LAfrique Dance Company offers classes in Latin American and African dances.
Some sexy and energetic, others sensual and grounded. Though what they have in common is that they are all a lot of fun and – unlike some partner dances – very sociable! You don’t need to have a regular partner. In fact, you often find yourself at the dance floor with a dance partner you have never met before. Because of the sociable nature of these dances, Salsa as well as Kizomba have become highly popular, all around the world!
At the moment, LAfrique Dance Company offers dance courses in 3 different dance styles.
In this course you will learn Salsa Los Angelos-style (also named Salsa on-1). LA style salsa is danced on-1 and is danced in a slot. There are usually a lot of turns and flair, as it was influenced by swing and mambo and developed to be danced in a performance.The Salsa LA style is the most danced style in the Netherlands. You will also be introduced to Bachata and Merengue.
In this course you will explore several Latin American Salsa styles (Cubana, Casino, Pachanga, Guaguancó, Puerto Rico, Fusion) and will learn you how to combine them to find your own style. The class focusses on leading and following techniques, as well as body movement and control, packed into energetic & playful figures. In general, these styles have fewer rules than those developed in Northern America and are more focussed on social dancing. To make you fit for the next salsa party, the course also gives brief introductions to bachata and merengue. It also includes Rueda de Casino which is a Cuban style, danced in a group.
In this course you will learn Kizomba (Urban and Traditional style). Kizomba is the fastest growing dance style in the Netherlands and played at most Latin parties. During this course you will also be introduced to Semba and Tarraxinha.
So now lets take a closer look at the different dances!
Salsa LA style / Salsa on-1
LA style salsa is danced on-1 and is danced in a slot. It is typically seen as explosive, fiery, and passionate. There are usually a lot of turns and flair, as it was influenced by swing and mambo and developed to be danced in a performance. The cross body lead is an essential step in this style, and is used so the dance partners switch places. Many other patterns are variations on this step.
The brothers Vazquez (Francisco, Luis and Johnny) are often credited with developing the LA style of salsa and are famous worldwide because of their unique style of dancing. Other people who also helped create L.A. Style as we know it today are, Rogelio Moreno, Alex Da Silva, Joby Martinez, Josie Neglia, Cristian Oviedo, Luis ‘Zonik’ Aguilar and many others.
Merengue is the national dance and music of the Dominican Republic and is essentially an easy and fun dance to learn. This makes it a popular social dance. For the basic step, partners are in the closed position and step in place in what is known as ‘paso de la empalizada’. Because of the shift from one leg to the other a natural hip-movement emerges.
Bachata originated in the Dominican Republic and is commonly known by many as a very sensual dance. The original dance style is danced in a basic dance sequence of 8 counts moving in a square. When the dance travelled around the world people started to develop a more simple pattern, also in a full 8 count, but with a side-to-side motion. Both styles consist of 3 steps followed by a tap step. The tap is often accompanied by hip movement on the 4th beat, and is sometimes substituted with syncopations (steps in between the beats) The movement of the hips is very important because it’s a part of the soul of the dance. Generally, most of the movement is in the dancers lower body; footwork and hips.
There are many styles of Bachata, like Dominican Bachata, Bachata Romantica, Bachata sensual and Bachatango amongst others. LAfrique Dance Company will introduce you to the basics of Bachata.
Salsa Cubana originates from Cuba and is known for its circular motion, as partners face each other in intricate patterns of arms and body movement. This is distinctive from the Salsa styles that developed in Northern America, which are danced in a slot. Salsa Cubana has a strong basic step known as guapea, where the leader does a backward basic on 1-2-3 and a forward basic on 5-6-7. The follower does the same, thereby mirroring the leader’s movement.
The major distinction of Sala Cubana is that male partners have tendencies to show off (following Afro-Cuban Guaguancó influence), under the cultural guise of males being “macho” and having to attract attention and tease the femininely sexy females. Dancing this dance therefore often becomes a playful game of seduction using body movement, facial expressions and jokes. During percussion solos in the music, dancers often break from each other to perform the despelote, an advanced form of styling influenced by Rumba, performing muscle isolations.
