Dancing With A Conscience

BailaAfrika’s recent party had a human rights twist. Quite fitting, as it happened on the eve of Human Rights Day. A woman spoke about human rights violations happening somewhere south, or was it west, of Morocco. There was also a Jewish guy who is rooting for Palestine and a Cuban gentleman who talked about the Cuban revolution.

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It was a bold step taken by Edd and Tash Wyatt, the creators of BailaAfrika. They’re leaders in the social dance community in Johannesburg, and the custodians of so much joy. I mean what does music and dance have to do with politics or Palestine or religion, right? What does BailaAfrika have to do with these causes?

Well, they felt the need to engage their friends and family on a level of humanitarian awareness and responsibility, a shared responsibility us humans have.

Cuban Salsa was shut down by the authorities a long time ago in Havana, Bachata was frowned upon by the elite in the Dominican Republic. Kizomba well, is about partying, and started – I am told – after the last Angolan revolution.

I did not care much for what these speakers had to say. Don’t get me wrong, the things we hear, read and see about Morocco and Palestine are dreadful. My fight though, my activism starts here, at home in South Africa, Joburg, Bosmont and more importantly my hometown – the Floors in Kimberley.

The township I grew up in is infested with youngsters dependent on drugs and alcohol. Unemployment is another major threat to their ability to lead normal lives. Poverty is real, and then there are the so-called gangsters.

So-called, because the guys I grew up with were gangsters. They pushed drugs, intimidated people, some were killed, and others were beaten. There are not so many murders now.

That was in the 1990’s. This activity is still rife today in most townships. Black on black crime, coloured on coloured violence.

I just cannot help Palestine. I cannot sympathise with Cuba, never mind Morocco. My brothers and sisters right here are living a life where their dreams are shattered, before they even leave the school ground.

And yes I’m going to blame apartheid for this, because I can, because it’s real. Today we still battle the evil aftermath of the apartheid regime. The demise of black, coloured and Indian people is happening, right before our eyes. And it’s affecting white folk too.

We are all in it. All of us. And this country is slowly reaching an epic explosion. And before I think of throwing a lifeline to Palestine, forgive me as I look in my own backyard first.

Back to the social dance scene that brings together people of all colours, from all continents. Discrimination is reserved for that guy or girl you don’t want to dance with based on their awkward moves or unsavoury hygiene — there’s no time to racially profile on the dance floor.

I just want to enjoy the music, and for those few hours, life is a pleasant melody until I return to the daily grind. But I don’t want to.

Leave Her With A Smile

There’s a joy I get listening to Kizomba and Cuban Salsa, theres a joy in dancing to the tunes and a joy in watching certain people dance, and I especially like the smile of a appreciation when a lady leaves her partner. 

There are a few gents that always make their ladies smile, it’s as standard (for them) as doing a mambo basic. 

Their styles vary like the coffees at Motherland, from a hazelnut latte to Americano (see what I did there) and there’s always a good selection at your favourite Rooftop. 

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Pie-Pacifique’s energetic Cuban Salsa and Kizomba is always accompanied with a wide grin. He is clearly moved by the music and his actions are entertaining. We watch and grin, the lady leaves with a smile.

You have to sit down when Thabo dances, whether it’s Bachata or a jive, the man glides across the floor. His partner is clearly captured by his dexterity and musicality. Every step is to a beat. She leaves with a smile.

 

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With a beer in hand, Seps does not look like he can get down, but when that Timba beat comes on he starts to show off years of practice. It’s contagious, fun and natural. Every shine is on point and his partner leaves with a smile.

It’s difficult to watch one of them when Gersh and Leeroy are both in action. They dance with an ease that makes others stare, their simple steps have led to signature moves, but it’s their flair that sets them apart from the rest.

Gersh’s style, hip-hop Salsa, where sleek footwork meets a pop-and-lock, it’s not traditional but it works with the music and for the crowd. The lady leaves with a smile.

Leeroy stops, drops and swings his lady all in one move it seems, on tempo. No thinking required, he just flows, she follows. The lady leaves with a smile.

