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, August 7, 2017

Criticism, Courtesy and Common Sense

Partner Social dancing for me is magical: I fell in love with it and even now, as I make a living through teaching dance and dancing (among other things) I am surprised at how many new things I learn about people, about teaching and about myself and I suspect this learning never really ends.

In the recent years, with the accessibility of services like youtube, the rise of social media as a channel for expression and the ease at which videos can be taken and shared in a public platform, criticism on these platforms has also grown. It has become more visible, more sharp and astringent, often times promoting conflict. This phenomenon has been quite an eye opening experience.

There are a variety of reasons for why people post something onto digital virtual space.  Some of it is out of a need to defend or proclaim a passion. Some of it is to share something beautiful. Some of it is to present the author as an expert. Some of it is to satisfy and urge about declaring who you are and what you stand for. Some of it is for marketing purposes, to attract people to an event or dancers who teach. Some of it is just to express.

I personally try to celebrate because I don't think people spend enough time doing that. Its so easy to lament and complain and find sympathy in my "plight" but I realize all that is doing is building up negativity and finding company in the negative space I walk into. So, some time ago, I decided that I would rather be celebrating, be grateful and be graceful in my virtual interactions because that is the kind of space I would like to be in. I'm not talking "kumbaya and we all agree": I'm talking we all treat each other with courtesy and respect our differences while we celebrate out similarities.

This blog is my take on criticism and how to flip some of the negativity around.

Let me first share two things:
1) I personally believe criticism IS productive when done appropriately (timing wise) with courtesy and respect.
2) A conversation or any discourse to gain empathy and understanding is practically impossible on social media: its best done face to face when you get to know people.

I am writing this article as a response to some things I have seen and heard about the impact of strong and sometimes hateful/negative criticism has on the online community. I also write as a teacher and community leader who has a voice that other people do listen to and take to heart. If you follow me on facebook or read my blogs, you know that I do not offer criticism online. I think that it is difficult to do in such a public forum because I have't figured out a way to ensure that everyone will receive it the way I intended.

Yet here I am writing about criticism to offer a different view: hopefully one that encourages one to take pause before writing down remarks that can be considered unkind, inflammatory and negative. Also, for the ones that are reading a thread, to also process what you read and hear and make decisions based on your own views and conclusions.

Why is it so hard to receive criticism and more importantly provide criticism with grace and respect?

Definition of Criticism:
  1. 1.
    the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
  2. 2.
    the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

Take a look at the definition of criticism and what jumps out? Disapproval, faults, mistakes, judgement of merits and faults. Now look at the other words that you might have missed: expression, perceived, analysis. These words are not that negative and in fact, should give you pause (they did for me). It is with these words where the key to the definition becomes clear to me: criticism is NOT about the object of the criticism (the receiver of the criticism) but rather, it comes from the source of the criticism: the critic. It is the critic's expression, the critic's analysis and judge based on what they perceive.

One of the things that I admire and respect in people is the ability to consistently give criticism with generosity and empathy to the people or group that is being criticized. These individuals model what I aspire to every time I hear them give criticism. They are comfortable in their experiences and always courteous and kind in their delivery of critique. This to me is a thing of beauty as this space (criticism) is so biased toward negativity.

I think this is a skill that takes practice along with an examination of your own values and beliefs as a critic and as someone that receives criticism. Taking time to be courteous and respectful lends itself to better interactions no matter what the conversation or feedback. Disagreement or having a very different view or challenging someone does not have to be about being angry or hateful.

And so here are things to ponder and perhaps practice:

How you receive feedback is implicitly affected by the context that you receive it in. There are so many factors here that it almost impossible to account for them all. If you are already in that negative space tho, then that is your context.

Also - do you know the context of the person giving the critique? Most of us never consider this, especially online when you interactions with others are limited by those virtual airways. Its even harder to truly understand context in the virtual world.

Meeting face to face and getting to know someone offline is the best way to get to know someone's context.

Assume good intentions unless you have data otherwise.

I know this one is hard because some people, well, they just don't have good intentions right? If that's how you feel, then take a pause and breather before you write or say anything,

Blanket, sweeping statements tend to offend: especially if your views don't represent all. I personally don't want to represent all, that's a LOT of weight to carry. I have a hard enough time managing myself.

I know part of my journey has been to learn about my own biases and how much they color and shape my views on things and people. I am a teacher and that for me holds some responsibility for always sharing from an "I" perspective instead of "we".  I speak for me and not for others.

When you're in a group page, please remember: that one person doesn't represent everyone. You can choose to agree with this voice and say it represents you but don't even think for a second that it means the everyone else feels the same way. To test it out in a group, just check the number of members in a group and the number of people that interact with the message, usually they numbers are not aligned: there's always more members.

Don't just take someone else's word on the matter. People speak their truths and if you're lucky, they have the wherewithal to acknowledge what they don't know but usually, who wants to publicly talk about what they don't know?

Social dancing, at the end of the day, is about enjoying the expression of a movement you shared with another to song. That's a personal and subjective feeling that only you and your partner can talk about with certainty. Criticism that's more about right and wrong becomes less of a critique and more like fact checking. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone is entitles to agree or disagree.

I have met many people that treat disagreement as "you're wrong" and in doing so, diminish and mistake what I have to share which is simply a different point of view.