Afro-Cuban rumba, not to be confused with the ballroom dance, or the African pop music, developed in rural Cuba, blending Congolese drumming with influences of Spanish flamenco-singing. In Cuba, Rumba is a generic term covering a variety of musical rhythms and associated dances. There are three main styles:
- Yambú is the oldest and slowest known style of rumba, dating back to the colonial period. It can be danced alone (especially by women) or together. When Yumbú is danced in a couple, using the Spanish and African movements in a slow and graceful manner, incorporating movements simulating fragility, it looks like a courtship-style partnership.
- Guaguancó is faster, with more complex rhythms, and involves overtly flirtatious movements between a man and a woman in the roles of “Rooster” and “Hen”. The woman both entices and “protects herself” from the man, who tries to catch the woman off-guard with a vacunao — tagging her with the flip of a handkerchief or by throwing his arm, leg or pelvis in her direction in an act of symbolic sexual contact. To defend herself, she may cover with her hand, or use her skirt to protect her pelvis and whip the sexual energy away from her body.
- Columbia – the fasted and most African-flavoured- is primarily a male-only demonstrative dance, with a more up-tempo and complex rhythm that incorporates some of the Congolese ritual music aspects as well as the Bantú languages, still widely used in folkloric as well as popular music.
Rueda de Casino
Rueda de Casino is a way of dancing Cuban Salsa where pairs form a circle, called Rueda (Spanish for “wheel”) and dance to the commands of a Cantante (Spanish for “singer”). Couples exchange partners and carry out moves in sync with the music and corresponding to the commands called out. Culturally, Casino is danced as an interplay between male and female gender and feeling the music (Sabor) as its main ingredients.
What gives this dance its life is the understanding and spontaneous use of the rich Afro-Cuban dance vocabulary. A dancer frequently improvises using other dances, integrating movements, gestures and steps from the rich folkloric heritage. This is predominantly true for African descended Cubans. Such improvisations might include influences of rumba, dances for African divinities, Cha Cha Cha as well as anything the dancer may feel.
Kizomba, which means ‘party’ in the Angolan dialect Kimbundu, is a dance and music that developed in numerous African Countries in the early 1980s. The original music of these countries was highly influenced by Kassav, a group from the French Caribbean, who played mainly Zouk Music. This group travelled around all the PALOP countries (African Countries with Portuguese as an official Languages), though the countries with most mentioned are Angola and Cape Verde.
The music (from Angola) and Coladera (from Cape Verde) were transformed in what we now know as Kizomba. A music known for its slow, insistent, yet sensuous rhythm. Because of this change in music the dancers started to adapt their Semba and Calodera steps according to the tempo and flavour of the Kizomba beats. Technically speaking, Semba danced romantically to Kizomba music is the basis of the Kizomba dance.
With a hug being the basic dance hold of Kizomba, dancing this sensual dance gives you the feeling of moving as one.
Semba is a traditional music and dance from Angola. The Semba music was played by small bands in Angola, especially at large social gatherings. People say the word ‘Semba’ comes from ‘massemba’ meaning “a touch of the bellies” – one of the most recognizable and fun movements in Semba.
Semba is based on a firm stepping motion, rather like walking on a sandy beach. The steps are fairly quick and playful, incorporating facial expressions and mimed grabs for an escaping partner. The hold is somewhat more open than the Kizomba hold. Leaders lean forward or bend slightly at the waist, though ladies never lean back. Its characteristic rhythm is one of the main contributors to Kizomba music. In Semba the men gets to show off using footwork and tricks with the lady.
Tarraxinha is the sexy, percussive cousin of Kizomba. The music is mainly electronic, has a much heavier beat and fewer melody. Tarraxinha is danced mainly in place and is focused on isolations, fitting into the rhythms of the music. The body movements are initiated with the lead’s leg, hip or arm (on the ladies lower back/hips) movements or are initiated by the follower.
This brings us to the two schools of thought. Some say that the ladies take charge, showing off their “ginga” (body movement), as the men follow the movement with their forearms or hands in a relaxed way. Others say that men lead all the movement and isolations in the dance. Although both are possible, you might want to keep in mind that learning to do the second as a man generally takes some time doing the first!