February 2019 Co-creative Dance & Kizomba Blog
Welcome to the first edition of my monthly dance blog exploring thoughts on dance, social dance, co-creativity, Kizomba, teaching and song/video recommendations for Kizomba (recommendation at bottom of blog).
I am passionate about teaching, so I think a lot about improving how I teach dance and how to make it simpler for students. I think about how to make it easier for students to understand not only the dance steps but the heart and soul of the dance itself. I had a great question this month from a student that made me think a lot and I thought would be a great subject for this blog. I am hoping some of my thoughts will resonate with you and will help you is some small way along your dance journey. I was asked why I teach so much technique when shouldn’t dance be more about feeling?
I totally agree, at the heart of dance is feeling, self expression, creativity and anyone who has seen me dance would not question that those are important things to me. But, without technique can you express everything your soul feels when you dance to music (especially when dancing with a partner)? Technique may seem boring but it allows you to express more and to be more in sync with your partner. To me, it’s a whole lot like a language, without having a basic understanding of the alphabet, verbs, nouns, vocabulary and sentence structure. it’s hard to express your thoughts fully. Yet learning all these things can feel tedious and boring. It’s definitely more fun to write a story than it is to practice grammar. However, in time, working on your language foundation, will give you the freedom to express yourself fully and to write that story. Dance is no different especially partnered dancing. So, yes, I may seem to teach a lot of technique in my foundation (beginners) classes but it’s to give you the tools you need to express yourself more and more as you become a better dancer. But, don’t get turned off by the technique, there are many ways to make the process fun and it’s totally possible to have good dances with just a few steps. The best teachers on top of teaching technique, also inspire students to dance the steps they know with feeling and self-expression, and over time help them to find their way to their own dance.
Another facet of technique that is important is repetition. Wouldn’t it be hard to talk if you had to think about the letters that make up each word and the rules of sentence structure? Dance is no different. Through practice, the steps and movements get integrated in your body, and you don’t have to think much about them anymore. When I social dance, I trust my foundation, I trust that I will instinctively know what to do, so that I can be in the moment with my focus on my partner, our connection, how I am feeling the music, as well as styling, expression, creativity and musicality.
The next missing piece, to me, other than technique and repetition are variations and understanding how the steps fit within the dance so that you can not only do variations but also be able to use them in different places in your dance. Ronie Saleh, international Kizomba instructor, talk a lot about this, here is a great reference video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQhMQcKe6zU These 2 concepts allow you to make every dance different, which helps keep both you and your partner interested, versus learning long patterns that you always repeat the same way and in the same order.
There are many ways to use and to think about language. A person with a big vocabulary, for example, isn’t automatically a great writer, in fact, if enlarging their vocabulary has been their main focus, they may not be good at all at using that vocabulary creatively. However, a creative person with a smaller vocabulary, but who is a master of what they knows, can sometimes write the most beautiful and touching book or poem.
I often think about those ideas in dance. From my experience it’s often not the most technically advanced moves that are the most enjoyable to dance, but when moves, even basic ones, are executed with feeling, musicality, self-expression, creativity and good technique. I like to visualize when I dance that I am painting the music on the floor with my body’s movements. I believe the quality of each movement and step is more important than their complexity.
To me the best dancers have technique, are comfortable with their vocabulary (which they acquired through repetition), they have practiced variations and ways to get in and out the moves they know. But after that they have also mastered the less technical more “soft” skills. Like, listening to the music and matching their choice of moves to the music and expressing the moves in a way that enhances the music. Like, using different flows and levels to better express the dynamics in the music. Like, listening to their partner, adapting to them, to their abilities and sharing together in the experience. Like, learning to know yourself and dancing in your own unique way and with your own unique style. These soft skills help turn your dancing from a technique into art; into poetry.
But you can’t start with writing a world renowned poem that stands the test of time. Start by learning the alphabet and look forward to how all these letters you are learning will make up every word you ever write, every sentence, every paragraph. Look forward to being able to use those letters to express yourself, to be creative and to write about your own feelings and unique take on the world. The alphabet is everything to language, but it’s how you use that alphabet that distinguishes between the phone book, and a world renowned poem.
You are a dancer. Everyone has that ability within themselves. Everyone has creativity and self-expression. However, many people are not in touch with that part of themselves. Technique, repetition and everything else we talked about in this blog, will help you to express yourself as a dancer. But if you are not in touch with who you are, with your creativity, self-expression and musicality, you will be executing steps, copying others, but not truly dancing your dance. You will be dancing from the outside in, instead of dancing from the inside out (or dancing from your heart and soul) I wish for every dancer to find it within themselves to use their technique (the “alphabet”) to tell their story through dance, to express their heart, to share who they truly are.
