscle memory so you can instead spend your time and effort listening deeply to the music and focusing on maintaining a wonderful connection to your partner, thus creating an amazing dance and a great shared experience. This is how you come to be regarded as a great kizomba dancer, someone everyone wants to dance with.
Of course, things like spending time listening to all your favourite tracks in your own time outside of classes and socials; practicing your balance and basics, both on your own and with other dancers; and going into the dance with the intention of having a fun enjoyable dance will always enhance your dancing skills, and these excellent habits and practices will fully support the development of the three fundamental ingredients which make a really great kizomba dancer!