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Kizomba: A Beginners Guide


Kizomba is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, especially amongst salsa dancers, and most salsa weekends include some Kizomba classes and workshops. But where did this sensual dance and music style suddenly spring from? And why is it so popular now?
Kizomba's soundtrack is a mix of traditional Angolan Semba and Compas, or Zouk music from the French Caribbean, sung generally in Portuguese. "Kizomba" actually means "party" in the Angolan Kimbundo language and a dance to complement the music was conceived on the dance floors of Angola's clubs in the late 1980s. Kizomba is characterised by a sensual style of couples dance, known for its romantic overtones.
Remaining popular in most Portuguese-speaking African countries, Portugal has taken Kizomba under its wing and added her own unique interpretation. Lisbon and its suburbs play host to an increasing number of Kizomba clubs established by young immigrants who have added their own stamp to the dance style, opening it up to the mainstream in Portugal and beyond.
Kizomba is influenced by tango steps but one of the main differences is that the lower body, with emphasis on the hips, performs back and forth and circle movements. People dance on tempo as well as off-beat, sometimes using syncopation steps.
Kizomba's popularity in the UK in recent years has been largely thanks to Iris de Brito, a native Angolan who came to London more than a decade ago. Trained in ballet, jazz and contemporary dance, she was a fixture on the salsa scene before having the idea of introducing Kizomba to the wider world. Iris' first Kizomba classes were advertised as "Afro-tango" as she wanted to promote something people could relate to. She cites the similarities of Kizomba to tango but is keen to differentiate the more sensual side of the former; "connection" is a word often associated with Kizomba and for Iris and her followers this is one of the appealing things about the dance.
The music facilitates this connection and requires great leading skills and complicity between partners. Though they remain connected at the chest level, partners play off of each others' leg and hip movements. Kizomba’s sensuality is accentuated by the fact that the woman is supposed to dance with her eyes closed, responding only to her partner’s tactile directions. In some professional performances, the woman wears a blindfold.
Kizomba isn't for everyone and has even been compared to Marmite by some salsa fans. But for the Kizomba lovers it offers a new world of highly evocative music, a beautiful spectacle to watch and participate in and an approachable technique which allows beginners to enjoy it very quickly