Kizomba is a beautiful, connected, partner dance.. Right? So why on earth do we need ladies Kizomba? Or even ladies styling ?
The first Kizomba class I ever taught was actually at a women’s circle called Red Tent. Red Tent is a women’s only space, that exists all over the world, to give us the chance to come together, support one another, and to try new things. Since that first teaching experience, I have felt very drawn to the idea of ladies kizomba, and more recently to ladies styling. However, I am aware that there are many voices out there, male and female , who don’t see the relevance of this branch of Kizomba.
For myself, and for many women the concept of dancing so closely with a complete stranger could be at the least a little uncomfortable, or at most, extremely scary. We each have different stories, and paths, and have been drawn to this dance for different reasons. The healing energy of Kizomba is extremely powerful, and enticing. It is this nurturing, connected energy that attracts the widest array of people I have seen in any dance genre.
Everyone needs some kind of healing, but for many women, Kizomba could be a direct way to reconnect with our bodies, and to develop trusting physical connections with others, which are not sexual, yet are still connected. The kizomba bubble can become a safe place to trust your own body and that of someone else. Kizomba allows us to open up to the possibility of having these unspoken conversations, with people we may hardly know, or others we know very well.
The beauty of this non judgemental, safe embrace is extremely transformative, not only for women. However, getting over the first hurdle of actually going to a mixed class, or a social can be a massive deal for a lot of women. Having a ladies only space can provide a nurturing environment where we can connect with our bodies with a little less awkwardness, or intensity that some people feel in mixed classes or social. It can act as a kind of gentle introduction to kizomba, and make the whole concept far less intimidating.
For the ladies who have no qualms with close partner dancing, or who have had the privilege to grow up in ‘dancing cultures’, the concept of a ladies class may seem absurd? I have been dancing all of my life, but I definitely did not figure out how to engage and isolate all of the little muscles in my hips and my core standing in front of 20 men in a classroom. Especially if you have had no previous African dancing experiencing, trying to learn to isolate and shake your bunda can be an awkward and somewhat hilarious process. Again, I have found that in general women feel far less self conscious having these kinds of classes where they can get through the awkward stage together, laugh about it, and come out the other side having some nice new body movements, and knowledge of their own body. It is nice to be able to break down some technique, or simply create a space to experiment, to allow more women to get a handle on the various kizomba/ tarraxinha or urban body movements.
Sooo ladies styling you say? Isn’t that just girls shaking their bundas ? Well no, actually it’s not. Kizomba is a partner dance. It is a conversation. Personally I want to have as much vocabulary as I can in my own body, so as when I feel inspired by the dance I am having, or the music I am hearing, I can contribute. I love a nice relaxing Kizomba as much as the next person. But I know I am also not here to be a puppet. It takes two to tango, or in this case Kizomba. The more I know about my own body movements, the more creative and interesting my dance can become. I don’t mean that I want to hijack the dance, and throw the lead off his axis, I just mean I want to have a conversation, I want to express myself as well, and I don’t want to lose my own flavour because I am the ‘follower’. There is a whole world of different movement vocabularies we can draw on and experiment with, which will keep the dance evolving. Of course, I believe in honouring the roots and traditions of the dance, and honouring the music, but for me I see ladies Kizomba as an extension of those roots. If Kizomba is about connection, how can we form this connection without first being connected to ourselves and knowing our own bodies?
And then of course there is following. Because we ‘just follow’… right? Following is a huge skill to develop which requires us to develop a high level of sensitivity to a huge variety of different leads. Whilst there are technical things, and a lot of practice which will help with following, it is also a mind game. Learning to relax enough, to be completely present in the dance, is learning the art of ‘active surrender’. You want to be calm enough to follow through your body, without getting caught up in your mind, or the environment, you need to tune in completely to your partner. All the while remaining awake enough to dance the way you want to dance, adding your styling, feeling the music, speaking your half of the conversation.
I know for some people dancing is just dancing, and bunda is just bunda, ladies styling is a joke, and there are no need for ladies classes. For me, I feel that dancing is a little snippet of our inner world, that gets released when we dance. We can unpack layers of understanding, about ourselves and others, without even realising we are doing so. We can experience extreme bliss and transformation dancing with a partner and dancing alone. Ladies only spaces in kizomba are important as they allow us the time and freedom to know our own dancing and bodies first, to create new vocabularies, and to connect with other like minded people.