Transforming Your Kizomba Movement (II)

Kiz Talks, Aug. 2, 2014

Section 2: The Two C’s

Believe it or not, teaching is a learning process. Seeing what people get confused by and hearing students’ questions makes you better able to anticipate them. And sometimes things suddenly “cllck” and you understand your own dancing in a new way.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but sometime this year I realized that the essential aesthetic of kizomba is rooted in CONTINUOUS, CONTROLLED movement. All of our best movement technique comes in to support that – and that’s what makes a contrasting freeze or syncopation so impressive. That’s what I call “The Two C’s” – everything we do to make our movement continuous and controlled in kizomba.

So, yesterday we looked at first: how to stand and second: how to change weight. That brings us to…

Third: How to Walk

Have you ever tried walking or running in slow motion? Try it now. You probably tense up your leg muscles in an attempt to regulate your movement evenly, with the unintended side effect of making everything jerky!

I think that people have different ways of reaching an understanding of how to move in a continuous, controlled way. I have found that teaching two movements help my students.

Part A: Waiting for the Bus, or Sinking Into Your Hip

What happens when we wait for the bus? We get tired. So we sit strongly into one hip to give the opposite leg a break, and switch frequently. We can use a similar principle in kizomba, thinking of directing our weight BACK into the hip socket, rather than off at a diagonal (especially you, ladies!)

Try this: Take a small step forward with your left foot, BALL-FLAT. Gradually commit your weight to your left leg. Once you’re standing on it completely straight, shift your entire pelvis back. Keep your leg straight and your weight forward.

Take another step forward with your right foot, BALL-FLAT. Shift from a relaxed right leg to a straight leg that’s holding your weight. Now sink into it by moving back into that hip joint.

A handy visual to control your hips: You’re a thoroughbred racehorse in the starting gate. You have a metal sheet to either side of you. You can’t push your hip to the side, or roll in a figure 8! Your pelvis can only go back and forward, moving mostly as a single unit.

So, as you walk with your torso moving constantly forward, your pelvis is looping forward, slightly back, forward, slightly back, etc, so you get that continuous controlled movement without all the crazy tension!

Next challenge: reversing it to go backwards. It works exactly the same, except your foot goes back instead of forward.

Part B: Tailbone Lift

The muscles surrounding the base of your spine are able to help you lift your tailbone. This is not an area of your body you may have thought of actively controlling before now. You may also find it difficult to do at first, but regardless of your gender or origin, you can do it. Everyone’s body is different, so you may need to work more or less to gain a greater or lesser range of motion – but you can do it.

Start out by looking at yourself in profile in the mirror. Imagine curling up the last few vertebrae of your spine. Your back is what makes this happen – not tightening your abs, not lifting your chest, not pulling your shoulders back, not pushing your leg. It’s an isolation. Some people find it helpful to think of tilting the pelvis as a whole.

Now try syncing the movement with your steps. Stand on your left foot. Begin lifting the base of your spine once your right foot comes off the ground. Continue to curl up until you place the ball of your right foot on the ground. Then, as you ease your weight onto the right, gradually uncurl your spine. You may feel your lower ab muscles engage slightly to keep the movement continuous and controlled. Lift again as you pick your left foot off the floor, curl up until you place the left ball on the ground, and gradually uncurl your spine as you straighten your leg. Again, this works the same whether you’re going backwards or forwards, although it may feel slightly different.

All right, if after all that you just don’t love the tailbone lift, feel free to focus on the previous movement. But if you’re starting to get into it, we can put together these two movements to make an undulation.

Step BALL-FLAT, straighten your leg as your weight eases ono the foot, then sink back into your hip socket bringing the whole pelvis back. As you pick up the next foot, lift the base of your spine continuing until you place the ball of your foot on teh ground. Gradually uncurl your spine as you straighten onto that next leg, then sink into your pelvis, lift up with your sacrum, and ease straight.

Smooth the movement out, keeping it all below your ribcage, and you’ve got your undulation!

Keep working on it and eventually this technique will become automatic. Next time you start moving with a partner, you’ll be sure to feel the difference!