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.

What You Do To Me

It’s the way you smile at me when I ask you to dance. You must like me. Or the way I Kizomba. It’s definitely the way you Kizomba. 

Nevertheless, dancing with you is a cause of euphoria.

It’s the way you fall in my arms, you are a pleasure to hold so close and it feels like you know what I’m about to do next. ESP. I dig that.

Even though you surrender, you know how to carry your self. Your body movements are subtle. Your feel, follow and flow is on point. And that pedicure. I like.

But it’s that feeling. Lady. That feeling. Synergy cannot be faked, only felt, and again I say it’s euphoria. A celebration of sight, sound, smell and touch.

Come here let me hold you, let’s Kizomba again. Is that a trace of 212?

Your confidence is appealing, contagious, addictive. I want more. I’ll be back next Sunday (and Monday) with the expectation that you will be there. Lady. Be there.

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My Feet Are Yearning

I know who’ll be there when I step on that roof on top of the canteen at Arts On Main. Popularly it’s known as the rooftop. Thabo the DJ and usually Delicia, Dineo, Tercia, and Melissa are there early. Ryan too, and that guy my friend in the jacket. 

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As the Highveld sun sets and the Afro beats turn up, more familiar, friendly faces appear.

I know I’m gonna get at least two or three quality dances from each of these ladies. This experience is just over two years old, and it does not get tired.

Some ladies have left our city and won’t be back for a year or more, and some return every other month, or six. The void is fleeting as there is another and another that joins this unplanned but constant gathering. The circle of dance is never ending.

But I miss those that I sincerely connected with, it took a month of Sunday’s to build some of these relationships.

Jacky, Tammy and Zeena make cameo appearances. Ace and Stamena are abroad about a year now, Nadia left for Korea yesterday and Simone will be off to Europe, and out of my life too.

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Ohk that’s a bit dramatic but let me indulge this brief melancholy.

I wasn’t looking for friends when I joined Baila Afrika or when I went to Come Salsa parties, but here I am with more than a dozen ladies and gents who bring an exclusive, much-wanted light to my life. I’ve lived.

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Conversation is usually centred around dancing, the music, the people, parties, politics, what men want, what women don’t want, everything. It’s living your best life, but not just on social media.

Having these people around is simply awesome, some challenge me, most make me smile, some compliment me, others inspire. The expectation is regularly met, but this that they leave…

Like a zephyr, I know they will return and we shall dance again. My feet are yearning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurity; Strangling Expression.

I can see the anger in his focused eyes. My right hand on his girlfriend’s back, just below her shoulder. I slide my hand down to her waist, he grimaces.

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Next thing he pulls her away from me. I smile. I see you. Insecure man-child. When we resume doing the Rueda de Casino, I pull her back. She was my partner before the lesson stopped for a brief demo.

He looks tense, she feels it. Something ain’t right. This is not fun.

At rooftop, this man-child looks on uncomfortably as I Kizomba with his partner. She too is uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy the dance. I won’t ask her again.

I look at them: losers. Dancing with each other only? Losers I say because they fail to grasp the basics of connection, fun, expression, and respect.

Another man-child tells me I disrespected him when I ask his wife to dance. I don’t understand, she says: you should have asked him if I can dance with you.

I’m perplexed. He curses me in Portuguese. I don’t understand. He says don’t disrespect my culture and our music. What do you mean I ask. He says I’m from this place. What place? Angola. I say: don’t be so insecure. I walk away. Another Loser. Another?

Kizomba, Cuban Salsa and Bachata do not belong to Angolans, Cubans or Dominicans respectively. They started it, shared it, and I am grateful for their invention and generosity.

Your girlfriend and wife may ‘belong’ to you, but they are not a fixed property.

And when they enter a place like rooftop, surely both of you are there to dance, to enjoy the music, to experience something or someone new. Obviously in a happy, respectable manner.

To demonstrate such authority over a woman is similar to JZ believing he has total confidence from parliament members. We saw the numbers.

Anyway. Ladies; you have a voice, good intentions, desires, why are you allowing these insecure men to strangle you?

Dance is an expression of body and mind, it’s also a connection of joy. But if your emotion is stifled, keep it.

I’m not here for half hearted connections, I’m here for fun, but if yours is reserved for one man only, do me a favour and dance in the four corners of your home.

Insecurity is a jailer that will withhold expression temporarily. Losers, you are warned.

Irmgard, The Grand Dame of Dance

This venerable lady walks on to the dance floor at the Rooftop, poised, unperturbed by the judging eyes that follow her. You can see she is 60-something. What is she doing here? Does she know what these young people do?  Those thoughts seem to cross their minds.

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She takes a seat and watches the Salseros, smiles when they shimmy and shine. Aah, the dame is a spectator.

A new Cuban Salsa song starts and a young guy approaches her, asks for a dance and with an enthusiastic smile she joins him.

They start off slowly stepping back and forward, then, just as the music dictates, they move faster to the beat.

