Back to Basics

Twice last week (and hundreds of times previously) I’ve been confronted with the question – “Isn’t it boring if I do too many basic steps?”

Let’s get the short answer out of the way — NO!

Easy as that response is to give, I do understand why leaders ask this. Most of us deal with insecurities when we are dancing. Are we good enough? Are we giving our partner a good dance? Do we appear too much a beginner?

And to some extent, it’s good to feel that way. If you have no doubts about your abilities as a leader, there’s a strong chance you aren’t even good enough yet to realize how bad you are! But that’s a topic for another day.

There’s a kizomba teacher in Estonia, Nemanja Sonero, who published a video blog a couple of months ago: “Is the basic step BORING?”

I’d like to focus on two points Nemanja makes.

1. “Why do we dance with another person? It’s to connect as one.” (4:16)

Devon Rowland Photography

Devon Rowland Photography

I think this is true for a huge number of us dancing kizomba. If you ask 100 kizomba dancers why they love kizomba, the vast majority will give you an answer that includes either the words “connection,” “feeling,” or both. If we are really focused on connecting with one another, the simplest moves become a shared joy. Two bodies moving as one is a special kind of magic. I am constantly telling my students, “If you can only do 3 or 4 moves but you do them well, followers will dance with you for several songs in a row and be happy.”

Let’s use a culinary comparison. Basics are like your staples. I’m from a family that eats bread. I never get tired of eating bread – toast in the morning, sandwiches, bagels and smear, baguette with fig jam, soup in a bread bowl, and so on. Others will expect to eat rice every day, or potatoes, or even kale. But each of these staples can be dressed up in numerous ways. Similarly, we incorporate other steps and movements into our kizomba along with the basics. Every dance is different, but is built from the basics.

However, not everyone comes to the dance with the same motivation. Some leaders want to challenge themselves, and are constantly working to try out new moves on the social floor. Some leaders want to impress others – whether other leaders, people watching on the sidelines, or the followers they dance with. For too many of them, the focus turns to visual appeal and complexity. The basic steps are disdained as simplistic and thus, boring. And unfortunately, connection becomes mostly about the leader’s control.

2. “For me personally, basic step is the first thing we learn, and the last thing we master.” (4:51)

Nemanja says this twice, and it does indeed bear repeating. While you may quickly figure out how to do a simple weight change or small displacement in space, that’s a surface understanding of the basics. So much of the wonder of kizomba is found in the subleties, and that’s often misunderstood. Learning in kizomba is very recursive. Even as we progress, we repeatedly return to the basics for further work with new insight. Our dance becomes richer as a result.

There’s a famous jazz song called, ” T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It).” What could be more true about dancing? Of course followers enjoy being led through complex and innovative steps when they are led well, but that doesn’t mean that basics hold no further appeal. It’s all about how you do them.

A couple of my friends from New York made a fun video challenge about the side step in semba. Watch the many ways they find to vary what may at first seem to be a very simple step.

The MSKIZ Challenges! How many ways can you do Basic 2?

Posted by MSKiz – LadyMaren & Steve CIKI on Friday, June 3, 2016

What do you think, followers? Are the basic steps underappreciated? Leaders, do you need to dig deeper to master your basics? Leave your comments below!