“This isn’t dancing, it’s standing up sex to music” was a friend’s observation about a video on my facebook page. I’d posted the link in response to a question “What is Kizomba?” It was a demo by renowned Kizomba dancer Iris De Brito with Harville McLeary. Someone else had commented “Rosanna get this off!” Perhaps the protest calls should have been “Get ‘em off” or maybe even “Get it on”. Anyhow I duly complied and removed the raunchy material. (Wonders… “Hmm, how many readers will search this one out and view it?”)
It would seem that Kizomba is the latest Latin dance craze to hit the salsa scene in most of Europe - but only just beginning here in Cyprus where, according to a well travelled Cypriot friend of mine “Everything seems to happen several years later” (she reckons they are still doing the Running Man and Macarena here). Kizomba is an Angolan dance that’s fused with a hotch-potch of other styles. I probably should have said “hot pot” as it’s quite a sensual dance that’s executed in a close… ahem... very close embrace and once the Cypriots get a grip, it’ll spread through the island like a dose of… something or other. Trust me on this prediction as the sexier the dance the better for these hot-blooded Mediterraneans. No more namby-pamby demure, handkerchief-waving, leg-kicking for them – “oxi!”
One of the things I love about dancing is its universality, which means you can converse though dance anywhere in the world - including Cyprus. In fact, if Latin dancing’s your thing then Cyprus is a “must” as a holiday destination. It’s so popular here that you’ll hear the music everywhere: piped Latin music in supermarkets, nuevo tango music backing up TV commercials and salsa and bachata tunes blasting out from car stereo systems. There is salsa, tango, zouk and bachata all over the island, with four annual congresses that I know of and just like Anthony Quinn in the movie Zorba the Greek, we Cypriots love to dance (btw did you know that Zorba the Greek was directed by a Cypriot – Michael Cacoyannis? I rest my case.)
If you go to a salsa party in Cyprus you’ll be able to pick us locals out easily on the dance floor – we’re the ones decked out in spangly, figure-hugging, mini-mini night-club attire and executing flamboyant mega-spinning turn patterns – just don’t get too close if you value your toes. Yes, we like to look good but maybe we’re not as good as we think as an English-Cypriot friend of mine commented: “just a load of show-offs” and I wondered to myself if the lyrics for “I’m too sexy” (Right Said Fred) had been inspired by a Cyprus Latin dance event!
Actually I say “we” Cypriots but the truth is that, as much as I love tango and salsa, I seldom go out dancing these days. I confess to being a bit of a lightweight compared to my hardcore Cypriot compatriots. What I mean to say is that nothing really gets going here until the witching hour. Well I guess it was Halloween this week but I’m talking all year round. I haven’t quite mastered Cyprus time and am generally ready for the zeds when others are venturing out to dance. Perhaps I am trapped in UK afternoon tea dance mode. Hmmmm, I wonder it that would take off here? Nah… it would clash with our post lunchtime naps!
One reason for my reluctance to go out dancing in Cyprus is that I seem to have been relegated to spectator status (unless I man-up and invite a chap to dance with me… a total taboo for tango but quite ok for salsa). An unfortunate consequence of this is that my dancing has improved only a little and as I clump around the dance floor I am mindful of a friend of mine who was told by one man to “Think ballerina, not boxer!” Be warned ladies that the Latin dance scene in Cyprus can be quite chauvinistic and in a class a man will think nothing of criticising your dancing, or simply walking off and leaving you standing if he is unimpressed – heaven forbid he should be the one out of step!
Last week one tango teacher told me that generally speaking the Cypriot men prefer to dance with young, nubile twenty-somethings and are not likely to ask a quinquaginarian for a dance unless he knows her (I guess that’s human nature, or could it be testosterone?). As it happens I did go out salsa dancing this week where, apart from one dance, I did all the asking and was undeterred when one not-so-young man hesitated, looked me up and down and said he was about to ask the “girl” standing next to me. I thought to myself “May the Lord rebuke you” and then dutifully manned-up and said with a beaming smile on my face “Are you afraid to dance with me? Perhaps you don’t like to dance with older women, or maybe you are a beginner and think I am too good for you to dance with.” He relented and we had a very nice dance. Afterwards he asked the “girl” for a dance and she tripped and stumbled through the whole track – hmmm perhaps I won’t involve God next time.
Tango is more of a challenge for me as I can’t do the asking (it’s a tango tradition thing – the men do the asking). This can be unfortunate as the dances are done in sets of three (another tango tradition thing) which is great if you get invited to dance (unless he treads on your feet, has halitosis or an otherwise bad smell in which case you try and make a sharp exit) but utterly miserable if you are sat there all night waiting to be asked which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.
I’d gone along to a milonga (tango dance) and, mindful of the need to look my best, I’d fixed my hair, put on my face and perfume, changed and re-changed my dress (ooba short and red with killer heels) and went out at 11pm. I drove to the other side of town, spent ages finding a parking space and then paid my 12 Euros entrance. I found a seat with a group of very personable young women and then waited to be asked to dance… and waited… and waited. By 2am I had been invited to dance only twice while those around me (some non-dancers and some beginners) had been invited to dance ALL NIGHT LONG. One young woman had asked me “Why are you not dancing?” I was conscious that I was beginning to scowl and so made my exit, determined never to go to a milonga again.
Is it time to retire gracefully from this dancing lark I wondered? I reckoned I could flick my leg in the air with the best of them so the next day I resolved to spend some time each week practising my tango walk at home – at least it doesn’t cost me 12 Euros and I can drink as many properly mixed margaritas as I like!