The prying eyes are now steady cell phones. Their contempt now turned to curiosity, and I sense a hint of envy as another guy and another ask her for a dance. The young ladies cannot believe what they’re recording.

She is known by these guys, but what’s more, she is not being outdone by their quick slick moves. She is elegant and on tempo, beaming as they spin her, moving her from left to right, showing off some nimble footwork.

She is only 78 years young. A half-century older than the youngest lass I dance with.  She tells me she started dancing 20 years ago. I don’t believe her.

When I ask onlookers for a dance the standard responses are: I can’t, I don’t know how; I’m nervous; I got two left feet, I have no rhythm, I’m shy, people are watching, next time.

It bores me to hear such responses when I can see that they enjoy the dancing and music. Clearly, their inhibitions clash with the skimpy clothing, but that’s none of my business.

Most are way younger than when Irmgard started to dance, and here she is getting jiggy with boys you are admiring from afar. (I see you ladies)

But you have to start somewhere or at some age. Irmgard is proof that age is not a factor. Neither is ability. In fact, it is not the ability you need to dance, it is starting to dance that will give you the ability.

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As for the people who are watching, trust me, when you really into your partner and the music, everyone else becomes a blur.

Irmgard knows that she is looked at in a curious way, but she dances anyway. She knows about the benefits gained from this pastime.  She also knows that dancing often improves the skill and this grand old lady seldom misses a party.

That’s right, she’s out on the weekends. You can find her at a dance party on a Friday night, the Rooftop on Sunday, and at BailaAfrika on a Monday. Did i mention that she is only 78.

And another thing, like most of us she arrives solo. Irmgard’s goal is to dance, 30 times that is. She came to have fun, no partner and no crew required. Just that desire to dance until her feet hurt.

So tell me, what’s your excuse again?

This Is How It Goes

There's this flagrant thinking when it comes to the dance community, that men are dogs and women are loose, and that it's a free for all when it comes to hooking up. 

I don't know why it is so: Is it because they see her grinding against a man and then doing it minutes later with another, with a smile on her face. Is it the way the ladies dress? Tight jeans, tight skirts, tight tops, everything tight? Is it the way the guys hold them? 
 
I was recently asked if women join this dancing scene to get laid. Not men, women he asked. I was like “YOH”. 
 
Without a doubt, most guys do join this fraternity for uhh, closer experiences with the fairer sex, but ladies, there are a few of you that are thirsty and I like it… just saying. 
 
Anyway, I don't see the problem with casual romances because that's bound to happen like it does at varsity and at work places, but branding the entire society as slutty – now that's just despicable. Not like me. It's just despicable. 
 
So let me liberate your mind with three experiences I had. 
 
After nearly a year of dancing with – let's call her Estelle –  she says I smell nice. I'm like bitch what, ohk I did not say that, but I thought it. I mean I put in effort when I attend class and parties. 
 
Anyway, for close to 300 days we chatted and there was no intention from my side. Or hers. Until that night. But it didn't just happen that night. 
 
So to cut a long story short we had a two-month romance and that was that. She chose to be with another guy in the dance scene and I was like this muthafucka. Ohk she is not a mother but yes, I was upset for like five minutes. 
 
Now the second one – let's call her Nina –  showed interest from the first time we met. A friend that knew Nina, knew she was curious about me, and 'forced' me to dance with her. I did, her Kizomba basics sucked but that poor form came in handy later, if you know what I mean. 
 
I invited her over for dinner, one thing led to another and I declared that I would like to have a regular arrangement. This lasted for a month, she wanted more than just fun and I chose to rather put a ring tone on my cell phone. (see what I did there)
 
The next episode is absolutely disastrous and as a man, I am ashamed of recalling this epic, epic failure. 
 
So its tarraxha with – let's call her Delilah –  at the rooftop, the next week we at it again and I notice she holds me closer. After a month I finally ask if she would be interested in seeing me outside of this lusty space. She said yes. 
 
We had waffles but I ate most of the ice-cream, we kissed, she said she is not sure about me or her going down that night. I said ohk Thursday then, Delilah nodded.  
 
I get to her place, condoms strategically placed, smelling good. Eish. It was a typically cold and dry winters evening, but she wasn't. 
 
I left her place with no satisfaction, Just a strong desire and a quest brutally deflated. The temptation on the dance floor turned to denial in the lounge, so rude. 
 
Because of Kizomba, and the fundamental that is the connection, I had and will have good encounters. But that intimate connection, that's reserved for a few. And it does not happen every week or month. It does happen though.
 
Do I have the right to label these ladies as sluts? Hell no, Delilah made me mad and I got no lust for her, and as much as I curse her for wasting my Spicebomb, she is and they are, by no means, promiscuous. 

So, whether you looking from the outside in, or you're on the inside looking in, know this; slut shaming is for the naive. Women can do what men do, catch and release, and this is how it goes. 

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.