Kizomba is...

"An embrace means I don't feel threatened by you, I'm not afraid to be this close, I can relax, feel at home, feel protected and in the presence of someone who understands me. It is said that each time we embrace someone warmly, we gain an extra day of life."

A quote from Paul Coelho (one of my favorite authors) that describes for me what dancing kizomba is like.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Starting a Dance Community: Stage 3 - Continuity

To read the previous stages, use the links below:
Stage 1
Stage 2

Now that things got started and some momentum is building up, its time to think about continuity. If one thing is constant, its that changes always happen. Of course there's the other side of change and I'll use a qoute from Jean -Baptiste Alphonse Karr: "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose": which is basically that "the more things change, the more they stay the same".

And so, this is the stage where you also decide how much more you want to do and be involved in because if you've succeeded in stage two, then there are many others who will get involved in the community you started and help it continue. Staying active is an option, stepping out is an option, itts really up to you and how you see your role in the community over time.

STAGE 3: Continuity
  • How to Sustain the Dance
  • What is Your Role
First, I wanted to share something inevitable: as things start to grow, the following will always happen:
  • There will be more teachers.
  • There will be more parties.
  • Other people will come in thinking they have something better to offer.
  • Other people will ride off the successes that have been built.
  • You, as the person that started things, are no longer needed to start things.
  • Someone will think that they had the original idea for something that you might have already done.
  • Someone will think that they can "build" over what is already there.
  • Lead/Follow balance will be changing
  • Recruiting dancers is a never ending activity. 
One thing is for sure, try not to get too attached to your own importance. I'm not saying this to diminish the efforts you have put in, rather to caution that group memory is short. As a community grows and different people join, what you know and what the newer members know can be quite different. There are generations of dancers that become the face of the community and each group will have characteristic of its own as they add to the community and that force of change is basically something you cannot control.

Just makes sure that STAGE TWO keeps going: classes, places to dance and hear the music are readily available.

One thing that is helpful is to develop a way to keep new people coming in. Word of mouth is most effective and partnering with other organizations helps as well. The people that fall in love with the dance are really the best ambassadors.

Continuing to showcase the dance and music in different venues will help to reach other people that you may not normally reach. If you can be creative about where to showcase the dance, then you'll be able to reach more people and that is always a good thing.

Highlighting your local DJs and instructors is also a must because these are the people that form the framework for how people fall in love with the dance.

I think dancers tend to want to bring other dancers into a new dance they fall in love with. This is certainly one way to build numbers but its not the only way. Make sure to recruit non-dancers too because cannibalizing other dance groups means that you are limited by their size. I think Kizomba on its own has a lot to offer people but its the community itself that becomes the best add for growth; when people are having fun and making strong connections, other people wnat in on that too.

When I started down this road, I was student, teacher, advertiser, writer and event promoter all at once. The last thing I thought about was being a community leader. That came later and perhaps because of my own nature, it was not something I was always comfortable with at first.

Everyone is different so you may be able to think about who and what you represent from the start. Its important to think about it so that there is some purpose in what you do. I think doing thinks with a lack of purpose doesn't help.

I had more of a vision: I wanted to create an environment that would be welcoming and cooperative from the start. One that encourages learning and sharing and allows for many people to share and contribute their passions for the dance and culture. I was already a member of other dance communities and these were the two more important characteristics that kept me involved in them.  I also had a goal for Seattle to be known as one of the best places to come to for Kizomba.

I do not think that what is currently here is all because of me - its not. There are all the people and personalities that have contributed in ebbs and flows. I do think that who you are and what you wish for the community does leave a mark whether you want it to or not. So your intentions, whether they are planned or just happenstance do make a difference.

As the community grows, you get to decide how to grow with it and how involved you want to be. For myself, I'm still trying to figure this part out while I continue to teach, go out dancing, and socialize. One thing I am enjoying is the fruit of everyone's labor: more Kizomba dancing in Seattle.

I have been lucky to have met some really great souls along the way who have become friends and mentors. I am really excited to see others progress and grow as DJs, event promoters, dancers and teachers. The very first monthly social that I started is still running and the energy of that night continues to be the warmest, more genuine dance energies I continue to enjoy. Don't forget to stop and appreciate what you have as your community grows.