Today I am sharing a video of mine where I talk about levels in Kizomba which is something I have been thinking about and practicing lately. It’s a great way to add more feeling, dynamics, musicality, self-expression, and creativity in your dancing. My hope is that it opens you up to new possibilities in your dancing.
Also, part of this blog is my musical and video Kizomba/Urban Kiz inspirations for the month of February. As I always get questions on what is good music to listen to and videos to watch. I listen to music from Soundcloud a lot (I also use You Tube a lot), so if you like a song that I share here, I recommend that you go search that DJ or artist on Soundcloud and find more of their music.
- Sometimes you need a reminder of a great exercise. Laurent Yishu and Demo partner Rita Szabo did a great demo with intentional “visual only” connection. I have practiced these types of exercises before, but hadn’t thought about them in a while. This video got me putting this back in my practice routine to work on cleaning up my intention as a lead. They truly did an amazing job and were inspiring to watch, doing this challenging exercise at such a high level. I have loved taking privates with Laurent in Paris this summer. He always has good ideas, teaching tips, and also advocates for a strong technical foundation to be free to express and be creative. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAyLnm5qEDc
- Sometimes you find these video gems, where the dancers are just having fun with each other, not caring about impressing anyone around them and creating moments of magic that can’t help to put a smile on your face. T’Peak and Tarah did just that with a great Tarraxo moment. No complex patterns but so much sauce, musicality and isolations on each step. Musical, fun, inspired and smile enducing. Love seeing Canadian ladies working on their body movement, isolations and self expression. https://www.facebook.com/tpeakdancer/videos/813975312310231/UzpfSTUwMjIwMDI3MzoxMDE2MTQ0MDYzMjk2MDI3NA/
- What can I say, 3 of my favorite dancers dancing together, listening to each other, being creative, co-creative and musical… just had to share this one. Willy, Isabelle and Adeline, you keep inspiring me to keep getting better! https://www.facebook.com/cherystylkizomba/videos/530844850771817/UzpfSTUwMjIwMDI3MzoxMDE2MTQ4NjA2MDgyNTI3NA/
- Giorgia, one of my favorite woman “leads” (who is also an amazing follow) just another proof that gender has nothing to do with your ability learn to lead or follow. It’s rare to see a woman that leads with such smooth, graceful and effortless movements while being playful, creative and musical! She truly dances with feeling and heart and inspires me to keep working on my leading. Great short video: https://www.facebook.com/gio.dancer.7/videos/10213729473776465/
- To me dance is an art form; it’s a way to express yourself and the music; to connect with each other… Yes there are steps, techniques, patterns, but these are just the foundation that allow you to express yourself. To me the best dances take these steps and elevate them into an art. When I feel like dancers are just totally connected with each other and the music I like to say that they paint the music on the floor with their feet. That feeling does not come from the complexity of the step, but from the feeling, style, grace, and “sauce” that dancers put in each and every step. Loved this demo, these two are using the kizomba language to write a beautiful poem, Ronie & Teresa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5157tE7Des
- When I watched the video with Larent Yishu, I fell in love with the demo song… so I have been playing it since then. DJ Hugo Smile, Quero Mais Love remix https://soundcloud.com/hugo-smile/instru-quero-mais-love-rmx-dj-hugosmile-x-ddjay-prod
- I love the songs that Filho do Zua has been a part of in these last few months. So much feelings and emotions. Halison Paixão – Alma Gêmea ft. Filho do Zua https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uPkC5jDuAI
- Well… My current obsession continues (I started this by sharing my top 5 videos/songs for January on facebook last month, in included a new song by Matias Damasco)… This one is not new to me or to the world, but I have been dancing to this a lot this month, after discovering the new Matias Damasco album last month, I started down memory lane and this one stuck… love the unconventional dynamics in the song, the good feeling, and his voice of course. Sol e Lua, Matias Damasco https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pa3W-3NUPQ
- Another of DJ Hugo Smile’s remixes that I discovered this month and that have been on my playlist since. Love the mix of traditional with modern. DJ Hugo Smile Katchua. https://soundcloud.com/hugo-smile/dj-hugosmile-rmx-katchua-ddjay-prod
- Most of the songs that I share are from France, Portugal or Angola but this month I have been enjoying Trompe remixed by Canadian DJ Sink: https://soundcloud.com/dj-sink/dj-sink-feat-freakeyz-trompe
Hope you enjoyed the read and got inspired. See you next month for the next edition!