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.

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.