February 2017 Kizomba Dancing in Seattle

Here are the events for February: 
Feb 3 - First Fly Friday at West Hall with Drop in lesson at 9 Dance 10p-1:30a (Cover $16, Dance Only $10) with DJ Emanuel Sakaita Nasser and DJ Farenji
Feb 4 - Ewe at Salsa N Seattle Dance Studio with drop in lesson with Eddy Vents 9-10pm and then 10pm - 3am with Dj Pingusso, DJ Farenji and DJ Guelas (Cover $25, $15 Dance Only)
Feb 9 - 2nd Thursday at West Hall 9:30 - 1:00a (Cover $9) with DJ Jay
Feb 11 - Kizomba room at the Hugs and Kizzes MicroFusion Practica and Social at ExitSpace 8pm to 12am (Cover $7) DJs Nicholas Bass and Farenji
Feb 11 - 2nd Saturday at 9pm, Lake Chad Cafe (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL) 
Feb 18 - 3rd Saturday Late Night at West Hall 11p - 1:30a (Cover $7, $13 joint cover with All Vinyl Salsa in Main Ballroom) with DJ Isaias Chamorro 
**Feb 23 - NO 4th Thursday this month.
Feb 25 - 4th Saturday at 9pm, Lake Chad Cafe (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)

* Weekly Practica on Mondays Please check the facebook group page for location and time. The location for Feb. and Mar. is in Renton (contact Vicente Spencer)
* Kizomba 1 with Frances & Jay on Thursdays Feb 12 thru Feb Feb 9 from 8:00 - 9:00pm; Kizomba 2 will be the next session starting Feb 23
* Kizomba on Wednesdays at 7pm and 8pm in Salsa N Seattle with Mario and Genia with a weekly practica following. 
* Kizomba Semi-Privates with Dennis (contact Dennis Richards directly)
* Weekly Kizomba class, Tuesday evenings (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL) 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Starting a Dance Community: Stage 2 - Spreading the Love

This stage is where the action happens and is my favorite stage because here is where the rubber meets the road and lots of things happen. This is the stage where you meet lots of people, coordinate events, and spread the word about something you love. [Just in case, here's the Overview and Stage One.]

STAGE 2: Spreading the Love 
  • Education: Workshops or Series Classes or Small Group Practise for learning
  • Dance opportunities outside of class 
  • Demonstrations: showing off the dance and music
  • A Blog, a Facebook Page, a Video Channel, a Podcast
In order to create and sustain community, people need a way to learn, to practise, to dance and socialize. In addition, there's still continuing outreach to demonstrate the dance and show off the music.

Not only for yourself but also for the people you're going to hook or have hooked for the dance. There are many ways to do this:
  • Find a local expert
  • Find a small group of people to learn with
  • Find resource online
  • Find other experts to talk to and learn from [fly them in OR fly to see them]
I did all of the above when I started Kizomba. In this day and age, I believe you can also work with people over Skype or a similar type of application that allows you to see and hear each other in real time.

After you educate yourself, there are 2 things to start shooting for:
1) Demonstrations the dance
2) Teaching the dance

They both go hand in hand because in order for the scene to grow, people have to know about the dance and someone has to offer to teach it.

Finding an expert and mentor is also highly recommended. Its hard to start something new and having that guidance and sounding board is important so you don't loose your drive, or get discouraged or get thrown off course.

It helps to know what your own scene supports as far as class: drop-ins before a dance? regular classes weekly? Progressive classes? All of the above?

In Seattle for example, its the norm for dance studios to have a series of weekly classes anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Weekend workshops and congresses are other ways to teach. Drop-in lessons are also offered before dances. For Kizomba, we started  with weekend workshops and then once demand picked up, offered weekly classes and then developed a series progression (ex: Level 1, 2, 3) to keep students moving through the content. I also brought in more experienced instructors from out of town to teach and designed different kinds of classes (musicality, role switching (leads learn to follow and follows learn to lead), dance camps, dance exchanges, etc) to keep people interested.

Here are options for classes:

  • Weekly, right before a dance/social/practica
  • Weekly in groups of 4 or 5 for series
  • Bootcamp over one day (2-3 hours)
  • Bootcamp over several days (weekend or more)
  • Monthly workshops
Whatever it is you do, it has to be done with some level of consistency and regularity.


To get people excited about something, you have to show it off: both the dance and the music. Think of it as running a campaign to educate people AND invite them to learn the dance. Use existing dance channels to start demonstrations and then get creative with other ways to increase awareness of the dance.

Here in Seattle, we demonstrated at salsa dances, fusion dances, bachata dances and clubs that hosted salsa dances. We did this in conjunction with a class that was about to happen so that if there were people interested, we could follow-up and let them know how they could learn the dance.

