of a (former) Salsa Snob
A Kizomba track was playing at the salsa party. I saw couples get into a close embrace, close their eyes and barely move, except for occasionally walking back and forth. I watched for a hot minute, then promptly lost interest. The whole thing looked dull to me. The music sounded trancy and repetitive, and the dancing looked uninspiring to me, so I stepped out to get a breath of fresh air, and came back when the DJ switched back to Salsa.
Now Salsa...that was my drug of choice. There’s variety in the music, the dancing is challenging, there’s space for personal expression and styling, you could dance On 1, On 2 or Cuban style. There are shines that you can do solo. Each of the different genres within Salsa music, bring a new way for you to express yourself to music...yeah... Salsa was my kind of thing. There was no way I would “like” this trancy thing they called Kizomba!
I had made up my mind, and for the next several years, found new ways to avoid Kizomba. I went only to Salsa socials and sat out the odd Kizomba track that was played. At congresses, I sought out the Salsa rooms and never ventured into the dimly lit Kizomba rooms, until….
Until one day, throwing all caution to the wind, silencing all my inhibitions and preconceived notions, I said yes to someone asking me to dance Kizomba. I did it on a whim, just for fun. The guy who asked me, was a friend who had just attended some Kizomba classes and was excited to try out his new moves. It couldn’t hurt to help a friend out, I thought. He held me in a close embrace...a hug that decided to linger on. I liked that he smelt good, and leaned in a little more. We began to shift weight from one foot to another, then, the music paused for a second. We froze, in anticipation. With the drop of the base drum, we began to move. The rest of the dance seemed like a daydream where I was walking on clouds, transitioning seamlessly and effortlessly between moves. By the end of this dance, I was sold. He had me at saida.
Over the next several weeks, I went up to as many kizomba leads as possible asking them to dance and accepted any invitation that came my way. I was hooked on that kizomba connection. The dances I’ve had have been almost meditative and the connections with my partners feel internal and deeper than I have felt before. Kizomba makes that old ditty about “dancing like no one’s watching” come to life.
Salsa is still my number one, my first and forever love. I will always enjoy the open connection, the freedom of expression, the variety and challenge it offers me immensely. But kizomba is fast becoming my new beau, my secret dalliance. Salsa is something I want to share with the world. I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing it is, and get everyone to experience the thrill of a fantastic salsa dance. Kizomba is mine to hold, and to keep, and cherish quietly. I want to enjoy it on my own time, with nobody to distract or interrupt me.
Somehow I had (and I know several other people who have) this misconception that the enjoyment of these two worlds is mutually exclusive. I have heard it said that the enjoyment of kizomba somehow dilutes your seriousness as a salsa dancer, that kizomba is easy, and therefore somehow, “less than”. But is it really “easy”?
Why is the legitimacy of a social dance being judged by how complex it is to master anyway?
Is this coming from the somewhat archaic world view that anything worth possessing must be hard fought for?
To all those that are still fighting this kizomba wave, here are my two cents- We exist in a microcosm as it is. We come to this world as an escape from the sometimes brutal realities of our rat race, hamster wheel, dog eat dog worlds to experience human connection. This connection can be in so many different forms. It could be one of the many moods and colours of a salsa dance that forces you to dance with gay abandon, or the pick-me-up strings of the guitar in a bachata song, or the quiet place you can retreat to with a kizomba.
Our social dance world must first be that- social. This means that we must accept and allow the existence of people and music and dancers of different types. Because in this often polarized world, there also exist people who like to stay in the middle, dipping their feet in all the pools possible and enjoying it all.
I, for one have in the recent past, learnt to lean into that close embrace, shut my eyes to the world, and unclench. It feels pretty good to let go of preconceived notions and I recommend you to try it.