Music and Dance = Nirvana

Although the darkness casts shadows around us, I can sense the luminous delight that the music and dancing radiate on the floor.

We came to party, to listen to good music, to dance with that lady we admire from afar, to dance with that guy your friend likes. Yes, ladies, I know. But this is not about the doings on and off the dance floor.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Well uhh it is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world… and at peace with myself.”

We all love music, most of us love to dance, but where’s the peace and joy that comes with these ancient arts?

To me, it seems music and dancing is the only way this country, this world can move forward peacefully.

And like John Lennon, I am dreaming.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
Imagine was released in 1971. And look how far we have come. It’s mournful.

Until. the philosophy. which hold one race superior. And another. Inferior. Is finally. And permanently. Discredited. And abandoned. Everywhere is war. Me say war.

These are lyrics from the Bob Marley and the Wailers track War, released in 1976. And still, we are at war.

Bachata, Cuban Salsa, and Kizomba have its roots entrenched in Dominican, Cuban and Angolan struggles. South Africa has a few unique dances but none that unites us. Our artists though, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela, Jonathan Butler, PJ Powers, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba, we’ve heard their voices raging against the old regime, their sounds unite us.

But while South Africans live through this turbulent time I hope music and dancing will help ease the pains of change.

I hope that you will realise that dancing is more than a get-together; it’s a means to improve the lives of the young, the old, the overworked, the lonely and the anxious. We can share ideas of politics, but more importantly, ideas to grow this culture.

My dream is to one day take this art to my hometown, Kimberley, where alcohol and drug abuse is the foremost reasons for the deterioration of people, good men young women, of all colours. A friend of mine wants to take it to smaller cities and towns across the country.

They need a distraction that is not fleeting, they need a lifestyle that is not destructive, and they need this culture of music and dancing.

South Africa needs it badly, really badly. A dance culture, happy living, fun with few rules, but instead we are obsessed with JZ and the ANC and apartheid and racism and sexism and violence and xenophobia, AND it all leads to disagreements and violence.

There are battles all around us, around the world, and music and dancing can be the radiance we need not to only escape this fiery reality, but to create a nirvana.

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.

Don’t Miss A Beat

Don’t miss a beat as you will look like a fool. Mistime that step and people will laugh. You will leave the floor embarrassed. You will be pointed at, ridiculed. How will you live after such a travesty?

That’s far from the truth of what happens on a dance floor, or rather what happens in the various social dancing scenes. It’s easy to spot a new dancer but don’t judge her by her All Stars or Superga’s. That girl can move if you can move.

And that guy with the worn running shoes, even the one with the blue overalls, he knows his basics. They confident, they in the moment and clearly enjoy Bachata, Cuban Salsa, and Kizomba. Although the one gent leads more with hand gestures than body movements, it’s ok with some ladies, they dancing.

 

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Strike a pose. Pic courtesy of Hestings Image Pro

 

I find the fear of dancing strange, it’s unfounded. Immature. But not so long ago I was there, petrified of looking like a fool. And I have on a few occasions. Fortunately, the ladies are forgiving and usually laugh off the mistake.

You can overcome this fear by attending a dance class or going to a rooftop of your choice. Ladies, most men are too eager to show you their moves and I can guarantee that you won’t sit still for too long.

Boys, it takes courage to ask a Jackie or a Tash to dance knowing that these ladies have a poise that only certain guys can match. You know this cause you watched them, that fear battling with that enthusiasm to just dance. This internal conflict, you know you can’t salsa but that feeling, that desire to dance, will win.

 

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Captured getting down by Hestings Image Pro

 

The ladies will dance with you, but if you really bad they won’t say yes again. Ehehehe.

Just kidding, if there’s one thing I noticed, our women suffer at times simply to dance. With Kizomba especially you see that look of agony, it’s funny. NOTE to self: I hope she doesn’t look that way when I hold her?

I once heard this: “These beginners just move forward and back, they can’t even turn.”

I was that beginner. I was hurt. The rejection. “I’ll get her, I’ll show her,” I thought. Months later she asked me for a dance. Elation, gratitude, I overcame that limitation.

Just this past Sunday I was told my lead is improving. After nearly a year of dancing with this lass, she tells me this?

Doing it, watching closely, and listening to the music is helpful, to say the least. Dancing is a continuous art of progression. And not just on the floor, beyond it, there are benefits of pleasure… if you know what I mean.

