Have I Been Dancing/Learning Kizomba?

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Have I Been Dancing/Learning Kizomba?

Kizomba dancers at a Kizomba party in Toronto

Have You Been Dancing/Learning Kizomba?

Given the growing popularity of Kizomba worldwide, it is only natural that one can find many schools and individuals these days claiming they dance/teach kizomba. But do they?

What Is Kizomba?

Recently I came across a person that had taken a few private classes in kizomba dance, or so she was told, while on vacation in Cuba. This person came by the studio in order to get assessed to see what level she could fit in. She was surprised to be told that she lacked some of the most fundamental steps in kizomba dance and should therefore start from level 1 in order to learn those. The discussion that followed was whether it was just a matter of "different styles" that caused her not to have learned those steps, to which my reply was that kizomba does have some fundamental steps that are particular to that type of dance, and that without those it shouldn't be called kizomba.

Kizomba dance, as originating in Angola and directly deriving from semba, does have a set of fundamental steps and figures. These steps and figures define its smoothness and groove as well as its circular character, meaning the dancers are expected to use the space around them with a mixture of both linearly and circularly travelling figures. For many Angolans the ginga, or groovy flavour, is an intrinsic part of the dance as well.

The Fundamentals of Kizomba Dance

So what makes kizomba dance different from zouk, or tango, or merengue or bachata? At its very core kizomba dancing is defined by 5 basic figures that are of upmost importance:

  • Basic 1 (slow step on the step)
  • Basic 2 (side to side basic)
  • Basic 3 (forward and back basic with the marca)
  • Retrocesso
  • Vírgula

Below is a video with Eddy Vents, explaining and presenting these fundamental steps and showing how they are used in combination with other steps, demonstrating the importance of Retrocesso and Vírgula in making the dance circular.

Urbankiz and Other Kizomba Fusions

In recent years, with the ever growing international reach of Kizomba dance, it has become popular outside of Angola and the PALOP communities abroad (Portuguese speaking African countries) for dancers to start fusing other dances they were already familiar with, to whatever they were learning as being kizomba. A perfect example of such fusion became known in the last few years as Urbankiz, a derivative dance from kizomba, but these days incorporating many elements of hip-hop, tango, Brazilian zouk (or Lambazouk), salsa, and breakdance. Below are some of the main differences between Urbankiz and Kizomba:

  • Use of space: Urbankiz tends to use an orthogonal space (travelling in lines, 90 or 180 degree changes of angle), while Kizomba is circular
  • Connection: Urbankiz uses little close connection (chest to chest) while Kizomba is danced mostly with close connection
  • Retrocesso, Vírgula: while Urbankiz uses basics 1, 2, and 3, it does not use Retrocesso nor Vírgula
  • Musical interpretation: while Kizomba tends to prefer a musical interpretation focusing on the melody of the song, with smooth transitions, Urbankiz prefers many times high syncopations alternating with moments of stillness.

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