I've been meaning to publish this post for ages, considering that it happened back in August, but September and October are always super busy for me. And I knew I didn't want to half-ass this post. It is important for me to do it justice, because the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival was my very favorite vacation ever. That is quite a statement, right? All the traveling I've done, and this was the best?? Yes, it is true. This trip was not only an intense physical workout, it also immersed me in an energy unlike any I'd had the pleasure of experiencing before.
I'm an absolute newbie to kizomba dance style, yet I decided to join hundreds of strangers in Miami Beach, and practice this style for five days straight! I had no idea I was in for such an enlivening experience.
Take a 20 second peek, courtesy of videographer Kyle Mikami:
If you've never gone to dance festival before, it's essentially a vacation where you have paid for the chance to dance all day. A vacation where you, from the top of the day to the end of the day, are learning/perfecting a dance style, meeting new people, and listening to so much music that it starts to thump inside your body alongside your heartbeat. ♫
PRESS PLAY ► below for a sample of what kizomba is like:
Can you believe that dance??! I mean, can you even deal?? Whew!
My love for kizomba hit me like a ton of bricks. Kizomba grows more popular by the day from people like me, who watch these YouTube videos with eyes as big as saucers, dying to give it a try.
As I said earlier, before attending this festival, I'd never done kizomba before, not even a wiggle. I honestly didn't even understand the tempo they were moving to. Both perplexed and fascinated, I couldn't take my eyes off of the slow movements juxtaposed with quick steps or turns that the partners just seemed to intuitively know the other was going to do. Though I've loved salsa and samba forever, kizomba was an entirely new experience for me.
According to Wikipedia:
Kizomba is one of the most popular genres of dance originating in Angola and Cape Verde. It is a derivative of traditional Angolan semba and Cape Verdean coladeira. On this basis, Kizomba music emerged from French carribean Zouk after 1986 when Kassav visited africa, as a more modern music genre with a sensual touch mixed with African rhythm. Kizomba music is derived primarily from zouk. Unlike Semba, Kizomba music is characterised by a slower and usually very romantic rhythm.
Though it's not particularly mainstream, kizomba has niche followings all over the world. Attendees at the festival came from over 30 states and 15 countries, and at any given moment I could be talking to someone who natively spoke Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, Greek. All of the different dialects, skin tones, cultures, everything was contributing to the intensity of my learning, and by the end of the first day, I found myself dancing kizomba well enough to go to the dance party that started at midnight and went all the way to the wee hours of morning. And then we were up early the next day, ready to do it all again.
It was amazing to learn alongside people who were at varying stages of their own kizomba practice; there were people who had been doing this for years and years, and there were others who just started a few months ago; there were people who used to do it, stopped, and are now getting back into it, and there were others who travel the world going to every festival they can, getting their kizomba fix in Montreal, Miami, Paris, Brazil, everywhere they can. Those kizomba devotees particularly interested me because you could see in their eyes how elated they were to be reunited with people who share their passion. Happiness swirled around us like fairy dust, powered by the endorphins of so much exercise, and had me flying high the whole time.
Also, when you're participating in a dance that is rooted in Africa, I think it does something extra special to you. I've heard people say that when they travel to Africa, they feel like they're at home, and there's something that just feels so right about being there. That feeling is what I spent five days in the midst of. There was an energy that came from within us, that came from the AMAZING organizers that put this together, from the instructors, from the beach, the weather, the air, the perfect location. It just all melded together.
What was it really like? Let me walk you through it, and perhaps you'll feel like you are there...
During each day, we spend hours flitting from one workshop to another like honeybees, filling our heads and hearts with kizomba, semba, funana, tarraxinha, and coladera, and when the workshops are done, we freshen up and slip into our bathing suits to lounge by the pool, and before you know it, they're bringing the speakers out and the music starts blasting and the sun is toasting our skin and we're cooling off after a day of dancing our tails off, relaxing newly used muscles, but then the music hits and we can't help but to get up and get out there and dance some more and the crowd moves as one in a kind of follow-the-leader way, there's someone dancing up front and the whole crowd is copying it and we just all move as one and the energy is just like a concert but we're all moving together, hundreds of us, there are people strewn around the pool relaxing with umbrellas, getting drinks, getting water, and the hype-ness is just unreal, and then well after the sun sets, we go chill out, get dinner, rest, take a disco nap, then wake up around midnight and head back to the party to dance some more, and put the formal training we just received during the day into practice, doing partner kizomba dances, and after partying, we trickle out to the beach, often still kizomba dancing, floating in the ocean that is the temperature of a relaxing bathtub, not cold at all, underneath a blanket of twinkling stars, and staying for hours, until the sun rises above us and the clouds change, and color creeps across the sky and we see distant rain showers ahead and we see pelicans and seagulls and fish and dolphins... and I just whisper to myself again and again, I'm so glad I'm here.
I've got to thank my photographer friend Ivan for this shot; he'd brought his camera and a few lenses, so he was able to capture some amazing photos. He even asked me to step into some.
I had no idea that Miami Beach could be so beautiful; my experience with Miami had always felt so city, but this was different, like this could've been on an island somewhere, just the beauty and clearness of the beach and the sand and the peace of the entire experience.
So anyway, the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival provided non-stop fireworks to my senses, and I am so glad I followed a whim (and a random Facebook invite) and took this journey. A couple of days before I arrived, I remember realizing that this was my first ever solo trip. I mean, I have traveled alone before, but much of it was in a program of some sort, so it just always never felt like I was exactly alone. But this felt very kind of brave of me, like I was charting new territory.
A new kind of me is emerging. And I like it. ♥