Panama – Sights and Sounds

I just returned from my third trip to Panama and it is still one of my favourite destinations. It is a perfect mix of old and new, beach and city, rainforest and concrete jungle, international commerce and rural enterprise …and once again, the shopping is phenomenal! Here are a few pictures from my trip.

Handwoven Panama bags

Handwoven Panama bags

Young Panamanian woman weaving handicrafts

Young Panamanian woman weaving handicrafts

Waterfalls in Valle Anton Panama

Waterfalls in Valle Anton Panama

Lonely bridge in Valle Anton Panama

Lonely bridge in Valle Anton Panama

Artisan explaining the process of making a Panama hat

Artisan explaining the process of making a Panama hat

Locals creating handicrafts in Panama

Locals creating handicrafts in Panama

Handmade Souvenirs

Handmade Souvenirs

Handcrafted frogs

Handcrafted frogs

Artisan carving the frog out of soap stone

Artisan carving the frog out of soap stone

Artisan carving a frog out of soap stone

Artisan carving a frog out of soap stone

The finished product, soapstone frog

The finished product, soapstone frog

a lonely island just outside Panama city

a lonely island just outside Panama city

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Who’s Who of Kizomba Artist Profile: Ken UFEELIT the Secret Team Dancers

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The conversation went…
Me:“so, do you recommend this ‘secret team’?” 

Her: definitely ☺, my favourite one is Ken (sends a video) the one on the right side of the video. When I dance with him, I am just travelling in the world of Kizomba… lol

So who is this Ken that takes girls to Kizomba heaven? Well, he is part of the “Secret Team” that will be gracing Toronto this Easter weekend at the Chocolate KizombaFest presented by Godanz.

Ken Golitin, aka Ken UFeelIt, is a native of Paris that boosts French Guyane heritage. This avid Salsa dancer, picked up Kizomba three yearsago whenhe would frequent a Tuesday Kizomba party in Paris called “Agua” (a popular party hosted by Anais Million). After becoming a regular of the night, Anais noticed Ken’s apparent skills and friendly personality, and asked him to be a “taxi dancer” (a person in a designated T-shirt that encourages others to dance) at her party. In addition to being a taxi dancer, he further honed his skills at “Le Tri bar” in Paris. Eventually his love affair for Kizomba would blossom to the point where he found himself dancing every day and attending more festivals abroad. This growing passion prompted him to start teaching with friends and together they created a group called the “Secret Team”. A venue called “Le Sharkys” presented the opportunity for the “Secret Team” to organize regular Kizomba parties and to teach as well, an opportunity they gladly accepted.

Ken’s style can be described as “modern Kizomba” with equal parts smoothness, fancy steps and musicality. Over the past year of teaching, he has been strengthening his pedagogical approach to Kizomba by focusing on his student’s varying levels as well as musicality rather than teaching technical steps. In every class, he will teach a routine that matches a piece of music. His aim is to not only teach technical steps, but to show students how to use steps effectively. Another important aspect of Kizomba that he teaches students is to take their time. He believes students have a tendency to dance too fast or to second-guess their timing. As a result, he has developed a technique focused on how to master timing. Finally, he teaches about connection, because after all, connection is essential in Kizomba. A common exercise in his class is to dance without hands. The outcome is that his students learn how to be more connected to one another.

The highlight of his career, thus far, was an appearance on a popular French TV show called the “O Show”, were he performed a Kizomba demo. In addition to teaching regular Kizomba and Semba classes, Ken has taught in Bristol and was called upon to be a “taxi dancer” at the 2013 Fire Festival in Minsk. The current year is shaping up to be busy with scheduled engagements at Suave Dance festival, Le Mans, and of course Toronto’s Chocolate KizombaFest by GoDanz. Soon, we will be able to “Feel it” when Ken and “Secret Team” colleague Patrick come to town.

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Who’s Who of Kizomba Artist Profile: Dilson Kizomba

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Don’t let the baby face and cheeky smile fool you because Dilson Kizomba is a fierce dancer and raising Kizomba star with talent that extends far beyond his years.

Hailing from Angola, this Prince of Kizomba/Semba has been teaching since the ripe old age of 16 years old. While others of his generation were busy playing with their gameboy devices, Dilson was serving his country in the military and worked in the cultural division of the Forças Armadas Angolano teaching dance. In addition to Kizomba and Semba, Dilson also dances Kuduro, African House, Tribal and a dance from the Congo called Kwassa.

With 11 years of teaching under his belt, he has had time to perfect his teaching style. His technique includes teaching his male leads a new step every class without their female partners. He takes turns dancing with them individually to ensure that their lead is strong; correcting them individually along the way. When he feels the guys are ready, then, and only then, can they dance with their partner. However, this no nonsense treatment is reserved for his students in Angola, he conforms to the western way of teaching when he teaches abroad.

A technically strong and experienced instructor, Dilson believes that the most important aspect of leading in Kizomba is the arm, because this is how the lead directs the follower effectively. And for the ladies, it is “ginga” (African body movements) or what westerners refer to as “styling”.
In Angola, he won two awards, one for best Kizomba dancer and the other for best Semba dancer. He was also the first winner of the prestigious contest ÁfricAdançar in Lisbon in 2009 with then partner Bernadeth. Since winning, Dilson has participated in over 20 congresses across Europe bringing his charismatic and entertaining brand of Kizomba and Semba to the world stage. One of his most memorable moments was when he performed in Paris alongside a prominent Angolan icon. He felt honoured to be welcomed so warmly, and he says he felt like he was treated like the “God of Kizomba”.

