How to Be an Awesome Kizomba Follower (part 1)

Part I: Connection Points

By Tanya Dimitrova

Ladies ask me all the time: ‘How do you move your hips like that? Can I come to your ladies styling workshop?’. I always answer that my hips’ movement is not the reason why guys enjoy dancing with me. There is so much more to being a good follower than the ‘ginga’ (the characteristic body wave movement, though it also refers to the sassy attitude of kizombeiras).

The kizomba styling for ladies should come naturally and match each individual lady’s innate body shape, movement and flexibility. Follower’s technique, on the other hand, can be taught and learned. That is the objective of this post.

Connection

Photo credit: Mitch Sengson

Photo credit: Mitch Sengson

As everyone who has any experience with kizomba knows, this dance is all about connection. From a lead’s perspective, you should connect with three entities: the earth, the music and your lady. From a follower’s perspective, however, the connection with the partner is by far the dominant. Yes, we still should connect with the ground (I will write more about this in Part 2). And yes, ideally we should hear the music too. But this connection is very indirect – it goes through our partner. In a well­coordinated partner dance, we enjoy the musical interpretation the lead offers. Only in very rare situation would we have the opportunity to interpret the music directly and make up our own moves (I will write separately about these rare occasions too).

The point is: connection with the partner is key. So how do we connect? ­­ With our bodies. The way to read your partner’s mind and know what move or pause he wants you to do in any given moment is by settling in a very comfortable hug and constantly seek out connection points.

Chest

The first and most important is the chest – from the belly button all the way up to the breast bone. You should be positioned slightly off the lead’s center while still maintaining your upper bodies parallel. It is not mandatory to maintain this connection in absolutely every second – from time to time you have to break it and rely on alternatives. Nor it necessarily has to be the full line – for ladies with large breasts it might be difficult to connect at the belly. Similarly, when connecting with a guy with a large belly, you can’t always make the connection at the breastbone. That’s OK. The important thing is the intention and the secondary connections.

Legs

For me the second most important connection point is the legs. There isn’t one exact spot on the legs – it varies depending on the move we are doing. We can connect at the front or the side of the thighs if we are moving forward/backward or diagonally/sideways respectively. At some low, grounded moves we connect at the inside of the knees. In quick choppy moves, we connect at the toes. In a rolling saida we connect at the hip. Regardless of the specific leg location, the important thing is to seek this connection to your partner in every opportunity it feels natural. It opens up endless possibilities for new dance moves and allows you to do so much more than if you were relying only on the chest connection.

Back

The next communication channel I rely on is the arms and backs. I am always aware of the connection between my back to my partner’s right forearm. Similarly to the leg connection, I seek it constantly. If he moves his arm away, my back (and by extension the rest of my body) would follow it and do a wave. If he pulls his right elbow close to his ribs, I will inevitably rotate my entire body, just to maintain this connection and naturally follow into (for example) a pivot.

Left arm

At the same time, I maintain connection to his upper back and neck with my left arm. Unless there is a significant height difference between us, I like to rest my arm comfortably on his shoulder (not on his right bicep). Importantly, though, I don’t put any pressure downwards or towards me. This is just an open communication channel – not a crutch. If I really like my partner and want to amplify the connection, I particularly like to gently hold his neck with my right hand. This is obviously only for special situations.

Right arm

My right hand is also an important connection point although the moves the guy leads with his left hand are few and far between. My personal favourite hold is to comfortably rest my right hand over his heart while his hand is carefully placed on top of it with his thumb under my palm. here is something very magical about this hold – I love to be able to feel his heart beat through the skin of my hand. There is also something very naturally comfortable about it – my shoulder and entire right side of the body are completely relaxed without any tension or stress.Tension does become important in certain moments, though, and we should be ready for these within a split second. As long as we don’t feel any tension coming from his left hand, we shouldn’t give any tension either. But the very moment when we do feel some tension coming through this channel, we should match its intensity exactly. This way we easily go into a syncopated step or rebotes without stressing about their timing.

Head

Finally, the head may or may not be a connection point. This varies depending on height difference between the partners, intensity of sweating or simply individual preference. Neither of the partners should automatically assume that you would connect at the head. Even if you usually do it, you may simply feel very hot that day or not like your partner’s new perfume and just opt out. Once you begin to dance you should both be aware of each other’s head positions and see if the connection happens naturally. Never force it.

If you are connected, it should feel relaxed and aligned. There should be no neck-painful head
tilting, no forehead­-connected Siamese twins, nor head butting. The head connection is the least permanent of all of them – it should be light as a feather on a water surface and it can come and go depending on the move. If you your partner leads you for a rolling saida or puts you on his left, don’t try to maintain the head connection! This would cause your neck to twist unnaturally and, frankly, it just looks creepy.

Read Part 2 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.