Troubleshooting for Kizombeiras

By Tanya Dimitrova

As magical as kizomba can be, lots of things can and sometimes do go wrong on the dance floor. Based on my own and other dancers’ experience, I put together a list of undesirable situations and how I recommend troubleshooting each.

1) Lack Of Rhythm

For some reasons, ladies are almost always better than guys in following a beat. So when a leader is offbeat for an entire song, we really struggle.

To deal with this issue I would first recommend trying to figure out why our leader is offbeat. Is he just super focused on a new move he barely just learned and as a result went out of rhythm for just a couple of beats? Or did he just get confused in a no-base moment of the song? In the extreme alternative, is he “rhythm deaf” and just can’t hear it? A third kind of explanation might be that the follower herself might be struggling with the beat! (It’s not always the guy’s fault!)

If the issue is short-lived , I would recommend just to wait it out patiently. Leaders can improve over time! If it’s deeper, what I usually do is quietly tell the guy in his ear that he is having some difficulties following the beat and that I am going to help him out by tapping gently on his shoulder with the fingertips on my left hand. This has always yielded a positive reaction: both as gratitude from the guy and an actual improvement, at least for the duration of the song we are dancing. I DO NOT recommend back-leading. If done unrequested, I consider it quite disrespectful, regardless of how bad the leader is.

2) Leaning Forward

Some guys (particularly tall ones) are under the wrong impression that they have to bend forward to hug the lady to establish full body contact. This can be very uncomfortable for the lady, especially as she tries to maintain the breast bone-to-belly button contact. (I wrote about this here.)

My best advice is: ladies, do NOT bend backwards to accommodate his forward lean. Instead, remain straight sacrificing the upper body connection and take your clues only from his frame. This might actually work out just fine if he is good at shifting your weight. (Read more about weight shifting here.)

3) Tarraxa-Frenzy

We all know the truth: many guys love tarraxiña and some of them even started dancing kizomba just for that movement. Yet few really know how and when to do it! It’s very common to end up with a guy trying to forcefully control our hips and accentuate our body movement even on a very calm and romantic song. Dance instructors have the responsibility to teach them proper technique and application of the move but until then… kizombeiras everywhere need to deal with the situation on their own.

When a guy attempts to lead tarraxa either in the wrong moment, or with the wrong technique, or (even worse) while he himself is standing there motionless (instead of leading it with his own body), I usually just ignore him. I continue doing the natural body movement that comes to me and in three quarters of the cases, the guy realizes that I won’t follow this and just gives up after a few seconds. If ignoring him does not work, and especially if he’s leading so forcefully that he’s hurting my lower back, I actually lift up my left arm from his shoulders and gently place it behind my back over his arm to give him a sign to ease off. I’ve never had anyone continue “tarraxing” me after that.

4) Too Much Push

Sometimes guys give us too much tension with their left arm – almost as if they are dancing semba. This is problematic if it happens while you have a chest connection because they will inevitably push your arm beyond the plane of your body and might hurt your shoulder. In the best-case scenario, your arm will just be really (and unnecessarily) tired by the end of the dance.

When this happens to me, I shake off my arm gently to give him a sign that he’s pushing too much. If he doesn’t ease up (most don’t), I guide both our hands to his chest and rest it in my favourite hold position – just over his heart. If for some reason that doesn’t work either, I let go completely and hug him with both arms.

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5) Too Tight

If your partner is holding you too tightly, check yourself first, ladies. Are you by any chance leaning back or breaking the chest connection on the second position of a women’s saida? Holding you very tightly might be his way to protect you both from falling on the dance floor.

If you are sure it’s not you, you could gently wiggle your upper body inside his grip to give him a sign. Again, if he doesn’t ease up, arch your back for a second intentionally breaking the chest connection to physically push his arm out. Finally, if all else fails, just quietly say in his year “More gently, please.” Most guys will get the point.

6) Too Basic

Sometimes dancing with a beginner can feel somewhat boring – if all he does is basic drills in a non-particularly musical way. To be frank, I actually don’t mind these dances (as long as the guy manages to keep the beat in his drilling). Not every dance is supposed to be spectacularly mind-blowing.

What I can recommend to the ladies is to use that ‘down time’ to relax a bit, listen and enjoy the music. Finally, as Sara Lopez always says, this might be an excellent opportunity to practice your tarraxa – take this song to work on your hip movement and strengthening your lower back muscles.

7) Too Sweaty

Yes, all kizomba dancers (guys and ladies alike) can get completely soaked in sweat by the end of the second song. Be aware this sweaty state could caused by a poorly air-conditioned room vs. a natural excessive sweatiness. There isn’t a whole lot one can do about it other than going to speak with the organizers and asking them to adjust the thermostat.

I have learned to not be grossed out a sweaty chest – I will take a shower at the end of the night anyways. The only thing I modify is that I strictly avoid the head connection – dripping sweat on my eyes is a step too far even for me.

8) Too Hard

In kizomba things could sometimes get a bit out of control and you might feel an ‘unexpected connection point’ with your partner below the waist… In social dancing this actually happens quite rarely – contrary to popular belief.

First of all, not all ‘unexpected connection points’ are what you, ladies, are most concerned about. Often it might be a cell phone in the pocket or even just a very endowed albeit relaxed partner.

If you are sure that what you feel is what it is, I still wouldn’t walk off the dance floor. Instead, just break the chest connection, ‘enforce’ a semba hold where the lead comes from the frame and gracefully finish the song. Ultimately, though, this situation really occurs a lot more infrequently than you’d imagine.

Bottom Line

What I’ve learned over the years is that not all dances will ever be good. In my experience, about 70% of my dance experiences are not very memorable, about 25% are good, and there is this 5% in which you connect with your partner on such a deep level that your body floods with endorphins and you feel in heaven by the end of the song. To me, this tiny 5% makes it worth putting myself through the remaining 95% of the dances. I consider this a good deal.

So far, I haven’t discovered any other activity that provides me this type of magical experience, albeit infrequently. It seems I’m stuck with kizomba!

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