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Seeing the delight on a woman’s face is one of the reasons I started Kizomba. I mean, who doesn’t want to make a lady happy with all her clothes on.

These gents know the basics so well that they shape it to suit their persona and more importantly to the music. It’s a devastating, entertaining combination.

Their fun factor cannot be copied, but I know that dancing more often will take me to that space where a lady leaves with a smile.

Respect The Pioneers

When I was a stranger to Rooftop (Arts on Main) I watched people dancing and was in awe of the slick footwork, the control the man has of his lady, the sensuality of the woman, and the synchronicity of a couple moving to the music.

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I knew little of posture, weight distribution and musicality. I was convinced that they practised, regularly, together. But that’s not the case.

Today, I sometimes stand in wonder of these dancers as I’m one of them, people watch me, they smile and point. It’s an awesome feeling when strangers show their appreciation.

Then they see this guy apparently doing Salsa, directing the ladies with his hands, pointing them in this direction, then the other.  It looks sleazy, but to those who don’t dance it seems he is a master. They show their appreciation.

Then there’s this guy that apparently does Kizomba, he leads with his hands and his steps are next to the beat, or off it. It looks messy. But because he knows a routine and always does it, it’s apparently entertaining and they show their appreciation. 

It’s this bastardization of these dances that have those that know shake their heads in disbelief.

 I can see this guy and that guy counting, concentrating on what to do next, and what makes it worse is that some ladies accept a dance or two from these gents. I wonder if they hear the music?

They think they’re uma boss and with the crowd’s appreciation, it further boosts the gents to continue their version of dancing to Salsa and Kizomba tracks.

To add to the debasing, Kizomba is seen as a sexually explosive dance and the way guys drool at the hip movements of Nadia and Roch are hilarious. But they get a specific idea, and he who leads with his hands, adds to this corruption.

Look here, the People of Angola created it as a celebration and that is how it should be. They created basic steps, they created movements of flair and it does allow for sensual movements if the connection is felt.

I blame the instructors for creating these incorrigible ‘dancers’, and I blame these dancers too. Where is the celebration? It seems it’s all about executing that sequence.

See, I did my examination about anything Edd, Tash, Paciano, and Patrice said about Kizomba. I’ve watched over a thousand hours of Kizomba videos, and Tony Pirata, Sophie Fox, Morenasso, Albir, Sara, Isabelle and Felicien, Eddy Vents and my favourite Lucia Nogueira do the same basics that these people of BailaAfrika do.

It’s not that difficult to copy a dance, the basics are passed on from father to son to brother, from mother to daughter to sister, over decades it’s thrived. Decades my people. And now we have YouTube. And distorted instruction.

We are the recipients of the genius of pioneers, so in their honour and the welfare of Kizomba let’s stick to the basics. That’s how a culture endures change, this is our culture, let’s respect the pioneers.

 

 

 

 

 

Listen To Find That Release

I have absolute admiration for the dance instructors I’ve come to know. Their passion requires them to be frustrated on a daily basis.

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How many of us experience frustration daily? Did you choose it? How many do a job for the sole purpose of fun?

According to Facebook, I know about 20 dance instructors from the 2500 friends I’ve got. Which means there is… nevermind. There’s a few of them (dance instructors) and more of us (students).

So, in class, some people tend to chat while the instructor is explaining how you take a step back, forward or to the side. Yes, people have to be told when, how and even why they have to step. I mean hello, there’s music to move you, but that’s clearly not enough and that’s why we have instructors.

Now I’ve been doing Cuban Salsa lessons for like six months, on and off (mostly), so I’ve got more experience than the rookies and I use it against them – if you know what I mean.

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But I listen, cause Tash gave me a dirty look –  but also because of something I missed about a basic, and other times she says something profound. No, wait, that’s Edd, Edd says the clever things, like: “It’s July, half the year is gone and it’s downhill from here but not in a bad way, let gravity take you.”

Anyway, repetition is fundamental as there are shines in Cuban Salsa that can make you look flirty or mischievous. A Suzie-Q after a basic mambo, a roll of the shoulders during a basic mambo or just bouncing to a beat (soft knees) seems easy right, but explain it and see who follows.

