How to learn Kizomba as a follower?
For anyone who takes their first steps in Kizomba as a follower, you will probably have the quick realisation that it is not as as easy as you thought. It’s not just walking, it’s kind of weird dancing so close to someone, and even if you have a big list of dancing styles behind you, dancing Kizomba is one of those dances that will still provide you a fun challenge.
As you enter your local Kizomba scene you will probably be swamped with class options, parties to go to, different styles of music and dancing, and possibly feel unsure about the best way to go about learning Kizomba as a follower?
I know I did. It is also true that many of the classes you will attend will be leader focused, perhaps your steps won’t be broken down, the concept of following brushed over, or sold as really easy. I see so many women opt out of classes and head to the social dance floor instead of taking class, and I don’t blame them. They feel bored in class. They start to plateau quickly, and they are unsure of how best to improve their dancing?
I don't have all of the answers, but I have given it a lot of thought and this is what I’ve come to.
Learning to follow is a really abstract skill, because you CANNOT FEEL YOURSELF. You may feel confident that you know all the tricks in the book, you are going where your partner wants you to go, and your following is on point. But.. is it really?
Well it’s hard to know because as followers we cannot feel ourselves, we are also not telepathic. Perhaps our leader can only use 10% of his steps and dance techniques on us because he can tell we are not up for it? Perhaps we are actually breaking his arm, or his neck or his fingers? Maybe our weight is in our heels and we feel like a big bag of bricks being hauled around the dance floor? Maybe we can follow but we aren't really dancing? Could we have better musicality? Better body movement? Some nice styling? Do we only dance urban and not kizomba or vice versa? Can we follow close and away from the body ? Can we remain calm, but also be sensitive, active and creative in a dance? Can we adapt to all different leads and styles of dance? Can we hold ourselves through tricks?
Now when we look at this list, which is by no means the final to do list for a follower, we can see we actually have quite a job, and huge skill to work on here. Thinking about that list, I don’t think it's fair to assume we can pick all of this up by heading to one class a week, or skipping the class part all together and just going to parties.
Learning to follow is an abstract art. The art of following starts with
A clear mind. When we start following in Kizomba we are confronted with ourselves. Do we feel vulnerable? Clumsy? Uncomfortable being so close to someone? Do we trust our own skill and movement? Is it ok to surrender control? Can we still express ourselves in this space…
It’s a lot to take in. And actively working through these confrontations and lessons with yourself is the surest way to become a good follower. A good follower is calm, responsive, confident and creative. To allow ourselves to be all of these things, and then to express them in the embrace of another person in no small task, so enjoy the journey. Following in Kizomba will gift you so many lessons you could not foresee. Let them in, take time to work through them, talk to people about your experiences, ask your teacher for guidance, and most importantly be patient and loving with yourself and with those whom you are dancing with. A clear mind and body does not come overnight, nor does it stay 100% of the time. Allow yourself to have good days and bad ones. Great dances and average ones. Expressive moments and uninspired ones. Thats real, and that’s what Kizomba can give you, a place to be real and a place to be held.
Technique. Once you have begun to work with yourself and work through any blocks which may be affecting your dance, you have the art of following technique. Again this is a journey and will not happen overnight. For this you do need to go to class. Find a respectable teacher or partnership with good technique and training, and learn from them. A good Kizomba class should be equally as valuable for the follow as for the leaders. Ask as many questions as you can, dare to make mistakes and ask for feedback. Being an incredibly light follower, with good lines, body control, flavour and styling will not happen overnight. If you want to take your dancing to a new level invest time and energy. Go to class, practice on your own, take privates, go social dancing. Learn to listen to your body as you go to class, this way you will not be stuck relying on your teachers, you will come to understand what feels good and not good in your own body.
Social dancing, going social dancing is so important to improve your following level. The more different bodies and styles you can dance with the better. Your muscle memory will be in overload for a while, but practice and getting yourself out there in the social practice is the best way to feel new things in your body, figure out what you like, and try new things. You will become part of a new community, hear new music and find that just like following, leading is an abstract art, no dance will ever be the same, and that is the beauty of it.
Body movement and styling. Once you feel that you are comfortable with following your partner, have mastered some good technique, and feel that nice flowy Kizomba feeling, it’s time to really play. Mastering your body movement and finding your style is a really fun part of being a follower. It’s like a game, find the gaps, the awesome musicality, and play with your style, without interfering with the lead and flow of the dance with your partner. Again, take some classes, see someone with a style you like? Copying is a good way to start out, and then branch out and find what makes your styling unique. Classes on body movement or ladies styling are a great idea, you will find the correct technique and find new ways to move without hurting your spine, or hips.
Stay humble. Kendrick lamar is teaching us a good lesson at the moment, it rings true for Kizomba. Be humble. Kizomba is a dance of connection and love. Leave the ego at the door, and know that there is always room to reach a new level in your dance. And I am not talking about having perfect techni
que, or amazing lines. I am talking about how far you can really fall into the dance. The more you know the rules, the more you can break them. The more you can hold yourself, the more you can connect. The lighter you are, the more movement, musicality and steps you will feel. The more creative you are, the mor endless the possibilities become. Always let yourself be a beginner. Hone the fundamentals. Accept new teachings. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the never ending journey that dance can provide you.
Being a follower in Kizomba is no easy task, it is a really amazing and complex one. Don’t give up, know that your role in this dance is beautiful and important, and dare to make mistakes and watch how fast you will grow.
Happy following. :)
Based in Sydney? Looking for a dance class?
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Adriano e Genevieve on Facebook for group classes,
and Genevieve Rogan dancer/ teacher/ writer for private classes.
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