How to Be an Awesome Kizomba Follower (part 2)

Part 2: Weight Shifting

By Tanya Dimitrova

After having a good connection with your partner, shifting your weight correctly is the most important technique for kizomba followers. Although showing how to do that well is a lot easier than telling, there are a few points I can write about here.

Body position

Overall, the leaders are supposed to stand straight (“erect” as Charles Ogar memorably called it in one workshop) and serve as a pillar of stability. They will move around the dance floor as if they didn’t have a lady attached to the front of their bodies. (One great analogy I heard from Marrietta Villalobos from San Antonio is that leaders should be like a mamma whale and followers like a suckling baby whale: gracefully following mom wherever she moves in the water without changing their relative positions.)

Ladies, it is our responsibility to connect with the leader through a “forward intention” in our upper bodies. There are many alternative ways to explain this (different ones click for different people):

­- lean SLIGHTLY forward onto him

­- surrender a small portion of your own weight (say, 20%) and shift it forward to his chest

­- place your heart over the balls of your feet

­- if the leader was to suddenly disappear, you wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY topple but within a few seconds you would start losing your balance and start falling forward.

­ Pretend as if you have a $100 bill between you and the leader that cannot fall to the ground during the basic steps. The two torsos should remain parallel during the dance (even during saidas ­­ that’s why do disassociation). For most moves, we should be slightly off center ­ we don’t want our nipples touching (even through the clothes). Instead, it should go: “nipple­nipple­nipple­nipple” counting from left to right.
follower part 2 pic

This forward intention and all the connection points give us all the information we ever need for knowing:

1. how much weight you should put on each foot

2. which direction you should move to

3. how fast you should get there

Exercises

Before getting to the typical closed hold for kizomba, it is useful to practice weight shifting by doing a few exercises in an open hold. For this practice hold, the ladies will place their hands on the leaders’ chest, guys hands relaxed on the side. Or for a shortcut ­ the guys can place their hands on the ladies’ shoulder blades, almost like holding a large beach ball.

From this position, the leader should do:

1. Basic 1, i.e. walking (in place/on rotation/forward/backward/diagonally) and with different timings (en tempo, half­time, super slow, groovy, hold, syncopated etc).

2. Basic 2 ­ stepping sideways then closing with marka step.

For ladies, when stepping backwards, the foot shoots as far back as possible whenever we feel we are going in this direction. But we don’t place any weight on it just yet. It is just there to “scout and secure a landing territory”.

Neo KizombaTM Concept: Intentional Intensity: for practice, the leader should vary the size of his steps. Do a few short ones followed by a few long ones. Not anticipating the size of the step is crucial for a good follower.

Timing

This is going to sound very counterintuitive at first but it’s actually true: the follower should complete her step ONE SPLIT SECOND AFTER the leader does. Not at the same time. Why does this have to be true? ­­ Because how could we possibly step in the exact same moment and “follow” at the same time, given that we can’t read their minds? There is no other way! (Unless it’s a choreography.) So ladies, trail the guys’ move by a split second. Wait to put down your weight only AFTER he has put his down, in other words, all the way in the very end of the beat. This is the only way to make sure in practice that you are not anticipating moves.

Lessons from Tango

I am a strong believer that every aspiring kizombeira should attend at least a few tango classes. Tango’s musical interpretation and mood is quite different from kizomba, but the leading/following technique is very similar indeed. In beginner’s tango classes, dancers spend hours doing exercises for weight shifting (a million variations of the ones described above). This is extremely useful!.

Additionally, tango has really taken weight shifting to a new higher, almost scientific level. There are techniques such as “parallel and cross system”, “secret weight shifts”, and “foot scouting”. This is such a valuable experience. Ladies, just do it! Go to tango a few times.

Final thought about following

What I love about kizomba the most is the feeling of complete and utter surrender. I may be an independent, hard­headed feminist outside the dance floor. The moment I set foot on the dance floor, however, I become submissive, humble, and surrender all control. I am just an extension of my leader’s body. He is the mastermind.

This feeling is in complete contrast with my normal daily attitude. And that’s why I love it. It’s a moment of freedom when I don’t have to worry about what is right and what is fair. I finally (albeit temporarily) have a chance to just let go of everything. Kizomba is my salvation and my therapy. 🙂

Read Part 1 of Tanya’s post.

Tanya Dimitrova is a kizomba and salsa teacher from Bulgaria. She currently lives in Sofia and teaches at Dance Academy KizombaHolics BG. This post was previously published on iloveafrolatinmusic.com

Read Rachel’s post on Flawless Connection.

Photo credit Ivo Stoichev