Like writing, reading and driving a car it takes practice to dance confidently. Standing, watching and waiting to be ready won’t help your cause, and it’s a joyful cause.

No, you don’t need those shoes or that outfit, just be comfortable, just be there in the moment. Put an end to that internal conflict, don’t miss this beat.

The Wrong Judgements, The Right Intentions

She asked “Are you Coloured?” I said yes. “And you do Kizomba?” she probed with slight incredulity. I was like YES. People get an idea based on your appearance. Only. Prejudices are human nature and I had to look past various trivial tendencies as a Kizombie.

Kizomba is all over Europe and in Africa, it’s rapidly spreading from its roots in Angola. In Joburg, its growth is too small for my liking. It’s not exclusive to Angolans anymore.

On one Sunday I danced and talked with an American, an Angolan and a Zimbabwean all because of this sensual dance. I’ve learnt about the lives of Mozambicans, Rwandans and a Russian too.

I can’t stop, I mean I won’t stop, going to Kizomba classes and parties as it has added value to my sports-fuelled world.

Besides the beautiful women I get to dance with, there’s the camaraderie I have with an Afrikaans speaking Congolese, an Indian that talks Coloured, and that Nigerian that acts gangster. The noticeable break ups, the obvious romances and the undercover lovers that expose themselves on a weekly basis add to this colourful society. There was also a trivial argument about sensual memes I sent out but that’s none of your business – unless you want in? (in a Deadpool voice) Whatsapp me!

It all makes for an award winning daytime drama script.

My friends have this idea that I dance to get lucky. I won’t lie sometimes I do, but my intention was to end the predictability of my life. Not that it’s boring. I could write a soapie based on myself.

I do Kizomba because it presents a chance to dance with stunning ladies every week.  Just see Alicia, Ayesha, Basheera, Bonolo, Busi, Carmen, Christina, Claire, Chevon, Deirdre, Delicia, Dineo, Elizabeth, Eunice, Jax, Janelle, Juliet… the list ends at Z. But I have to add Mel and Viv.

The first time I saw this dance I was like WOW, that guy, how did he do that? And how did she know? It’s rehearsed. I know. But hell yes I want in.

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The Hotness that surrounds me every week

After my first class with BailaAfrika, I was committed. And two years later I can proudly count on one hand the amount of parties I missed. That’s too many.

The enjoyment of this music, the synergy with a stranger, the courtesy of moving WITH this fine lady. I mean, the attraction, the ease of this Kizomba is captivating.

More gentleman need to do it. The fact that a lady allows you into her space, your face millimeters from hers and your hands on her body; you reach another – needed – level of respect for women.

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South Africans, A Rwandan and a Nigerian.

And this is something a few gents don’t get. It’s not an opportunity to grope. Maybe it’s a chance to ask for her number and to show your slick moves, but it is not an option to be disrespectful.

See this Kizomba is a celebration. Whether the song is about being in love or being dumped, it’s a cheerful coming together (see what I did there).  It’s balm for the battered soul.

Some other ignorant notions I’ve received include: I don’t look like a dancer, and that it’s gay. The best compliment I’ve got: ‘Rooftop is not the same without you.’

So if I let the colour of my skin deter this craving, or the idea that it’s only for Angolans, or only for talented dancers, then I’d probably be at some club on weekends swaying like a wallflower, eyeing that chick, talking trash – missing out on a bevy of beauties.

That’s not me. This is Kizomba. Ladies. Let me hold you.

 

Connection. Execution. Fun

In my quest to find out who the best leads are in Kizomba, I firstly had to ask what they do that makes them a lady’s first choice.

So I spoke to a few ladies and the recurring ideas are connection, execution, and fun. That’s connection to the music, your partner, and then executing the steps. And fun, well that’s why we dance.

Tarryn said: “You got to have your own style, he has to make a good connection with me and is smooth, and it’s not a situation where he has to think of the next move. The transition into the next move is smooth and most importantly he is fun.”

Now what stands out here is style. The basics are the same, but if you apply your interpretation of the song, you connect with your partner, then that right there is your style. And this lady, like most experienced Kizombies, can feel your intentions. So make it clear. And don’t count the steps. Well, not out loud at least.

Simone said: “I like a guy that makes me comfortable first and if he can see I follow, then spice it up, surprise me.”

This reminds me of that Jamie Foxx song Unpredicatable: ‘Girl get comfortable we gonna do something you never done before.’