I was also lucky enough to get cooperation from other DJ's to play occasional kizomba music.

I also organized a flash mob to get people excited about it and have something out in the general public.

Once you built up the excitement and have students, they need a place to dance outside of class. The frequency of the social/dance party will depend on how many people will come. All I gotta say is PATIENCE. It takes time for a dance to grow and become something that people go to regularly so don't expect immediate success and celebrate every time you have a chance to dance. Also, be consistent about time and location: regularity and consistency will be key to having the event become more established and more popular.

You can start dances anywhere:
  • At someone's home
  • At a club/restaurant
  • At a dance studio
  • Any rental space that has open space and allows amplified music to be played.
We do all of the above in Seattle. The weekly dances are at a dance studio because these are the venues that dancers go to dance. In other cities, opportunities to dance are in clubs/bars/restaurants. You need to know where dancers go to dance and decide what works best where you are.

It might also be easier to partner with an established dance in the beginning, just to get the word out and then establish an independent dance venue as soon as you can.

Some community members are generous enough to host dances at their homes impromptu and / or organize pop-up events at parks and other places that are fun to dance in. 

Recommended frequency for the dance always depends on the number of people that are coming out to dance. Here is the progression I recommend:
  • Once a month to start
  • Once a week once your numbers can support it
  • Multiple times a week once the numbers can support it
Remember to make it easy for people to remember when the dance is by picking a regular time every month / week.

Here's specifically how I got things started in Seattle:
  1. Monthly Dance at Century Ballroom: thanks to some people who took a chance and others who believed, there's a dance every 1st Friday of the month which is the oldest running Kizomba social in Seattle. We call is First Fly Friday and its a ton of fun and still one of the best parties I have the pleasure to attend. I am a little biased, but ask anyone here, I'm pretty proud of how this one has turned out.
  2. Weekly Practise: this one has morphed quite a bit since it started. I intended to provide another night to help students practise so it started with a very small group at a dance studio. It has since moved several times and changed hands with hosting and purpose. What started out as just practise became a place to welcome new people into the dance and community and its now a full blow social of its own where people bring food and beverage and enjoy the dance. This event started out with a small fee and is now a free event.
After these two things, other socials and parties got started. You can see a full list on the right side of the Kizomba Seattle blog page or on the pinned post on the facebook group page.  

I firmly believe that people place more value on things that they have to pay for. 

I also believe that dance should be accessible to everyone and understand that money can be a scarce resource for some people.

There's no good answer to everything so you have to gauge what will work where you are: for your audience and for you as the person who is likely the source for the capital for these events in the beginning.

Seattle has a mix healthy mix of events that you have to pay a cover to enter and events that are free. Other communities just have paid events. Its really what the market can bear and you don't have to have a hand in everything. In fact, you DON'T want that level of control or responsibility anyway.

Parties need music so don't forget this one. Luckily, when people get excited about music, there no shortage of playlists out there for you to use and share.

When we started here in Seattle, volunteers would just pull a playlist together to get things started. Then, as things started to grow, different people stepped up to become DJs and are not getting paid to play their music at dances and festivals (how cool is that?!)

Seattle now boasts about three or four homegrown DJs that continue to perfect their craft and even get hired outside Seattle.

Parties need GOOD music.

As your audience grows, information needs to be provided as well as a place for the community to communicate and share information. Luckily, this day and age is perfect for all kinds of sharing:

  • Blog
  • Facebook Page
  • Website
  • Meetup
  • Mailing List
  • Video Channel
  • Podcast
Kizomba Seattle has a facebook presence, this blog and a Meetup. Use your channel wisely depending on your audience. Facebook by far has the furthest reach here in Seattle along with the blog. 

While there's a lot of excitement and wonderful energy at this stage, a word of caution that there can also be not-so-fun things to deal. Make sure you remember to trust yourself: keep your purpose clear and have a good support group close by. Always be your genuine self. 

The FUN parts are soooo much fun because when you experience first times, the shared energy that this brings is so unique. I've been part of first times in other context and its definitely I'm grateful for.

I didn't set out to build a community by saying I was going to be a leader or a money maker or a famous artist. I simply wanted more people to dance with, teach people about the dance and make myself a better dancer. I also wanted to find a way to make a living out of doing all these things and found that this part of my "wish list" I still have to work on. I do caution that if you DO want to make this financially viable, you do need to think BIG and scale up to accommodate that goal.

NEXT UP: STAGE THREE - Continuity (Coming Soon!)