You must let the man lead.
Learning to let go of control is probably the hardest lesson I learned in Kizomba class.
Through a long trail of Latin dance lovers in the Philly community, I was led to the lovely Ekaterina Lezhava of EKA Dance Academy in the Northeast.
Kizomba is the newest trend, hot in Europe and making its way slowly to Philly as most trends do. Kizomba means “party” and is a popular genre of dance and music evolution originating in Angola, southern Africa. Kizomba music has a slow and usually very romantic rhythm.
My first Kizomba dance lesson was over a month ago when I met Lezhava, who goes by "Eka," a very warm and personable woman from Soviet Georgia with over 32 years of dance experience.
There are three types of kizomba dancing: traditional, romantic and sensual, she explained. We would be learning the basics and technical aspects so we had the grounding to do whatever we pleased once we learned.
First, we learned how to step each leg in place with small steps – barely any movement and slightly moving our feet off the ground.
“Like a robot,” Eka said in her Russian accent.
The key is staying straight instead of dramatically swaying your hips like the Latin salsa I learned in college or bachata, the Dominican Republic social dance style I dabbled in recently.
We rotated, taking turns with Eka as the male lead and a dance friend Raul who smelled like men’s cologne and mint gum. We learned a side turn she called tick tock.
“Gather your legs,” Eka said. “If you slide your feet, you will never step on his toes.”
Tarraxinha, or as I call it, the "backwards twerk," is where the woman tightens her abs, bends her knees, does squats then repeats in reverse, which is way more complicated than it sounds and was quite an ab workout. Men do it too, but it’s more subtle because they are so boxy. Wearing the right shoes is as important as watching yourself in those studio mirrors.
“Flats are fine, but mid-size heels are best with front support. Men can wear most dress shoes,” Eka said.
Kizomba can be danced with only four or five moves, yet mastery lies in the subtle movements and the lead/follow connection. Some of those movements include steps like the lady saida (walking back for two counts and then crossing your leg over to the left of the man for the next three) and gentleman’s saida (where the man pushes you back with his chest) as well as the three-step basic and shuffle (like a cha-cha). Another student said to just close your eyes and lean into the man, and that she had learned salsa blindfolded.
Somehow I am now on Kizomba class No. 5, after Eka urged me to keep coming to class every Sunday at noon, going to a Latin dance pool party this summer and possibly attending a Latin dance conference in D.C. in the fall.
The Latin dance community in Philly is addictive, inclusive and exciting, and I am hooked. See you on the dance floor!
To learn more about EKA Dance Academy, visit http://ekadanceacademy.com/.