Apparently there seems to be a lot of confusion on what “the counts” are with Kizomba by those who haven’t, and even those who have, begun to learn Kizomba. This confusion is even more rampant among those of us who have a latin dance background, or any dance that has a basic that repeats on an 8 count. All of this confusion brought me to the saying, which I repeat in most of my Neo Kizomba™ workshops, “Kizomba, it’s not on 1 or on 2, it’s on you!”
Throughout my travels dancing and teaching Neo Kizomba™ across North America, I find myself in conversations, or at least overhearing conversations, about this very topic. I hear statements such as, “The counts don’t matter, just flow with it…”, “How can you not count? It’s music based on the 8 count!!!”, “Kizomba is all feeling, just connect with your partner and let the music flow through the both of you!”, or “How can you be musical if you don’t listen to the count of the music??”
The fact of the matter is, in my super musical opinion, all of the above statements are correct and true! Yes, the counts matter with dance period, and Kizomba is no exception; yet at the same time, the counts don’t matter when the music is inspiring your steps and you are truly letting the music flow through you and focusing on the connection with your partner; however, the music that is flowing through you and your partner was composed by an artist/producer who is following a musical pattern based on an 8 count that form measures, phrases, intros, outros, hooks, bridges, etc. Let’s take a closer look at all of this.
Kizomba is “freestyle” dance, by that I mean that the leads don’t have to be on a particular foot on a particular count as you do with salsa or bachata. For those of you who dance salsa, you can kinda compare this to salsa shine, during a shine you don’t follow your basic salsa step, you feel the music and allow the music to inspire your steps. With kizomba, this is how the entire song is danced, allowing the music to inspire each and every step! BIG DIFFERENCE!
So, the leads have SO MUCH MUSICAL FREEDOM to move the way the are actually inspired to move when they hear the music, from the first to the last step! I’ve come across many leads that struggle with this “blank musical canvas” when dancing kizomba socially and a lot of them blank out. Kizomba, as with any dance, requires you to be on beat, but the way you express the beat is entirely up to you, left foot, right foot, forwards, backwards, to the side, in the place, you decide. So, in this respect, it’s not that the counts don’t matter, its more so the counts don’t dictate your steps or direction.
Speaking from what goes on in my mind musically, I’m always “musically aware” of where I am in the 8 count when I’m dancing socially. I feel this allows me to “predict” the music and be intuitive as to when to expect a change in the song. I find it difficult to be musical and also oblivious to the counts. For me, I can’t ignore the counts, or the melody; I try to absorb it all as a whole. I focus on the rhythm, the secondary instruments/sounds, the voice, and the feel of the song, all while knowing where the “one” is during the song, it jumps out at me especially at the end of a phrase (typically four 8 counts) when the song changes into a chorus, verse, hook, etc. I listen to kizomba all the time, so it makes it easier to know the songs like the back of my hand.
Kizomba is all about connection, connection with the ground, with the music, and with your partner. This “trifecta” of connection (dubbed the Neo Kizomba Connection Trifecta™) is what I feel makes Kizomba so addicting and unique. I try to become one with the music and also with my partner, and even though we are grounded, if feels as if we are flying. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Kizomba, it allows me to be me.