When we're talking about people, EVERY story has at least 2 sides. In my experience, this has always been true. Even when I and also part of the experience, different people retell the same story, through their own lens. Personal biases do come out even when you watch a video or read a transcript. I do attempt every so often to represent all sides but that is a very tough thing to do.

In the end this is my guiding principle and one that has served me well so far. There are a few other common pieces of advice that I think call into this category:
  • If you have nothing good to say, just don't say anything (this is ofcourse assuming your goal is to get along). 
  • Put yourself in the other person's shoes. 
  • Ask yourself how you would feel if you received the words you are about to deliver?
  • Never assume that you know what the other side is thinking
  • Kindness is like money in the bank
  • Be open to possibilities
That's it. Feel free to share, comment and tell me what you think. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

August is here - and here's what's up!!!

August my friends... can you believe it?

One more month where there's warmth and light past 9:00pm and arguably the best time to be in Seattle. SO, with that in mind, here's what we have lined up in Seattle for August. Feel free to post comments to correct and update or send a message.

Don't forget to add your events/classes to the calendar to reach others not on facebook.

August 4 - First Fly Friday at West Hall Dance Beginner Lesson at 9:00 and dance from 10:00p-1:30a Intro Dance Lesson is $16 (dance included) and Dance only $10 with DJ Farenji in the booth
August 10 - 2nd Thursday at West Hall 9:30 - 1:00a (Cover $9) with DJ Jay Senior
August 19 - 3rd Saturday Late Night at West Hall with DJ Isaias
August 24 - 4th Thursday at West Hall 9:30 - 1:00a (Cover $9) with DJ Jay Senior

August 5 Kizomba v. Urban: Setting the Record Straight with Eddy & Enah at Dance Underground 11 am to 6pm ($90/$110)
August 5 Ewe! at Salsa N Seattle 10:00pm to 3:00am Cover $15 with DJ Javi and DJ Mojo
August 6 Señor OneSong's Summer Soirée from 3:00 pm - 11:00 pm at Chez Ashok (see the facebook event link the comments)

* Weekly Practica on Mondays Please check the facebook group page for location and time. Currently (August) will be at Gasworks Park.
* Weekly Practica on Tuesdays FoKiz at the Belltown Ballet Studio starting at 8:00pm (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)
* Kizomba 2 with Frances & Jay on Thursdays August 8:00 - 9:00pm [4 weeks starting Aug 10]
* Kizomba on Wednesdays at 7pm and 8pm in Salsa N Seattle with Mario and Genia with a weekly practica following.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring is here and I didn't want to post something on April Fool's just in case. The days are getting longer and there's more to see in Seattle along with the usual Kizomba goodness. Here's what we have lined up in Seattle for April - feel free to post comments to correct and update or send a message.

Don't forget to add your events/classes to the calendar to reach others not on facebook.


  • April 1 - Suburban Kiz (1st Saturday) in Green Lake Om Culture 8pm to 12Midnight Beginner Lesson at 8pm with Neph and DJ's Vary (Cover $7)
  • April 7 - First Fly Friday (Late Night for April) at West Hall Dance 11p-2a (Cover $7) with DJ Emanuel [NOTE: This is a different format from the normal 1st Friday because of other events at the Century Ballroom.]
  • April 8 - Ewe! at Salsan N Seattle Class at 10:15pm Dance from 11:00pm to 3:30am $15 Dance Only, Prepay $20 Class and Dance, $25 Class and Party *day off party* Dj Galo and DJ Farenju
  • April 13 - 2nd Thursday at West Hall 9:30 - 1:00a (Cover $9) with DJ Jay
  • April 14 - Jajao: A Kizomba Soiree at Wonder Care & Sports Bar (Cover $7) Lesson at 9, Dance until 1 am (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)
  • April 15 - 3rd Saturday Late Night at West Hall 11p - 1:30a (Cover $7, $13 joint cover with All Vinyl Salsa in Main Ballroom) with DJ Nicholas Bass 
  • April 22 - LoveKiz: The Kizomba Night at Salsa Con Todo (SCT) (Social Cover $7) Lesson at 9, Dance until 1 am (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)
  • April 27 - 4th Thursday at West Hall 9:30 - 1:00a (Cover $9) with DJ Jay


  • Weekly Practica on Mondays Please check the facebook group page for location and time. For the location for April please contact Vicente Spencer - message him on facebook. 
  • NOTE Special Practica on Monday April 10 Culture and History presentation from 7:30pm - 10pm at Prescott Aparments
  • Weekly Practica on Tuesdays FoKiz at the Belltown Ballet Studio starting at 9:15pm - 11:30, $5 cover (msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)
  • Kizomba Foundations with Frances & Jay on Thursdays Apr 6 thru April 27 from 8:00 - 9:30pm (3 sessions, skipping 4/20) Learn about Semba, Afro house, Tarraxa and Urban Kiz
  • 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)
  • Kizomba Soul Classes Tuesday and Sunday evenings (More info, msg Nephew or FB @KizombaSOUL)


  • April 8 Semba Workshops with Eddy Vents 2-6pm contact
  • April 22 (part of Mist Connections from April 21 - 23) Frances will be teaching Kizomba at 4pm as part of this festival. For more info, contact Erin Vance

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, its 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)