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Kizomba Tip by Sinker for UT Kizomba

Kizomba Hold

Sometimes I believe that the guys don’t know how much power they have when leading their partner. Yes I said it like the 90’s band SNAP! “You’ve got the power”. Did you know that you can literally move your partner around by just pushing on her shoulder blade? It’s a pretty dynamic trick/technique!  In a recent private lesson with Sinker from Montreal, he showed my partner how easy it was to direct me by putting pressure on my shoulder blade. Similar to when the doctor knocks your knee with the reflex hammer and it makes your leg jump, by simply pressing one area of the shoulder blade, you can move your partner left or right with ease. I felt like a puppet, lol, but I knew exactly where to go :). So, for all of you leaders out there, you don’t have to push and pull your partner around the floor with all your manly strength in order to make her move, you can relax…the power is in your fingertips. Thanks Sinker for the tip! Happy Dancing!

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Who’s Who of Kizomba Artist Profile: Lucia Nogueira

Lucia

Coming from the age of technology where instant gratification rules supreme, it’s very uncommon for me to sit through a 7 minute demo video… until a certain video made it’s way to my inbox. It featured the dancing style of a young black man (DJ Dasmara) and a young European woman, both of whom I’ve never seen before. The woman danced with style and grace. Her smile pulled me in, while her dance moves captivate me to watch the entire video. This young lady, I soon found out, was AfricaDancer 2012 finalist Lucia Nogueira.

Originally from Terceira, a small island in the Azores near Portugal, Lucia has been dancing Kizomba for about 8 years, but things really started to heat up for her in 2012 when she competed in AfricaDancar with then partner Jimmy. This performance holds much significance to Lucia because days before this interview was conducted, her dear friend had passed away. Saddened and heavy-hearted, her thoughts right now are with Jimmy and how their partnership changed her life.

Soon after competing in AfricaDancar, she was invited by Mukanus Productions to partner up with AfricaDancar winner Bonifacio and they taught together at the 2012 edition of Sensual Dance Madrid. Lucia’s other notable accolades include a finalist standing in the Semba Challenge and serving on the judging panel for the Kizomba Open Spain.

In addition to dancing Kizomba, Semba and other African dance styles, Lucia is also versed in Salsa, Bachata, Hip-hop and West Coast Swing. Her teaching style incorporates a tremendous amount of respect for the cultural roots of Kizomba and Semba and her teaching methodology, particularly for new students, focuses on the cultural essence of the dance styles. She states “one of the most important aspects of this dance is its immense cultural heritage”, she goes on to say, “Once you grasp this, the dance comes naturally.”

So what does the future have in store for Lucia? 2014 will be a year of fulfilling her passion of traveling and meeting new cultures. With confirmed teaching engagements at Luxembourg Kizomba Festival, Miami Beach Kizomba Festival and a slue of UK Dance congresses, this year is sure to be a busy one for Ms. Lu Nogueira.

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Kizomba Tip by UT Kizomba “Balance like Albir”

Albir Rojas water bottle

In a past Kizomba tip, I talked about a tip I learned from Sika Tro at Batuke! Regarding the use of a water bottle to help ladies practice keeping their legs closed. The infamous water bottle has reappeared in this Kizomba tip, but it’s taking on a different role. The Kizomba basic consists of a balanced weight transfer from left to right (similar to walking on the spot). There is a tendency to want to sway rather than go up in down, rise and fall. Albir Rojas suggests that in order to get yourself accustomed to this up and down movement you should practice it while you balance a water bottle on your head. His theory is, if keep your upper torso straight and do the rise and fall technique when you transfer your weight, the water bottle will stay on your head. Adversely, if you sway, the water bottle will fall. Try it and let me know how it goes 🙂

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Who’s Who of Kizomba Artist Profile: Yaïr from Danca Makezu

Yair Danca Makeu

Kizomba in North America is relatively new and growing. Communities are popping up all over the United States and Canada as students are craving to learn this new(ish) dance style. To cure this Kizomba crave in California’s bay area, dance partners Yaïr and Chalianna began teaching two years ago to an eager California dance community…little did they know that their passion for this dance would take them to the birth place of Kizomba on a life changing journey.

New York native, Yaïr, started dancing Kizomba three years ago and decided to start teaching due to the high demand for instruction in the San Francisco Bay area. Having a diverse dance background consisting of such styles as: Hip-hop, Reggae, Haitian Kompa, Caribbean Zouk, Bachata, and some Salsa On2, Kizomba’s rhythmic flow came naturally to him. This amateur photographer confesses that he has a passion for learning and figuring out how things work, so it’s no surprised that he has transferred this notion to his teaching style. Virtually, breaking Kizomba down to the bare bones…the music, he is able to help his students understand and absorb the dance. He states, “Before you can explain the dance, you must be able to explain the music.” He goes on to say, “You can’t start dancing without music to move to. Knowing what you are dancing to (ei. the style of music) is important so you don’t move the wrong way to the music.”

In addition to learning about the music, Yaïr believes that students should also understand and embrace the culture. He says, “Respect the music, why they sing, why they dance, its all important.” He goes on to say, “We have the luxury of dancing to the music for fun. For some folks, who grew up with the music, this is their culture, their experiences (poverty, war, colonization), and their identity. We need to respect this.”

In addition to a regular teaching schedule and appearances at Festivals around the US, Yaïr’s and his partner Chalianna, have the prestigious designation of being the North American representative for Kizomba Nation. Traveling to Angola was a defining moment for the couple. They appeared on Angola’s popular TV show Tchilar, and learned and performed at the famous Cha de Caxinde dance school.

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