I have been thinking about this a lot lately. What is it about Kizomba that has us feeling so addicted to it? What is it that has many ladies and probably men feeling a little terrified the first time they try it? And how on earth do we become good followers? Is it even a skill to follow? We can just figure it out on the social dance floor right…..? It seems to me that learning Kizomba for followers is really an abstract experience. I am not really talking about becoming an amazing technical dancer here, I am talking about getting to that point of Kizomba melt, of being in the Kizomba bubble or better yet becoming the kizomba bubble. Because I dare say it is that somewhat rare and special experience that has us coming back night after night, social dancing till late, regardless of work in the morning, travelling interstate and overseas just to get a more concentrated Kizomba dose ?
I have also noticed recently a decently high level of nerves and fear surrounding Kizomba especially from beginners and especially from followers. I 100% understand because this was my exact experience the very first time I danced Kizomba. I simply thought, I cannot dance like that with men I don’t know. Punto. And then thanks to some incredible teachers in Bogota, Colombia, I was allowed a safe and nurturing environment, in which I could let go of those ideas, and embrace the real Kizomba feeling, that in my opinion has nothing to do with being sexy, even less to do with sex, and everything to do with connection, healing and creativity.
Kizomba is its own language. Extremely unique, and with many different hybrids and dialects, none of which are better than the other. All of which are their own form of storytelling with the body. So this is the best way I have thought of to express my ever continuing journey as a Kizomba follower.
The first stage is resistance! For me, after so many years of dancing solo dance styles, there was no way on this earth I was going to let a man tell me what I should be doing with my body to the music! Especially if sed man couldn’t even hear the rhythm. I guess then, the first stage is also judgement. Both of myself for not understanding those seemingly simple basics, and of my partner for pushing me around the dance floor.
Stage 2 comes after a fair amount of time in stage 1, it’s the ‘uh huhhh’ moment, when you stop back leading, and finally let go to the surrender. It’s probably your first taste of following a stranger so closely, and hopefully in this stage a lot of the judgement dissipates. You realise, wow this person I have never met is giving me permission to be in their very personal space, so I want to try and hear what they have to say. In this stage you probably also forget to hold your core, and become a very heavy follower as you are trying desperately to translate what your partner is saying to you.
Stage 3 is the ‘I can follow anyone stage’. You think you are practically tri lingual because now you can follow the urban guy, the kizomba guy and the super beginner without falling over at all… The technical complexity of being a good follower is actually very high. We learn to have an acute awareness of our own weight placement, adjusting to fit different leads, making basic steps look seamless, a whole lot of core work, and a fine balance between control and still looking flowy. You are doing well of course, but the journey continues, there are more subtle conversations to be had.
The next stage is that kizomba light bulb moment! Its that moment where you are dancing and in an extremely cliche fashion the whole world seems to disappear, and you think you might be floating. This is pure connection. You are having an incredibly special conversation with someone, and it can be with anyone, and last a whole song, or many. But in that moment there is a beautiful sense of oneness, judgement cannot exist here, and a deep sense of healing holds you together. Because there are few things more healing than a truly loving embrace in whatever form that finds you.
Of course there are millions of mini stages in between, and more yet to discover for both lead and follow. I found for myself somewhere around stage 3 and 4 that I really needed to work on my own personal language. If I am the interpreter in the Kizomba dance, and each person I dance with has their own individual language, and I have mine, we begin talking, and when we reach a point of good connection, we create a 3rd individual language which is the culmination of both of our dances. As the follower, I am trying to be quiet enough to listen, and active enough to respond, or at the very least let him know I am hearing what he is trying to tell me. But there is more. I realised If I spent more time on my own individual language, my personality, my dancing flavour would not be lost in the surrender, it could be incorporated into the conversation and add another layer. So ladies, dance on your own! Explore your body movement alone, play with your styling, develop the intricacies of your own language. Then when you dance a nice Kizomba with someone, you feel a sense of trust and you understand what they are saying to you, remember you have infinite possibilities with which you can reply.
I feel a deep sense of gratitude to this dance, and all the people I have met so far in various Kizomba communities. The healing embrace of Kizomba has allowed myself and thousands of other people to know themselves and their bodies better, to connect with people on a very deep level, and to just generally bring more peace, love and hugs into the world, which is desperately needed. The journey of being a follower is endlessly fascinating and often times not given enough credit or discussion. Keep talking, keep exploring, keep dancing.
~Genevieve Rogan 2016~