So before you try to shine make a lady feel comfortable. BUT first, you need to know if she can follow before you surprise her with a fake, a pause or a quick quick slow step. Connection again is stressed; it’s the foundation of an enjoyable dance.

Delicia said: “There’s nothing worse than a guy doing his own thing and then I’m struggling to keep up because he has not paid attention to my body movement or the music.”

We are taught steps which lead to a sequence and then some guys just dance it, irrespective of the song. The substance of Kizomba is feeling the music, knowing your partner’s abilities and then confidently leading her.

Gill said: “Suggesting with your body so that she can take up the cue. The minute you force anything be it by pushing or pulling or tugging or yanking that’s when it’s not a conversation anymore, it’s a competition.”

A Kizomba conversation, I dig this. I mean here I am faking to the right and she fakes to her right? That’s so wrong.

I’m sure you will agree that it just looks (and feels) awesome when two people are moving in unison, but if the lead wants to outdo his follower it just seems awkward. There are no medals for pulling off a move a minute; the ultimate prize is a genuine smile and a reference to her friends.

And trust me, references are doing the rounds.

I was taught from day one that the man leads gently because Kizomba is a whisper. Using your strength to complete a movement is just rude, and if you can use the subtlest of body gestures to lead your lady then congrats.

In my experience repetition is key to dancing a seamless Kizomba, knowing a few songs helps too, and of course enjoying the music so much that your partner feels it too. Bringing that enjoyment is essential or else what’s the use?

As for the best Kizomba leads, only I will know who the ladies said their best are, and who are in the top 10.

*Jacob Zuma Laughs*

It’s not a competition gentleman; so let’s indulge the ladies with a whisper.

SJL

 

Come Salsa, It’s Not A Trend

Come Salsa is around longer than Blackberry, that’s what Edd said. I’m sure Blackberry will make a return in a decade, but during that time Come Salsa will still be representing Cuban Salsa.

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It’s a major feat that Thabo Moloto has pulled off, well, still is. The weather, your couch, and traffic can all deter would-be Salseros from attending class. Sometimes six people rock up, sometimes a dozen or 30.

But regardless of opposing circumstances, Thabo has to be there, after all, he is the instructor, the DJ and the bricklayer of Come Salsa – since 2007.

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It is his unwavering dedication that has pushed him through the decade, but if you think just pitching up is tough, wait till you see some of the students.

Some have no rhythm, some can’t feel the beat, and some are just too bouncy, too excited, and others too tense. I know this because I watch carefully, and on occasion, I assist in a Kizomba session, plus I was quite nervous as a beginner.

You’d think that Kizomba being so simple would be easy to learn, but no, that’s why you need a lesson or 10 to actually know how to step, and when.

Now Cuban Salsa is not as mild as Kizomba, its fluid and rapid, the intricate arm movements, the quick feet; your shoulders are also required to move. Thabo does it with little effort, those slick dips and twists, EISH I’m envious.

It’s one thing if the teacher can burn up the floor, but his ardent students too are on fire. Delicia, Melissa, Lance, and Seps have all come through the sessions at Come Salsa. They represent the brand with the verve that he brings.

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In the first class I did with Thabo two weeks ago, Rueda Da Casino was his choice of helping us absorb specific Salsa moves, Americano, Americana, Dame, Enchufle, and Sombrero – confused? Yes, I am.

Everyone is at one time but there are smiles all around as the circle goes back, forward, stepping inside and then past a lady. This Cuban Salsa makes you sweat.

All the while Thabo keeps his eye on everyone, spotting mistakes, correcting them with a comical gesture or informing the guilty party directly of their wrongs.

Just kidding, this Rueda is entertaining to those doing it and to those watching, so there’s no harsh judgment, and his method of correction is aimed at improving one.

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And improvements don’t happen overnight, students return for the next few months and before you know it the music is their only instructor, as it should be.

Progress is slow for some, but another Salsero is produced.

So unlike Blackberry and Nokia that are stages in our lives, and recurring at that, Cuban Salsa, Kizomba, and Bachata are not.

This social dancing is a cult, a happy style of life, but it requires passion and persistence.

Come Salsa has all these elements, Joburg needs it – I mean with the xenophobia happening –  as dancing unites us and is joy personified. So, Come Salsa, it’s not a trend. See the life of Thabo, bricklayer extraordinaire.

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