Kiz Talks, Aug. 5, 2014
Some time ago I heard about the pyramid theory of languages. Here it is, in essence.
Some languages are like a pyramid. They have a very large base of essentials you need in order to communicate at a basic level. Examples would be French, with its extensive rules for agreement with nouns, many verb endings, and silent syllables. French schoolchildren spend a lot of time in elementary school working on such things. However, once you’ve mastered these many rules, the language becomes easier and easier to learn. French follows its rules and has a fairly restricted vocabulary.
Other languages are like an inverted pyramid. It doesn’t take much knowledge at all to be communicative. English is a great example of this. “I like cake. You want cake? I eat cake yesterday” Barely any knowledge of English grammar is required in order for meaning to be clear. We don’t spend much time on it at school, either, generally speaking. Yet the more you study English, the more there is to unpack. Most native speakers don’t even pay attention to how strange our language is, but as someone who’s taught it for the last 6 years, let me assure you – the special cases and exceptions to exceptions are endless. That’s not even taking into account our massive vocabulary – go ahead, think of how many ways there are to express the idea “fat” or “hit.”
I think kizomba is like the second model, the inverted pyramid.* In an hour or two you can get enough understanding of movement and basic steps to dance through an entire night with a touch of musicality. Many people take a month’s worth of classes and then figure themselves for advanced dancers – after all, once you know the saidas and a couple tricks or dips, you’re set, right?
Well…sure, you’re kizomba proficient. You can enjoy connecting with a partner and dancing in a fairly musical way. If you’re primarily a salsa or bachata dancer that heads to the kizomba room to cool off or wind down for a bit, that really is all you need. Enjoy it, the way you enjoy conversing with fellow travel enthusiasts in a youth hostel or train station.
But for those of us that are enthusiasts, addicts, true kizomba-lovers – the journey to mastery is just beginning. Kizomba has so much subtlety, and so many intricate possibilities.
Ground your movement and find the right alignment with your partner, and you begin to feel their every tiny isolation. Figure out pivot technique and every move you know can suddenly be opened to variations in position. Work on slow-motion, stop motion, and syncopation, and again the standards become almost unrecognizably new, and your feet can dance out the exact rhythms of a particular instrument. Dissociate your upper and lower body, your feet from your partners’, her hips from yours – This list could go on and on and on
As with any dance, the more you learn, the better you are able to appreciate the subtle differences that set the best apart. In kizomba, each technique mastered is like an additional color palette for you to paint with, another supply kit for you to build from, another door to a realm of expressing the music with our bodies.
Don’t let people dismiss you for settling for an easy dance – show them how badass kizomba really is!
*Footnote: To continue the comparison, I’d say NY-style salsa and lindy hop are good examples of pyramid-model dances, while blues dancing would be another example of an inverted pyramid.