Courage & Compassion in Kizomba

By Keya Bhagirath

Just before I started dancing, I enrolled in a program called Engaged Compassion. Engaged compassion is a practice of awareness through the lens of radical acceptance of self. It creates an intention of non-judgement that allows for safe introspection. This program required that I spend time weekly looking inward; one could call this a self check-in. Some methods of introspection included retreats, guided meditation, journaling, creative art projects and group discussion, all engineered to give me a glimpse of my inner world. I went through a transformative experience that showed me that I was not living a life that satisfied my soul. I craved a life that was expressive, spontaneous, free, beautiful; a life that felt more authentic to who I was discovering myself to be.

In my last article I described how dancing Kizomba has affirmed in me that my life must be filled with joy and happiness. I am happy to say that since I have started dancing Kizomba I have settled into a rhythm of life that feels more like me; I am developing into a more authentic me. Kizomba has given me courage to get to know people and to express my body. It has required that I spend time doing things that give my soul life and that I be aware of my internal world and what energy I am bringing to others. It has also inspired me to write; so now I’d like to share two essential qualities that dance can help us cultivate and how they encourage our personal development toward authenticity.

I’ll start with courage because I believe it is the foundation of personal development; courage can be seen as the highest virtue. How can we define courage? It is the innate part of us that wants to try. It is the nudge in us that says we can do and be anything we want. It is the part of us that doesn’t hear ‘no’.

It takes courage to learn how to dance Kizomba. It takes courage to ask someone to dance. It takes courage to lead. It takes courage to follow. It takes courage to try a new move. It takes courage to be vulnerable with another person. It takes courage to be in community with other people.

Feed your courage by putting yourself in new learning environments and by challenging what you think your limitations may be.

Compassion is a practice of non-judgement of self and others. It is giving the benefit of the doubt. It is believing the best in another person. It is knowing perfection is not mandatory.

Dancing is one of the best training grounds for practicing non-judgement. Whether we are professional dancers or hobby dancers, we are constantly critiquing ourselves and being critiqued by others. This desire to perfect, while motivating, can be damaging to our self worth and others’. The more I dance, the more I am learning to be gentle with myself, to stop comparing myself to others. Comparison can be a trap if one is not aware that dance is about moving forward. There should be personal evolution and community evolution; thus the concept of perfection is non-existent because we, along with the dance, are always moving and maturing through time.

How do we practice compassion when we dance? We start with the mindset that the person we are dancing with is enough; that they are perfect in their own way. Having a grateful appreciation of your dance partner will cultivate compassion. By toning down self-criticism when we dance we can develop self non-judgment. Keeping in mind that perfection is an illusion, ask yourself these questions: “What if what I am is really enough? What if the way I dance is perfect? What if the way I move my body is already beautiful?

Feed your compassion by dancing with people you wouldn’t normally dance with. Also decide that each time a critique comes up about yourself or your dance partner that you will turn that into a positive statement.

I believe that if we practice courage and compassion we can build an even stronger dance community. To me these are essential to building a welcoming culture and creating an environment that allows freedom of expression in all forms.

More about the author:
Keya Bhagirath is a graduate student living in Southern California. Originally from Baltimore, MD, she spent about ten years living in Central Virginia where she developed her career in higher education and healthcare. She holds a Masters in Counseling and is working on a Masters in Theology. Her passion is the intersectionality of arts and humanities with spirituality. Along with dancing, she loves to watercolor and enjoys spending lots of time with her French Bulldog. You can connect with Keya via email at