As I do basics regularly I get annoyed that a partner can’t seem to get it, so can you imagine how your instructor feels?

Now watching the intricate moves make me dizzy so I choose to stay with the beginners class because why must I twist my arms and yours and my feet are moving rapidly and then my body no no no, it’s too much.

Nevertheless, it’s really fun if you do it well, to the music, and with a lady that knows how to. Whether you watch or dance, it’s an entertaining outlet after a long day at the office.

BUT You cannot have this fun if you do not listen to instruction, and while all instructors insist the music should move you, I disagree, your instructor told/showed you how to move so just do as they say/do.

Just for a week, or a month, unless you like Netta, she catches any sequence in a minute. Not all of us are like her, so again listen, watch and copy to the best of your ability.

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Let me add, it is not because of natural ability that guys like Shaun (Indian South African) and Pius (Nigerian South African) can do the Enchuffle or the Dile Que No, they listened, they dance regularly and now they are the belles of the ball.  They can’t merengue though.

Shaun and Pius are competent Salseros but it took them years, like dog years to get where they are. Just kidding. They watched and listened (still listen) to Edd and Tash, and now they just follow the music.

You Are Not Channing

Some guys are overly confident, as soon as a new lady enters the dance arena they make it known that they are interested.
Now check this, there are new ladies every week and you making moves every week, every week?  Bitch please.
With Kizomba you learn that one of the fundamentals of this sensual dance is a connection, and if you dance for a while you will realize that there is a different connection with every woman. And so it goes with attraction.
You cannot possibly be attracted to every attractive female, you can appreciate all of them yes. But you cannot want them all, at the same time, in the same community, every week?
You are no Channing Tatum. And even if you was, curb that emotion of want, not every lady wants him. Or do they?
The ladies already outnumber us and most are not inclined to ask certain guys for a dance, and recently I was told why.
I don’t know why I was surprised, but apparently, no wait definitely, there are several guys who hit on the ladies consistently – that is they don’t take no for an answer – and it’s for this reason that they avoid you, and you and you.
First thing, they’re here to dance. Secondly, and most importantly, they’re not feeling you. It’s as simple as that. And the third thing is they’ve told each other about you. So right there, with that gossip, you’re out.
Now be a gentleman, just dance and let the connection and music guide you. She will reveal her interest in time if there’s any.
Look I like the fact that there are more women than men, I’ve got about a dozen favorites to dance with at any venue – but at the same time, it discourages them to attend classes and parties because they know they’ll be sitting, waiting, just for one dance. See what I did there?
Plus with you acting on sexual impulse; that is a major turn off for potential dancers becoming Kizombies or Salseros and it’s a debilitating factor to spread the love of dance.
Gentleman, you are now informed that dance connection does not relate to physical connexion so let’s hone this shared interest of dancing.

Let’s Be Real To Our Women

There are many good reasons why a man would abuse a woman, whether it’s emotional, physical or psychological, he always has a good reason to let her know who the boss is.

“I backhanded that bitch,” a former friend once said about how he disciplined his wife for smiling with another guy one time too often. Another guy I used to know berated his partner in front of friends, “Look at how you look, that’s a kak outfit”.

“I pay the rent here,” another said to his wife. Yes, he knew who was in control until he begged her to stay.

Men, we know that women give us shit, whether it’s your grandmother, mother, sister, daughter or girlfriend, this beautiful species comes with a built-in function of how to ‘make a man mad’ every day.

But we love them, don’t we? We have to, it’s our duty to love and protect those who are in our lives and those who we choose, or should I say those ladies who choose us to be part of theirs.

So why the abuse, the degradation, the brutal murder of this fairer sex?

I don’t know.

When it started, I don’t know. Will it stop, I hope so.

See there is no good reason, was and never will be to hurt a female.

Some men are just born with this understanding, my grandfathers, my father and some of my uncles and most of the friends, they know and do better, I’m thankful that they set such respectable precedents.

I had to learn this mentality cause I too am guilty of abuse. Her crime, rocking up to my rooftop with another person. The embarrassment, I said some harsh things, I should have… I’m glad I did not.

