Kizomba describes both a genre of music and a dance style. The word "Kizomba" in Kimbundu language, one of the most spoken languages in Angola, means "party". The word "Kizombadas" refers to "a big party", but has no correlation to the dance or the music as we know it today.
One of the traditional Angolan dances Semba, still very much alive in Angola, is labeled and/or characterized as a dance of steps. It is danced in pairs, and in wide steps. Semba, usually danced at parties, is mostly a fun dance and it is danced to Semba music.
Kizomba however is a partnered dance also from Angola and has only been around since the 1980s. Kizomba the dance is simply Semba (not to be confused with Samba) danced to the rhythm of Kizomba music. The dance is known to be slow and sensual, smooth and flows with movements that are somewhat harsh and requires a lot of flexibility in the knees for the frequent bob up and down motion of the dance, lower body, hip movements and “bunda” action if you will. Kizomba is danced in a circle and does forward and backwards movements.
Due to the colonization of the Portuguese in Angola, and the presence of Cubans during the Civil War, other form of dances (such as Tango from Europe, Plena from Puerto Rico) brought by the Cubans also exist in Angola. These dances as well, influenced Kizomba, such as Cuban Son, Milonga, Tango and therefore Kizomba has also been described as the "African Tango". In Angola, there is not a big difference between Kizomba the dance and Semba; however, the Kizomba music and Semba music differ dramatically.
Today, what we refer to as Kizomba the music is the influence of traditional Semba music and Zouk music from Kassav, the leading Zouk band, to emerge from the formative years of Zouk from Guadeloupe and Martinique, formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Decimus and Jacob F. Desvarieux. Zouk or Zouk beton, is the French Antillean Compas music. The word “Zouk” originally referred to the mazurka, a Polish Folk dance, (with the creolized version “mazouk” introduced to the French Caribbean during the 19th century) also means “party” or “festival” in the Antillean Creole of French. The Creole word "soukwe," "souke," "zouke" is from the French verb "secouer," which mean "to shake", was introduced by Haitian Meringue Compas – a fast-tempo style that requires a lot of movement.
Semba also describes both the dance and the music. Semba is the traditional type of music from Angola. The word Semba comes from the singular Masemba which means "a touch of the bellies" a move that also characterizes the Semba dance. Semba music is the predecessor to a variety of music styles from Africa including Kizomba and Kuduru and Samba from Brazil. Semba is primarily Carnival music. Semba, just like Samba and Kuduru, are known to be energetic, fast paced and upbeat music. Through Semba music artists are able to convey a broad spectrum of emotions and overall the Angolans culture, sorrow and way of living.
Kizomba is an African rhythm, developed mostly in Angola since the late 70s. As mentioned earlier, being born in a continent with an effervescent musical history, Kizomba is, like most dances, a result of an evolution: young generations, listening to traditional music like Semba, felt that something – a modern and sensual touch – was missing. By adding an electronic percussion with a slow and extremely sensual rhythm, Kizomba was thus born.
During the intervening years when Kizomba was being developed, it spread worldwide as a music that catches a listener's ear and a dance that catches a dancer's soul. Many other related sounds and dance patterns have been developing at the same time, not only in Angola but also Cape Verde and Antilles among others (tarrachinha, coladera, zouk…)
Dancing Kizomba is a unique experience – standing really close together, partners move in sensual wavy movement, where "leading" and "being led" (lead and follow) finds a new dimension.
As a dance that gives you not only full pleasure but also the basic steps to other related rhythms, Kizomba is all about "connecting people"...
Kizomba is in 4/4 time – which means that there are four beats to every measure. The larger cycle in the music revolves around 4 measure cycles - ie: each measure has four beats, so when 4 of these measures pass, 16 beats will have passed.
In Kizomba, there are several basic steps – each with its own timing. In addition, in Kizomba there are a variety of dance moves that bring the dancers temporarily away from the basic step patterns. Part of the challenge of dancing Kizomba is for leader and follower to remain synchronized in their steps.
Basic Step: variation A
The most basic step in Kizomba is a "side-to-side two step". It starts for the leader on the left foot and for the follower on the right. The leader steps to the side with the left foot, then brings the right foot together with the left in a tap (do not leave your weight on the right foot). Then the leader steps to the right with the right foot and brings the left foot together with the right for a tap step. The pattern then repeats. Each pattern takes one measure to complete – with a step or tap on each beat. The follower mirrors the leader with the opposite foot.
Basic Step: variation B
This variation illustrates just how complicated Kizomba's basic step patterns are in comparison to other social dances. On the surface, the step is fairly simple: The leader begins by stepping forward with the left foot, then steps with full weight on the right foot (either forward or in place), and finally taps with the left foot without leaving any weight on it. Now for the second half of the step, the leader steps again with the left foot, but this time backwards, steps back with the right foot, and taps back with the left – repeating the initial forward pattern but this time back in the opposite direction. So the pattern consists of three steps in each direction. Each group of three steps begins with the same foot – for the leader the left foot. The follower mirrors with the opposite foot, and so always begins with the right foot. Each step and tap falls evenly on a beat, so the entire forward and back pattern (which consists of 6 steps) takes 6 beats. Here is where things get tricky. Kizomba has 4 beats to a measure, so the 6 beats do not complete 2 measures. If you begin this step pattern on beat 1, you will end it on beat 6 rather than beat 8. When you step again after completing a cycle of the pattern, you will be stepping on 7 rather than 1. The entire forward and back 6 step pattern must be repeated 4 times before it finally ends on 8. This complexity means that dancers must be particularly aware of their timing, or risk getting lost. When embarking on Basic Step variation B, dancers must repeat the forward and back pattern 4 times before changing to a different step. Alternatively, dancers can use more complex footwork – cha cha steps etc - to transition to another pattern midway through a cycle.
Basic Step: variation C
This pattern is similar to variation B, but adds a syncopated (cha-cha) step between the 3rd & 4th, and 6th & 1st steps of each pattern. So the leader steps forward with the left foot on 1, steps with the right foot on 2, steps with the left foot on 3 (this time with full weight), steps with the right foot quickly on 3-and (the beat midway between 3 and 4), and then steps back with the left foot on 4, steps with the right foot on 5, and then steps with the left foot (full weight) on 6, with the right on 6-and, finally with the left forward on 7 - which begins the next repetition of the pattern. The follower mirrors with the opposite footwork. (cf. Hustle).
Basic Step: variation D
This step is the most simple of all, but is usually used within more complicated patterns rather than on its own. It is a simple left, right, left, right – just as in Merengue. So the leader steps with the left foot on 1, with the right foot on 2, with the left foot on 3, with the right foot on 4, etc. The follower mirrors. This step can be combined with variation B or C so that the dancers can exit from variation B or C without completing a full 4 cycles.
These basic steps of Kizomba and are used as building blocks to construct complex patterns. The variety of basic steps and free-style of the more complex patterns make Kizomba a quite a challenging dance to understand and master.
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