The thing is this, having this woman was not a problem despite the shit she gave me, not having her and seeing her with another, now that’s the real dilemma.

And as I see it, the problem that abusive men have or had with their women is that they don’t have “control” over this sentinel beings.

But, they are not ours to control, but to work with, live with, be happy with, as all humans should regardless of age, creed, colour or sex.

But no, the craving for that petty power is relentless. I see guys that don’t know how to Kizomba or Salsa or Bachata, they look hungrily at the ladies.

Some, after a few drinks, attempt to pull the women aside and if she shows him less than a smile, their lewd approach quickly turns to disdain, “fuck you bitch”.

They don’t realise that she is just there to dance, to have fun and to get that high from endorphins.

They also don’t understand that she allows me to get close to her, I am the lead, but I certainly need her permission to be that. And that’s what we as men should accept, to be that man, the man, somebody’s man, you need the approval of a woman.

But NO, when you don’t have what you think you ought to, then aggression and condescending remarks are the next natural steps.

And it’s natural yes, but not progressive, because as a man you never have, never will and don’t have the authority to tread on that lady.

In 1997 Tupac Shakur recorded these words:

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women

Understanding The Music

Most Kizomba songs are sung in Portuguese and like most RNB tracks they are about love, relationships, partying, break-ups and getting down.

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Although I don’t understand the language, the rhythm and bass move me. I’ve found that understanding the lyrics at least has added value to my life.

I’ve had to use Google Translate to understand the songs that make us Kizomba, or Tarraxha.

Recently I was told, “If you knew what this guy was singing then you wouldn’t be here.” So this ‘2em1’  by Christian Lyd is that take-me-home kinda track. Think R.Kelly’s Your Body’s Calling, Feeling on Your Booty, 12 Play, Sex me, You Remind Me. Anyway…

The lyrics are channelling sexual healing and some are just awkward. Let’s take a look.

The first verse of 2em1 goes:

Sinto a tua respiração no meu peito

Mordo os teu lábios bem daquele jeito

Que te deixam doida sem resistir

E pronta para o que vem a seguir

Don’t try to sing it if you dunno the song – it will just sound stupid.

Roughly translated into my second language it goes:

I feel your breath on my chest

I bite your lips well like that.

That make you crazy without resisting

And ready for what comes next.

Now we’ve all been there and done that (Ohk not all of us, if there’s still virgins out here HOLLER) and as adults, I don’t need to explain more or do I? Wait it gets better.

The chorus:

No sofá quero amm, amm, amm

Quando me encostas amm, amm, amm

Sou amante e namorado como eu não há nenhum pra ti sou 2em1

Are you ready for this:

On the couch, I want amm, amm, amm

When you put me on amm, amm, amm

I’m a lover and boyfriend like I do not have any for you I’m 2em1.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with the amm amm translation, it’s more like ah ah ah, it will get you going ah ah ah if you know what I mean.  But surely a boyfriend should be your lover. I mean why is he stating the obvious. Or wait a minute…

You don’t have to imagine the melody, get it on YouTube, this song is lit.

My point is… Now that I understand the lyrics, I know not to move on the dance floor at 100 miles per hour. Although you can step quickly to the beat, this song demands that you move methodically and sensually.

But some guys are lifting their partner off the ground with little restraint and no respect for the music. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

Understanding the lyrics is advantageous, to say the least, but not a necessity to dance.

Coisas Da Terra by Paulo Flores can get anyone jiving. It’s smooth, happy melody just does that. But once I Googled the lyrics I was like “wow”.

This song is from the heart and it speaks of the goodness of Angola and its people, humanity in fact. Delightful to say the least.

Then there’s this robust Salsa track Vivir Mi Vida by Mark Anthony. If ever there’s a song that I did not understand that makes me happy then it’s this.

The eclectic beats will get you in a party mood in no time. This song is a celebration of life, and we need it every day, a celebration that is.

In conclusion, it comes down to connection, it always does, and how that melody makes you feel, how you translate it on the dance floor because the power of a good song transcends language.